Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Newsroom Archive: Oct 2013

  1. 25 October 2013

    WEF Report Names Australia First for Gender Equality in Educational Attainment, Lagging Behind in Other Key Areas

    The World Economic Forum finds that, based on the eight years of data available for the countries that have been part of the Global Gender Gap Report since its inception, the majority of countries have made only slow progress on closing gender gaps, including Australia.

    Australia is again ranked 1st for educational attainment, however overall is ranked 24th out of 133 countries who participate. Australia has slipped from 15th place 6 years ago and is ranked behind countries like New Zealand, Burundi and South Africa. In the Asia-Pacific Region, Australia ranks third overall behind New Zealand and the Philippines. This ranking reflects the lack of investment that both governments and business have made in systemic and widespread programs targeting gender equality.

    UN Women NC Australia’s Executive Director Julie McKay describes the workforce participation and wage gap in Australia as unacceptable. “It is frankly embarrassing that we as a nation should have the highest educational outcomes in the world, yet not be capitalising on this talent in our workplaces or leadership positions. Women leaving secondary school or university have equal or better results than their male counterparts, yet female graduate salaries are at just 90% of male graduate salaries in comparable industries. The gap in wages and chances for advancement in the workplace get worse as a woman’s career continues. Australian women will retire on average with $114,000 less superannuation than their male counterparts. We need to address this inequality so that women’s talents and contribution to the workforce are treated as equally valuable to men’s.”

    Ms McKay says that Australia’s high ranking in educational attainment compared to the low ranking in labour force participation (52nd) is evidence of bias and discrimination that women continue to face in our workplaces. “Employers must work to ensure that targets for women in leadership roles are set and that flexible work practices are fostered. Addressing sexual harassment will also be a factor in improving workforce participation. We must ensure that young girls and women have the widest possible range of career prospects available to them, encouraging them to enter non-traditional careers, negotiate salaries and recognise their value.”

    The Report ranks Australia 69th for health and survival. “Despite having a robust health system in Australia, not everyone has equal access to it,” says Ms McKay. “This low rank is reflective of the inequality in our health system. Indigenous women, women living in rural and regional areas and women with disabilities all face serious challenges accessing affordable, quality health services”.

    Australia is ranked 43rd in the world for political empowerment, behind India, Uganda and Serbia among others. “We have recently seen in Australia a significant reduction in the number of women in our Cabinet. We seem comfortable to ignore the evidence which shows that gender equality and national competitiveness are correlated,” says Ms McKay. “When women are economically, socially and politically empowered, national competitiveness improves in the long term. It is in the national interest to close the gender gap.”

  2. 16 October 2013

    Civil Society Groups Urge Government to Accelerate Plan on Women Peace and Security

    Today the Australian National Committee for UN Women, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Australian National University Gender Institute and the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) will release the first Annual Civil Society Report Card on the National Action Plan for Women Peace and Security. The launch of the Report takes place today at the Hedley Bull Centre of the Australian National University.

    Too often, women and girls are left out of the picture when it comes to post-conflict negotiations and reconstruction. But including them is essential if peace is to last – and to be for everybody.

    Australia’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security was released by the Government in 2012 and aims to fulfil its commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which requires parties to support and promote women’s rights and participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction. The Report Card, drawn up with the input of civil society groups, commends the previous and current Governments on their progress with the Plan. However the Report Card also argues that more needs to be done, urging the Government to continue to accelerate progress.

    “The Coalition Government has rightfully championed women’s leadership in the Asia Pacific region to be a signature of their Foreign policy. We are hopeful that the Government will continue with efforts to put the National Action Plan at the forefront of their agenda,” said Joanna Lindner, ACFID’s Head of Policy.

    “At the UN General Assembly in September, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop made the welcome statement that women play a crucial part in maintaining peace. Redoubling commitments to achieve the aims set out in the National Action Plan would help Australia to make that statement come to life, and see through our obligations to women and girls worldwide.”
    The Report finds that a concerted increase in action is needed for the National Action Plan to be effectively implemented by the 2018 target.

    “The Plan must be implemented and mainstreamed into Australia’s international policy in order for women affected by war to feel the positive impact of the Plan’s agenda. There must also be more transparent reporting on the progress of the Plan, with Government demonstrating what action it is taking to achieve these goals,” states Barbara O’Dwyer, National Coordinator of WILPF.

    The organisations are concerned that the issue of women, peace and security could drop off the radar entirely. Julie McKay, Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women says she was concerned when earlier this year, Kevin Rudd announced a dual agenda for Australia’s Presidency of the UN Security Council. “The shift away from a sole focus on women’s involvement in conflict and peace processes is concerning and it seems that the Coalition has no plans to reverse the move.” McKay is concerned that this could lead to the sidelining of women’s issues. “Women are disproportionately affected by conflict and are targeted specifically as civilians. Yet this violation of women’s rights is most often overlooked in conflict resolution and post-conflict rebuilding. A dual focus on the Security Council threatens to sideline women’s issues more than they already are.”

    The ANU Gender Institute’s Dr Fiona Jenkins notes, “The implementation of the Plan provides a great opportunity for government and civil society to share knowledge in order to ensure women have the opportunity to participate fully in peace-building and security processes. Thus far however, this opportunity has not been taken up.”

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