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.