We all want to be able to put food on the table, support our families and keep a roof over our heads. Just like we all want the work that we do to be respected, seen and valued. And if any sudden loss of income or unexpected event occurred, we would want some kind of buffer to help us carry on.
For many women in Australia, this is simply not the case. Too many women face significant economic barriers to their well-being and security, their future uncertain. This is why for our 2018 Small Grants Program we have chosen to invest solely in projects that will strengthen women’s economic security.
The fact is economic inequality is all too common. No doubt most women have experienced it to varying degrees over their lifetime. Let’s use the example of Anna (she could be you, me, a friend, your mother or any woman in Australia).
Anna moved to Australia when she was in kindergarten. When she reaches primary school Anna starts get pocket money—this is when economic inequality begins for many women. She receives on average $9.60 each week, compared to the boys in her class who receive $13.00. This pay imbalance only increases as we age.
By the time Anna graduates from university, despite being more qualified, she is earning less than her male colleagues. When Anna decides to have children, during her pregnancy she faces discrimination at work with her employer reducing her duties and not adequately accommodating her needs. After her child is born, with mounting bills to be paid and mouths to be fed, Anna has to return to work. She arranges to work part-time and has to give over a significant portion of her income to childcare services.
Anna sees an opportunity for a promotion but the job is full-time and her employer will not allow any flexibility within the role. She needs the flexibility because Anna, like so many Australian women, shoulders more of the unpaid work in the home than her partner. Anna does the maths and works out that because childcare is too expensive, her family will actually be financially worse off if she got the promotion, even with better pay. She ends up not applying.
A few years later, Anna and her partner get divorced. A reality for so many other marriages across Australia with one in three ending in divorce. She becomes the primary carer for her young child. Her first priority is her family’s security – she needs a rental home. Finding housing is a struggle as she is not ideal on paper – a single mother on a part-time wage.
When Anna’s child reaches high school age it becomes easier to pick up more hours at work. She’s now in a better financial position than before but she’s earning considerably less (17.3% less) than her male colleagues. Her situation is still precarious and there is little room for unexpected costs.
Fast forward a few years; Anna is now at retirement age. Despite working all her adult life in paid and unpaid capacities, due to her time out of the paid workforce raising children and managing a household, her superannuation is almost half the amount of her male colleagues.
This is where Anna’s story ends, her future uncertain.
Her story may not be the same as yours. You may have taken different turns along the way or perhaps your story is still unfolding. Or maybe you have seen loved ones experience something similar. What is certain is that Anna’s story is not uncommon.
The stats are abundantly clear; women are being paid less for the work they do, they are overlooked (despite higher rates of education) and discriminated against. Similarly, unpaid work in the home is predominately undertaken by women for little or no return. When returning to work, women are faced with childcare costs that are unaffordable for many. And as women age, they are increasingly likely to struggle to make ends meet and are at greater risk of homelessness. Today, older women make up the largest increasing cohort at risk of homelessness in Australia.
This can and must change.
We need to hasten the pace of change, so that in this lifetime women can live their lives with freedom and respect without the burden of financial struggle. This is why we have committed our 2018 Small Grants Program to strengthening women’s economic security.
We know this investment will make a real difference. Through our grants, advocacy and projects we have already had some real wins when it comes to economic security such as the Fairwear: the rights of women workers, Who Gets the Farm, Guaranteed Loan Fund, Business Matrix, Paradox of Service, Breakthrough 2016 and now Ideas to Action. These wins were made possible by our passionate community of supporters.
Join us in 2018 as we boldly invest in a fairer and more equitable future, and build the momentum so that women and girls can live with the dignity and security they rightfully deserve.