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Why super funds need to think differently about women

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Female super fund members have lower workforce participation and have been more adversely impacted by COVID-19. HESTA head of impact Mary Delahunty believes funds must play a critical role in helping women's financial recovery, so all Australians can look forward to a secure future.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its necessary lockdowns have been hard on many families and businesses in Australia.

However, it is vulnerable workers who have felt the impact hardest - and as women disproportionately work in insecure employment, they've taken the biggest financial hit of all. Women have also had to shoulder a greater burden of unpaid work with more of their family at home, even if their partners have helped share it.

sponsored hesta women equality

Investing in equality

Of the $1 trillion the Federal Government plans to spend on the economic recovery, a significant proportion must address social infrastructure. The government, for example, could boost productivity by investing further in childcare, aged care, disability care, public housing and education that open up both the time and opportunities for Australia's women.

It's disappointing that the government did not look at childcare reform to broaden access to affordable, high-quality early education, as this is one of the most effective ways to support the economic recovery and improve women's workforce participation.

Research has long confirmed that higher female participation in the workforce correlates with better economic outcomes. While female workforce participation has certainly improved over the decades, it's still significantly lower than male participation. As global investors, we understand these persistent social inequalities are systemic weaknesses in our nation's economic growth and present long-term financial risks to our investments.

We're appealing to the government to invest with us to overcome these systemic weaknesses and deliver stable and sustainable employment in sectors with predominantly female workforces.

We believe these measures will deliver Australia a 'triple dividend': an efficient acceleration of economic growth, higher long-term productivity in our economy, and greater resilience to meet the challenges like our aging population and future pandemic shocks.

A stable, sustainable future for all

Investors are increasingly considering how their investments align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will measure their gender equality and poverty reduction attributes. Government investments that support those attributes will be more likely to secure investment from super funds.

As private investment helps to rebuild the economy post-COVID, government co-investment and policy must take the opportunity to make employment more resilient. Without it, a casualised workforce will remain unstable. Long-term investors, like HESTA, will shy away from both the instability and inequality.

The economy misses out threefold - in workforce participation, domestic spending and business investment. And, if the government is committed to getting the workforce up and running, then women, particularly those in precarious work, must be at the centre of any economic recovery plan.

Issued by H.E.S.T. Australia Ltd ABN 66 006 818 695 AFSL 235249, the Trustee of Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia (HESTA) ABN 64 971 749 321. This information is of a general nature. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or specific needs so you should look at your own financial position and requirements before making a decision. You may wish to consult an adviser when doing this. Read the Product Disclosure Statement at hesta.com.au/pds and consider if it's right for you.

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Mary Delahunty is the head of impact at HESTA, one of Australia's largest superannuation funds. She has held senior roles in financial services organisations for more than 15 years and is passionate about progressing responsible investment practices.
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