Why Aussie women aren't getting a fair go


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Hit the streets and ask anyone to provide one reason why they're proud to be an Australian, and you're almost guaranteed to hear two words in response: 'fair go'.

Those two words represent one of Australia's most recognisable values.

We are a group of diverse people, with different backgrounds, experiences, and aspirations, and we are offered an equal opportunity to be our best.

gender wealth gap is against australia's fair go

Women aren't getting a fair go

Everybody is meant to get a fair go.

Which is why the wealth gap between men and women in Australia is so disappointing. The theme for this year's International Women's Day is Count Her In: Invest in Women, which brings attention to this important issue.

As a nation, we have worked hard to ensure Australia continues to reflect the best of the fair-go ideal, but the reality of the financial inequality between men and women stands in stark contrast to this treasured value, with women facing unique challenges in building and protecting their wealth.

They are more likely to take career breaks during their prime earning years, and, in general, earn less money than men over the course of their lives.

Wealth gap impacts superannuation

According to a recent report by the Women's Economic Equality Taskforce, on average, Australian women earn $1 million less than Australian men across their careers.

This trend of course flows to superannuation: in the 2019-20 financial year, the median superannuation balance of women aged over 65 was $168,000 for women, compared to $208,000 for men.

In contrast to gender earnings ratios, women tend to outlive men. Not only do they have less wealth to call on later in life, but women are then required to make their money last longer.

Single women are also less likely than men to own their own home and understand the impact of home ownership on an individual's wealth.

It's hard to reconcile these realities with our universally accepted fair-go value.

Fewer women are investing

Concerningly, the second HSBC Investor Insights Survey identified a drop in the number of women investing outside the common pillars of superannuation and the family home over the past year.

The decline was a part of broader trend among self-directed investors but more marked among women than men - with less than one third (32%) of women now identifying as owning assets other than super, cash or a principal place of residence.

This shift can somewhat be attributed to broader economic factors and the rise in cost-of-living expenses.

It also clearly points, however, to the issue that women are investing less, and considerably less than men - meaning there is still much work to be done to even the playing field.

Empowering women to build wealth

On an individual level, women should feel empowered to make a decisive impact on their own financial future.

Despite the challenges women face, there are a range of actions they can take to improve their financial outcome and help bridge the gap.

It starts with taking the plunge.

A major misconception often perpetuated around wealth creation is how much somebody needs to begin investing. Often, people imagine this number to be well into the thousands.

Investing what you can, and getting started as soon as possible, is more impactful than waiting to 'have enough money' to invest, but never taking that final step.

As a society, we should be working together to shift this collective mindset that acts as a handbrake for wealth creation.

HSBC's Investor Insights Survey also found that women generally invest less frequently than men, with the latter more likely to do so monthly.

Additionally, the survey said Australians are investing less money than they were a year ago, as cost-of-living challenges bite.

For women, building investing into their budget over the long-term will help ensure they maintain a regular investing pattern, providing a useful buffer to manage the curve balls life will inevitably throw.

Taking part in investing puts women one step closer towards achieving financial freedom and security.

It is important that women seek out ways to educate themselves on investing as a way to create greater financial security.

Empowering women means they are given a fair go when it comes to investing and ultimately it will play a role in helping to make them feel more confident about their present and future.

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Jessica Power is the head of wealth and personal banking for Australia at HSBC. She joined HSBC in 2018 from Westpac, where she held several senior retail positions. Prior to that, she worked for Citigroup Australia. Jessica has a Bachelor of Economics, Finance and Marketing from Macquarie University, and a Master of Applied Finance from Securities Institute Australia.
March 5, 2024 7.35pm

The 'gender pay gap', is fiction. It counts employment income all females and all males, of working age, including zero income. So a stay at home mum is compared to a brain surgeon. a lady working 15 hours a week as a lawyer is compared to her male co-worker working 80 hours a week. It also doesn't include the 'free money' from divorce, alimony, maintenance, etc. Please stop perpetuating lies.

Rod Fraser
March 6, 2024 5.34pm

Absolutely agree Arjay. The "Gender pay gap" is wrongly named and wrongly used to push a narrative that takes us nowhere in helping women or men. How about explaining the "gap" properly and considering the real societal trends beneath it rather than pushing it only as some comprehensive failure of fairness.

Mike Richards
March 6, 2024 6.49pm

The "gender pay gap" is absolute rubbish. Men work higher paying jobs and more dangerous jobs than a LOT of women - mining, forestry, fishing, construction etc., not 'childcare' and 'retail sales assistant'.

When I worked in State Government, EVERYONE at a particular classification was paid THE SAME, thanks to the Union Award. That didn't take into account the fact that some worked harder and longer hours than others, some did a lot of travel away in remote areas. That was usually the men.

Let's focus on something else instead - men die earlier than women from preventable or treatable cancers, yet get a quarter of the health funding that is spent on women's. How is that fair ?

Since 2003 women's health research received more than $833 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council, compared to less than $200 million for men.

Breast cancer received $60 million more than prostate cancer and ovarian cancer $64 million more than testicular cancer.