Gender inequality and why it matters

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The following is an excerpt from Stephanie Woollards book ‘From a tin shed to the United Nations

An entrenched problem

As noted by UNICEF (2008):

The Realities are that women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and own only 1–2 per cent of all titled land worldwide (Steinzor 2003). Worldwide, 600 million women are illiterate compared to 320 million men (UNFPA 2005) and nearly 1 of every 5 girls who enrols in primary school in developing countries does not complete primary education.’

In Australia, the super gap is 47 per cent, with average superannuation balances at the time of retirement $105,000 for women and $197,000 for men – a difference of $92,000. Alarmingly, there is still a 19 per cent wage gap.

This is not a small amount and indicates we are nowhere close to gender equality. In fact, The World Economic Forum, in its Global Gender Gap Report 2016, estimates it will take 170 years to achieve global gender parity in the workplace.

Not only does the equality issue need to be solved due to the mere injustice of half the world’s population being disadvantaged, but also because women offer so much to the world.

In the words of the former United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon: 

‘Investing in women is not only the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do. I am deeply convinced that, in women, the world has at its disposal the most significant and yet largely untapped potential for development and peace. Gender equality is not only a goal in itself, but a prerequisite for reaching all the other international development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.’

The winds of change

Thankfully, change is occurring at all levels of society. Michelle Dixon, CEO of the legal firm Maddocks, has been awarded an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency for 12 consecutive years and is a shining example of how a company is working towards gender equality.

According to their motto the company’s practice is to ‘look for women who are working well, working hard and encourage them’. Maddocks stands for gender equity and inclusion. To achieve this they have: 

  • Set a 40 percent quota for women in the partnership by 2020

  • Introduced a market-leading flexible working program

  • Launched Maddocks Pride for LGBTI employees and allies

  • Conducted unconscious bias training across the entire firm

  • Introduced ‘blind CVs’ to encourage diversity in recruitment

These are practical steps that all workplaces can take. More companies need to walk in Maddocks footsteps and inspire action.


About Stephanie Woollard:

Stephanie Woollard is an award-winning Australian social entrepreneur and speaker who believes that a far more tolerant and compassionate world is achievable in our lifetime if we each take steps to make a difference. Stephanie is also the author of ‘From a tin shed to the United Nations’. She has founded several enterprises with social impact: the aid organisation Seven Women, the Kathmandu Cooking School and the tour company Hands on Development. To find out more information visit www.sevenwomen.org and www.handsondevelopment.com.au.