Opinion: A short tweet following the Australian elections said a thousand words: “One overwhelming story. Do. Not. Ignore. Women.”
Female voters had a massive impact on the outcome of last week’s elections: toppling Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government and hugely strengthening the number of minority party MPs in government.
Polling, media and politicians seem to agree it was women who upset the balance of power.
Some put it down to a groundswell of female anger about the mistreatment of women in politics which saw thousands of women march and converge on Parliament.
This was quietly followed by a very organised plan to have a major impact on the outcome of the election including going door to door to get as many women as possible enrolled and voting.
In large numbers women expressed their frustration the government was refusing to listen to them on issues they were concerned about, and they were angry MPs did not openly reject the poor behaviour towards women of some of their colleagues.
Those issues included equality, inclusion and respect, the disproportionate domestic load placed on women during the coronavirus pandemic, the rising cost of living, and policy on climate change.
My view is Australian women reached a tipping point following a growing frustration that despite their best efforts, in so many parts of their lives they were not being treated as equals.
This tipping point has shaped the Australian election outcome, and there is a strong message there for New Zealand.
We may still flaunt the fact we were the first self-governing country to give women the vote but since then we have failed to look after the interests of all of the women of Aoteoroa.
There are some very fundamental things that need to be rectified in New Zealand – fairness and equity for women. We are lagging behind other countries on this.
Women are still earning almost 10 percent less than men on average here. And if you look at Maori, Pasifika or minority ethnic women, the gap is almost 30 percent.
Our neighbours across the Tasman are ahead of us in trying to sort this issue out. In 2012 they passed the Workplace Gender Equality Act, which requires all non-public-sector employers with 100 or more employees to file public reports on workplace gender equality.
It’s far from perfect but it’s a start New Zealand has yet to make.
Two months ago, the MindTheGap campaign launched a registry asking businesses with more than 50 staff to register their pay gap. Out of 5000 potential businesses about 55 are now reporting. There is a long way to go.
We created the registry because we know if businesses start to take notice of their pay gap, it will begin to close. Many business leaders we have worked with have told us they were surprised with the size of their gap and the reasons for it.
I can hear you roll out all the lines we’re used to hearing. Women earn less because they take breaks in their career to have children and look after dependents. You may be surprised to know that only accounts for 20 percent of the pay gap. Sadly, the rest is unexplained and is often because of bias leaders in organisations may not even be aware of.
But while throwing some light on the pay gap will help focus some businesses, international experience has shown the only way to start closing that gap is to make pay gap reporting a mandatory.
If you have any doubt women will continue to tolerate the current situation, just take a look at the Australian election results – what women care about mattered in the final count.
Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” has been quoted a lot in the Australian media this week. “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.”
Take note, New Zealand.