For many people, feminism invokes images of women burning bras, growing hair under their arms, and a movement that is anti-male. The Oxford dictionary defines feminism as “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Which is of course why feminism is still absolutely essential. In Australia today, there are some confronting statistics we need to acknowledge:
- 90% of women will have inadequate savings at retirement;
- A 25 year old woman with a postgraduate qualification is expected to have lower lifetime earnings than a man with a Year 12 qualification;
- Between the ages of 35-44, men earn 21.8 % more than women;
- 34 % of working women are still denied paid parental leave;
- Nationwide, men earn an average of $1380 per week, compared to just $908 for women; and
- Its estimated that 30% of all victims of domestic violence experience their first episode when pregnant.
When ANZ Australia released a report recently detailing some of these statistics and more, I wept. And then to hear Scott Morrison call paid parental leave a first world problem – well, now I’m seriously angry.
The report also focused its attention on the 3 key drivers of financial inequality:
- Fields of study, career choices and pay gaps;
- The gendered nature of caring responsibilities; and
- Discrimination & structural bias.
For us, the greatest challenge is getting women to believe that discrimination is still an issue that will affect them. Its pretty hard to believe, that with over 60% of graduates from Australian universities comprising women, 1 in 2 will experience some form of pregnancy discrimination. And of course, pregnancy ‘typically’ follows the honeymoon period of a relationship, when the prospect of divorce and domestic abuse seems so far fetched its unimaginable. Which is why the impact of pregnancy discrimination cuts so deep.
We need more events like that run yesterday – casual, informal and honest conversations about the little things we can do to see privilege, and to name unconscious bias and discrimination for what they are, and the impact they have not just on women, but on our society.
I’m attracted to being a feminist because it implies activism. Its not something – or someone – to be fearful of – its a reminder that we are have not achieved equality in Australia yet, and that we all need to be actively doing our bit to achieve equality between and for men and women. For, if not me then who. And if not now, then when.