Women make strides but are stopped short of the boardroom

| March 8, 2018


More Australian women are taking advantage of opportunities to progress in the economy by engaging in the workforce in record numbers and making educational decisions that align with higher paying careers, according to the latest research.

The Financy Women’s Index powered by Data Digger improved 0.8 percentage points to 111.7 points in the three months to December 31, compared to a revised 0.2 percentage point gain in the September quarter.

But the annual pace of female economic progress slowed as the country’s biggest listed companies did not improve on the number of women on boards.

What Financy is mapping with the Women’s Index, is a fundament change that’s happening in society with the advancement of women, and whilst it is slow we should be excited that it is happening and is happening across a variety of indicators,” said Deloitte Access Economics Partner Nicki Hutley.

Key findings:

• The Index rose 0.8 percentage points to 111.7 points in the Dec qtr. 2017, compared to 110.9 points in the Sept qtr. 2017

• Annual pace of progress slowed to 2 percentage points in 2017

• Record growth in women working full time and in the workforce

• ASX top 20 company actions little changed on improving gender equality

• Gender gap in superannuation and wages narrowed slightly

• More women studying courses linked to higher paying industries

“The disappointment is that having met a key 30 per cent target set by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) the top end of corporate Australia doesn’t seem to be pushing much further.

“Most companies do have a big diversity program, and that sort of thing is just going to take time,” said Ms Hutley.

The Financy Women’s Index rose 2 percentage points in the 12 months to the December quarter 2017, compared to a 5 percentage point rise in the year to December 2016, and a 3 percentage points improvement in the year to December 2015.

The number of women represented on the boards of the top 20 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) remains little changed at 30.9%, which has been relatively the same for the past two years.

“We should applaud companies that have a good representation of women on their boards but we should also continue to encourage more women to put themselves forward for such opportunities,” said OneVue chief executive officer Connie McKeage.

Despite this, Australian women still have reason to celebrate economic progress this International Women’s Day week, even if it’s not happening as fast as they may like.

“Its great to see the Financy Women’s Index showing that women are continuing to make further economic progress, helped lately by record female workforce participation,” said AMP Capital chief economist Dr Shane Oliver.

“Increasing female participation is good for the economy at a time when the population is aging and male participation is trending down. But there is still a long to go in areas like the pay gap and board representation.

“Rising levels of female enrolment in tertiary education relative to men is a very positive sign though that women’s progress relative to men will continue,” he said.

The December quarter result was largely driven by a record number of women in the paid workforce, and a slight narrowing of the gender gaps in wages and superannuation savings.

Superannuation balances of women are now at fresh highs, but continue to lag men by an average of 27% in retirement savings.

The national gender pay gap fell marginally to 15.27% in the December quarter with the narrowing trend suggesting it could yet to fall below the 15.2% record previously set in 2004.

“For the first time since its launch on International Women’s Day 2017, the Financy Women’s Index for the December quarter shows a strong correlation and growing trend between women choosing educational courses linked to higher paying industries,” said Financy Women’s Index founder and editor Bianca Hartge-Hazelman.

Women are enrolling at a faster pace in tertiary studies than men, and particularly so when it comes to courses like information technology (IT) and engineering.

This in turn appears to be helping to slowly narrow the wage disparity in some, but certainly not all, higher paying and mostly male dominated sectors of the economy.

Furthermore improving employment outcomes are being borne out in a narrowing of the superannuation savings gender gap.

“On the eve of International Women’s Day, the Financy Women’s Index highlights the progress of Australian women in economic terms and the path that still needs to be travelled,” said Ms Mckeage.

“We are battling economic gender inequality and our policy makers and politicians need to reconsider how best to promote a balanced participation in the workforce. Only then, will we be in a position to drive a sustainable economic future for Australia,” she said.

About the Financy Women’s Index:

The Financy Women’s Index powered by Data Digger is the country’s first and only Index which tracks and benchmarks the economic progress of Australian women on a quarterly basis.

The Index is celebrating its first birthday after it was first launched on International Women’s Day in March 2017.

The Financy Women’s Index differs from other economic measures, such as official wages and jobs data, because it focuses on women, whereas most of the headline data reported in the mainstream press reflects an average for the Australian population, but these figures are skewed towards male outcomes as a result of a male dominated workforce.

The Index is designed to highlight trends among working women; from the courses they study once they leave high school, to what industries they work in, their earnings and savings in superannuation, through to those occupying top company board positions.

The Index also helps to cut through much of the noise reported around gender equality and pay gaps in the domestic economy.

The Index is based on over 700 annual company reports as well as monthly, quarterly, biannually, and two-yearly data and methodology from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

The Financy Women’s Index is made possible with the support of fintech company OneVue