Minister for Women’s Interests, Simone McGurk, has announced that the Western Australian government will be undertaking a plan to tackle gender inequality.
According to the World Economic Forum, we are 200 years away from gender parity (globally). In the wake of women’s marches, political campaigns such as #metoo and #timesup–the fight for equal opportunities and rights for women continues to be a long and arduous one. In light of this, the state government is developing a plan to address systemic gender disparities, however, McGurk states in her message, that to do so requires a significant cultural shift.
The minister says the plan will provide a coordinated approach and framework across multiple Ministerial portfolios and government agencies, providing advice on how individuals and organisations can advance gender equality. The plan launches in 2020 and promises to achieve gender equality over the next ten years.
“We need a range of strategies, across sectors and at multiple levels, shared between government, business and the community, to shift deeply embedded norms around gender,” says the Minister. “Despite some significant advances, women and girls in Western Australia continue to experience barriers in many important aspects of their lives.”
These ‘barriers’ have been identified and split up into five main priority areas the state government aims to improve. These are: health and well-being, safety and justice, economic independence, leadership and intersectionality.
Health and Well-being
The health and well-being area plans to address that women are more likely to face violence, and are more prone to experiencing trauma and mental illness’ – such as anxiety and depression. This area will also look at the average lifetime earnings of women, which are significantly lower than men’s, and how the result of this is lower superannuation upon retirement – which consequently reduces their access to health care. A woman’s lower super funds, which are half the size of the average man’s, also increases the risks of poverty and homelessness.
Safety and Justice
The safety and justice area will continue to address violence and abuse against women within their own homes. Last year, the sexual assault and murder of Eurydice Dixon sparked an outcry from women tired of seeing innocent women die at the hands of men – if you can’t tell, misogyny is alive and well. The state government stated that it’s more likely for women to be sexually assaulted and harassed within the workplace, in public, or at social functions. As the minister said in her public address: in order to seriously change the health and safety of women and women’s rights, there has to be a profound cultural shift in the retrograde social attitudes that continue to pervade our society. Making these shifts will hopefully result in all women being viewed as equals–within their home life and in the workplace.
In terms of gender equality, Australia ranked at 39 in the 2018 Global Gender Gap report, a significant drop from 15th in 2006. The gender-pay gap continues to be a major issue across the nation, but particularly in WA, which at 22 per cent, has the worst gender pay gap in Australia. Inadequate gender distribution in traditionally male-dominated fields, like STEM, have higher levels of pay then traditionally-female dominated workplaces, such as child-care and nursing. The state government recognises the blatant inequalities between fields, and aims to unpack why STEM careers are often held in higher regard than that of care-taking jobs.
If we look at leadership, research by the Committee of Perth suggests that Perth has a particularly masculinised corporate and social culture. Women still struggle to break into senior positions, particularly within the corporate and government sectors. American politician, Elizabeth Warren said, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” We must remember that it was only a few generations ago that women didn’t have the right to vote, so ensuring that women’s voices are embraced and not ignored within corporate and government sects, is fundamental in closing the gender gap. This must occur at all levels, including the top.
Because gender inequality does not affect all women in the same way, we must acknowledge the voices of women from marginalised groups within our community. These groups include: women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, women with a disability, LGBTQI+ women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and women from regional and remote areas. The state government recognises that women experience various types of discrimination that correlate with gender disparity, and that these can have additional impacts on women within the community. Because of this, the minister plans to speak with as many women as possible.
Your Voice Matters
“I want to hear from as many women as possible to ensure our plan addresses the issues that are important to Western Australian women, so we can create a future full of opportunity for all.” McGurk said. Your voice is invaluable in shaping WA’s plan to end gender inequality. For the government to hear your voice, you can head to the website and undertake a short consultation, identifying what issues you think women are facing in WA today.
There are real and detrimental disparities between men and women within society, home-life, relationships and the workplace. Many of these disparities are forged in childhood when children are taught gendered behaviours: what is typically expected of a woman versus what is expected of a man. Gender equality is in the best interest of women and men to ensure a fair, equal and prosperous future for everyone. So have your say and use your voice to make gender equality a reality.
For more information on the Government’s plan, click here.