Communities across the nation celebrated International Women’s Day last Friday, not just to recognise the strong and inspirational women in our midst but also to highlight the gender disparity that exists in Australia.
It is true that Australian women have come a long way in terms of gender equality but cultural changes are needed.
Women are still seen as the weaker sex, even though research has proven that females are sturdy, resilient and more likely to survive disasters like famines and epidemics.
Scientists at Duke University at Durham in the United States found that females in the past 300 years had a biological advantage from the moment they were born, thanks in some measure to the positive effect of oestrogen on the immune system.
But the very hormones that offer some measure of biological protection have historically been used as a reason to hold women back in terms of professional opportunities, with females seen as in some way unreliable during pregnancy, menopause or at pretty much any time during their reproductive years.
Women are often undervalued in the workplace and in most professions men are still paid more than their female counterparts, including judges, anaesthetists, brain surgeons and professional athletes.
Education differences have also been blamed but women are managing to turn that concept on its head, with females now accounting for 58 per cent of Australian university students.
The hope is that with more females in higher education, we will see more women in positions of power.
The Australian Human Rights Commission last year released a report showing the average full-time weekly wage for a woman was 15.3 per cent lower than a man’s.
The average woman retires with $157,050 superannuation compared to the $270,710 the average bloke receives.
In 2006 Australia was ranked 32nd in the world in terms of women in politics. Today we are ranked at 48th.
We were ranked 15th for gender equality in 2006 and now we are 35th, so either we have dropped the ball on closing the gender gap or countries like Nicaragua and Rwanda have upped their game.
That does not mean that our Aussie males have nothing to gripe about, so we should think about that before International Men’s Day rolls around on November 19.