Women, Financial Independence and Freedom - Part 2

From Karlee Hoog-Antink, Elders Financial Planning Mackay

The current state of play
It’s no secret that workforce opportunities for women have increased over the last 50 years. However, women continue to face challenges which limit their income producing abilities.

While 65.1% of women aged 20-74 years are engaged in the workplace, the vast majority of household and caring duties are still undertaken by women.*

This means that women are more likely to be involved in part or full time work, while also performing significant unpaid work. Given that women are the obvious caregiver when having a baby, this may not seem surprising – however, it is far more likely that women will be limited in their work capacity due to caring commitments, which can also flow through to their financial independence.

For those women who are working as much as they would like to, the reality is that they are probably earning less than their male counterparts. Current statistics show that women still earn an average of 18.8% less than men. >

This phenomenon is referred to as the ‘gender pay gap’, and while it may be contested by some, the figures speak for themselves.

What about the time women spend getting ready for work every day? A survey by Marks and Spencer found that women take an average of 27 minutes to get ready for work each day. Further research showed that over a woman's lifetime, she spends an average of 3,276 hours on personal grooming. In contrast, men spend an average of 1,092 hours on personal grooming over their lifetimes. ~

While the disparity may not appear great at first, it is massive - with those additional hours, one could become proficient in a musical instrument or even learn a new language. Even more concerning is the evidence which shows that while this level of personal grooming is generally expected in workplaces today, the average woman's income does not increase in line with additional time spent on grooming.

In fact, the opposite is true. If a woman doubles her personal grooming time, research suggests that her income would actually decrease. ~

The reason? The requirement to spend time on grooming is a social expectation, but it is not a 'marketable asset'. Well known Australian newsreader, Tracey Spicer, addresses this issue in her TEDx Talk The Lady Stripped Bare.

How far have we come?
Diversity Council Australia CEO Lisa Annese explains that “whilst there is a little bit of improvement, which is good that it is moving in the right direction, we still need to pick up our game.”

“Every year, we say women’s progress is too slow and whilst there has been a couple of improvements in some areas... women are still under-represented in leadership, and the pay gap is still unacceptable.”

Annese indicated that implementing a gender equality policy or strategy is a step forward for many employers. Currently, 70.7% of employers in Australia have such a policy in place.

What else can we do?
Annese states, “It is such a complex problem, we are trying to reverse a system of working that was invented before women were in the work equation, which never took into account the fact that women’s lives have been shaped differently because of caring responsibilities, so there has got to be a multitude of ways to tackle problems around gender inequality”.

So, what can be done to continue to improve things for women at work? What can we actively do, that will make a difference?

Start a positive conversation. Rather than continuing the commentary about whether a disparity exists, we need to focus our energy on making positive changes. This applies to all of us, from entry level employees to high level executives.

Challenge the status quo. Don't be afraid to question the way things are done; keep the conversation inclusive, open and honest. For example, if the expectations of a female employee were higher than those of a male counterpart, is this widely acknowledged? Is there a reason for this, or is it simply a social expectation which has been allowed to continue?

“The best way to make change is through inclusive leadership, through men being included in understanding the current situation more fully and also being part of the solution.”

(Stephen Barrow, General Manager Culture & Capability, National Australia Bank) #

Understand your value. Empower yourself by knowing your worth - use the wealth of information on the internet to research what your counterparts are earning. It may seem easier to be discouraged by the lower collective earning power of women, but we need to approach this in a constructive and proactive way in order to drive change.

Take control of your financial situation. What are your goals and objectives? How do you plan to make them a reality? It is also important to consider what would happen if you were no longer able to work - do you have adequate insurance cover in place to protect you and your family? ASIC's MoneySmart website features calculators and tips to help you make better financial decisions. Finally, seek the assistance of an experienced financial adviser.

Academic Sources
* Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016). 4125.0 - Gender Indicators, Australia, August 2016. [online] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4125.0~August%202016~Main%20Features~Economic%20Security~6151 [Accessed 3 Aug. 2017].

> Financial Literacy - Women Understanding Money. (2008). 1st ed. [ebook] Barton ACT 2600: Commonwealth Government. Available at: http://www.financialliteracy.gov.au/media/209296/women-understanding-money.pdf [Accessed 3 Aug. 2017].

# Pro Bono Australia. (2016). Engaging Men is Not the Game Changer for Gender Equality | PBA. [online] Available at: https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2016/11/engaging-men-not-game-changer-gender-equality/ [Accessed 8 Aug. 2017].

` Pro Bono Australia. (2016). Gender Pay Gap Closing, But ‘Too Slow’ | PBA. [online] Available at: https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2016/11/gender-pay-gap-closing-slow/ [Accessed 8 Aug. 2017].

~ Spicer, T. (2014). The lady stripped bare | Tracey Spicer | TEDxSouthBankWomen. [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PENkzh0tWJs [Accessed 8 Aug. 2017].

The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author; they are not reflective or indicative of Elders Financial Planning Pty Ltd’s position, and are not to be attributed to Elders Financial Planning. They cannot be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of the author.