No! Not Equal: gender equality in Australia

in Report Commentary , Tagged Australia, gender equality.
  • dina bowman

    Dina Bowman

    Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne

    Dr Dina Bowman is a senior manager in Research and
    Policy Centre at the Brotherhood of St Laurence and
    an Honorary Fellow in the School of Social and
    Political Sciences at The University of Melbourne. She
    is a member of the executive of the Australian
    Sociological Association and a member of the Work+
    Family Policy Roundtable. She is also a member of the
    International Sociological Association and
    International Association for Feminist Economics, and
    founding member of a coalition of groups concerned
    with women’s economic and employment security.

  • RackMultipart20140703 5671 aa0b8b

    Yvette Maker

    PhD Candidate, University of Melbourne

    Ms Yvette Maker is a PhD candidate at The University
    of Melbourne and is based in the Research and Policy
    Centre at the Brotherhood of St Laurence as part of the
    partnership between The University of Melbourne and
    the Brotherhood. Her research interests include care
    policy, critical policy analysis, and feminist theory.
    Yvette has previously worked at the Administrative
    Appeals Tribunal and the Australian Competition and
    Consumer Commission. She has taught at several
    Australian universities.

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Report Commentary:

Inequalities tend to be cumulative and compounding, casting shadows across the lifespans of women and girls from early years through into retirement. In this edited extract from the e-book ‘No! Not Equal’, Bowman and Maker set the scene for research into gender equality in Australia.


In many ways, Australian women’s and girls’ lives are very different to those of their mothers and grandmothers. Women are better educated, have more choice about their family lives and are more likely to be in paid work. Some of the major inequalities that existed between men and women have been challenged and there have been many firsts — including a first
female prime minister, governor-general and attorney general, as well as several state premiers.

On many indicators, Australia appears to be doing well. It ranked fifth out of 128 countries on the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 2012, which measures women’s economic advancement. Nevertheless, persistent inequalities remain in many areas of public and private life. They affect health, safety, personal relationships, and women’s and girls’ ability to build sustainable livelihoods. Inequalities tend to be cumulative and compounding, casting shadows across the lives of women and girls from the early years, through the school years and adolescence, the prime working and reproductive years, and into retirement and later life.

One of the main consequences of gender inequity is that women are more vulnerable to poverty and financial hardship throughout life. Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen recognised that ‘within every community, nationality and class the burden of hardship often falls disproportionately on women’. Sen pointed out that poverty is not just about a lack of money. Other factors narrow opportunity and create deprivation.

One of the main consequences of gender inequity is that women are more vulnerable to poverty and financial hardship throughout life.

Drawing on Sen’s work, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has developed a set of indicators to measure ‘social exclusion’ – the extent to which individuals experience ‘multiple, overlapping problems, such as unemployment, poor health and inadequate education, which stop them fully participating in society’. The monitor shows that women are much more likely to experience social exclusion than men. Gender, race, age, parenting status, disability and other structures of inequality work together to shape an individual’s experience of social exclusion and disadvantage, so the impacts of gender inequalities differ — and are often worse — for women who also experience other forms of inequality. Other factors such as health and housing security or homelessness also have major impacts on the lives of women and girls, and these will be explored through a series of blog posts.

This is an edited excerpt from the e-book ‘No! Not Equal’ by Dina Bowman & Yvette Maker (2015) published by Future Leaders. We will explore each chapter in coming months on BroadAgenda. You can download a chapter from the book for free here.

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