Gender equality strategy needed in Western Australia, too

Found in: Gender equity resources

Gender equality strategy needed in Western Australia, too

Gender inequality negatively affects women throughout their life course, from their educational and training pathways to their employment opportunities and work life balance, positions of formal leadership, health and safety, economic security and social inclusion. These interrelated factors combine to place women at greater risk of poverty, disadvantage and social exclusion. Women are more likely to live in low economic resource households, be unable to raise $2,000 in an emergency, have little or no superannuation coverage or be financially secure in retirement.[1] Women have substantially lower labour force participation rates[2] and when they do engage in work it is more likely to be in lower paid, insecure work. Older women are particularly at risk of financial and housing insecurity due to a lifetime of inequality leaving them with limited savings in retirement.

Women from low socioeconomic backgrounds, Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, those with disability and long-term health conditions, and those living in regional and rural Australia, may experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and disadvantage, placing them at greater risk of poverty, family violence, poor health and wellbeing and exclusion from economic and social participation.

Communities with greater gender equality have higher rates of wellbeing and lower depression among both men and women.[3] There is a dual rationale for promoting gender equality. Firstly, equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and social justice. Secondly, greater equality between women and men is a precondition for (and an indicator of) equitable, prosperous and healthy communities. Gender is increasingly recognised as an important social determinant of health because it  influences education, income, reproductive roles, and caring responsibilities, among other determinants.[4] Addressing gender inequality will also result in enormous cost savings. The most robust evidence for this is in relation to the impact of violence against women. In addition to the serious physical health, mental health and social impacts on the individual, violence against women gives rise to enormous preventable ‘downstream’ costs to the policing and justice systems, housing and homelessness services, health system and child protection services.[5]

Despite the profound impacts of gender inequality over the life course, government policy and programs have tended to take a ‘gender-blind’ approach, As a result, strategies, interventions and services across all portfolio areas have not been tailored for women, and opportunities to improve outcomes for women have been missed, reinforcing gender inequality.

Strong, coordinated government action is essential for effectively addressing gender inequality. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) framework for health in all policies provides important practice principles that could usefully be adopted to progress gender equity. The approach recognises that coordinated action across the three tiers of government, and across government departments, is necessary to tackle gender inequity. The Western Australian government’s leadership in adopting this approach will provide the ‘mandate, incentives, budgetary commitment and a sustainable mechanism that support government agencies to work collaboratively on integrated solutions’[6] to achieve equal outcomes for women and men.

Practical steps towards achieving gender equality might include: a governance structure with inter-ministerial representation and the support of an inter-departmental committee (i.e. health and human services, education, justice); and financial resourcing and collaboration with sectors who have gender equity expertise (i.e. the women’s sector) that can lead and support practical cross sector initiatives.[7] 

Victoria’s new gender equality strategy is an important example of the government leadership required to make inroads into the intractable issues of inequality, sexism and violence against women in all its forms. It was shaped in response to the concerns raised at public forums attended by more than 1,200 women and men including people from the Aboriginal, disability, culturally diverse, rural and regional and LGBTI communities. It identifies the different ways that gender inequality affects all members of the community, from work and financial security, the unhealthy promotion of body image, to fear of violence and violence itself. It provides business leaders and policy makers with a range of initiatives that aim to promote gender equality and protect vulnerable members of the community.

Find the Report here.

[1] ABS, Gender Indicators, Australia, Aug 2015, Cat. No. 4125.0, ‘earnings, income and economic situation’, ABS, 2015.

[2] ABS, Gender Indicators, Australia, Aug 2015, Cat. No. 4125.0, ‘earnings, income and economic situation’, ABS, 2015.

[3] Science Nordic, Gender equality gives men better lives, Norway, 2015.

[4] Greaves, Pederson and Poole (2014) Making it better: gender-transformative health promotion, p. 2.

[5] PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia (2015) A high price to pay: the economic case for preventing violence against women, p. 10.

[6] WHO, 2010, Adelaide Statement on Health in All Policies, Government of South Australia, Adelaide. P. 2.

[7] Eckermann, T. (2001). Domestic violence: A priority public health issue in the Western Pacific region. In: WHO (2001) Women’s Health Western Pacific Region, WHO, WPRO, Manila.