HESTA has taken a pulse check of the state of equality for women in Australia, finding persisting discrimination and inequality in work and pay is leaving them with greater financial vulnerability throughout their lives.
The HESTA report Vital Signs outlines the challenges experienced by our members, 80% of whom are women working in the health and community services sector.
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey says policy change is urgently needed to ensure our mothers and daughters are not vulnerable to disadvantage and financial insecurity.
“Women face a unique set of challenges, with policy settings and the design of our super system still not recognising the specific needs of more than half the population,” Debby says.
“While it’s pleasing to see some improvement in the gender pay gap, it’s unacceptable that the gap is still 14% for full-time work.
“If they continue to experience this ongoing pay discrimination, the trend of women having inadequate savings in retirement will only worsen."
Two key reasons women retire with, on average, 40% less super than men are unequal pay and unpaid time out of the workforce to start a family or care for others.
“We need to ensure the design of our super system is fairer for women instead of being modelled on a typical male pattern of continuous, full-time work that is increasingly not the norm for many Australians,” Debby says
“A fundamental step to ensuring greater adequacy is to lift the super guarantee to 12% as this is a legislated promise of additional retirement income all Australians have a right to expect and is crucial to boosting women’s long-term retirement savings.”
The report provides a snapshot looking at work, income, education and employment for women in Australia.
“Women, particularly those working in health and community services, often work in part-time or casual roles and are often lower paid. This perpetuates the gender pay gap, ultimately leaving them with less money in super,” Debby says.
Women’s unequal experience in the workplace carries over into retirement with a median super balance held by women of $39,000. Around one third of women aged over 15 have no super.
“After a career spent caring for others, HESTA members deserve a secure retirement and a comfortable standard of living when they age, Debby says. "We’re strong supporters of measures to improve the super system so women can perform these vital roles that make such an important contribution to our society and economy. They should not be penalised financially when they retire.
“Women aged over 55 are the fastest-growing category of homeless persons in Australia - a shocking indicator of growing inequality.
“We want to have a lasting impact on the world our members retire into. We’ve brought together how we act, advocate and invest and aligned these with seven of the SDGs including gender equality to amplify the long-term impact we can have for members.
“We think and act holistically about how we achieve sustainable returns while contributing to a healthier society and planet. This report frames our continuing efforts to make a positive impact for our members, the society and the economy.”
HESTA is a Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) Employer of Choice for Gender Equality and Debby has been a WGEA Pay Equity Ambassador since 2012.