Today marks the 110th anniversary of celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD), and EDO would like to take the opportunity to recognise the incredible contribution that  women make to our society, and to this organisation.

In light of recent revelations of workplace culture in the Commonwealth parliament, it’s an opportune time to both reflect on our achievements, and highlight the many areas in which more work needs to be done to achieve gender parity.

Starting with the “good news”, it’s important that we recognise how far we’ve come.

When IWD first started in 1911, women in Australia had only just received the federal vote (in 1904), although shamefully it would take until 1962 for Indigenous Australian women to have the vote. Fast-forward to 2021, when 35% of the House of Representatives and 42% of the Senate are women (Cth Parliament, 2020). At the EDO, women make up a majority of the organisation, at 79%. Women also make up the majority of the EDO’s leadership positions – 66% of the Executive Team and 68% of the Leadership team. The EDO’s Chair and Deputy Chair, Dr Bronwyn Darlington and Dr Kate Galloway, are both female.

But there’s also a long way to go. The latest statistics published in February 2021 by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency show that:

  • the full-time average weekly ordinary earnings for women are 13.4% less than for men – for private sector organisations with 100 + employees, the gap increases to 15% on an annualised basis
  • the median undergraduate starting salaries for women are 2.5% less than for men. This gap widens to 13.0% for postgraduate (coursework) graduates
  • median superannuation balances for women at retirement (aged 60-64) are 21.6% lower than those for men

From a safety and discrimination perspective, the statistics are harrowing – 1 in 6 Australian women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by a current of previous partner, with 1 woman a month being killed. Further, almost 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence (FAIHW, 2018). Survivors of sexual violence are often dismissed or mocked at worst, or subjected to a forced reliving of some of the most horrific moments of their lives, at best.

The theme of this year’s IWD is Choose to Challenge. It means calling out sexist or discriminatory conduct. It means questioning the status quo. It means choosing to shift the dialogue from “this is how it’s always been done” or “it’s too hard to change” to “how should things be done?”” and “what can I do to affect change?”  It’s about finally getting to gender equality, which is a task for all –men, just as much and if not more, than women.

So to women both in Australia, and all over the world, EDO would like to wish you a Happy International Women’s Day and promise that at the EDO, we will continue to Choose to Challenge an unequal world.