The Case for Change


The Global Gender Gap

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 saw Australia’s standing in the Global Gender Gap Index fall from 44th to 50th in the world.

The World Economic Forum estimates it will take 195.4 years to reach gender parity in South Asia—the longest in any region in the world. For East Asia and the Pacific, it will take 165.1 years, three times as long as Western Europe and 30 years more than the global average in achieving gender parity.

Progress across the region varies considerably, with New Zealand helping to lead the way, ranked at 4th on the Global Gender Gap Index. There are, however, major divides across regions and within the Asia Pacific on political empowerment, economic participation and opportunity and the presence of women in senior and managerial roles.


Women in Politics

In October 2021, women made up 25.8% of all parliamentarians across the world according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Once again, women in Asia and the Pacific were even further under-represented, with women making up 21% of representatives in Asia and only 18.2% in the Pacific.

In terms of political leaders, women make up approximately 5.9% of heads of state, with female leaders in 9 out of 152 countries and a similar rate of heads of government, with 6.7% or 13 out of 193 countries.

When women hold ministerial portfolios, these are overwhelmingly in areas traditionally seen as feminine – such as family and children, the elderly, social affairs, culture and women’s affairs. Women are far less likely to hold ministerial portfolios relating to the economy, finance or defence.


Women in Business

In 2021, women hold only 6% of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) roles and 26% of positions in Executive Leadership Teams in ASX300 companies.

Australia’s Chief Executive Women estimates it will take 65 years or until 2086 before women make up 40% of line roles in executive leadership teams, based on trends from their census of senior executive women over the last five years.

Corporate Women Directors International analysis shows the Asia-Pacific region continues to trail most other regions in appointing women to corporate boards, with women making up only 15.1% of board members compared to 37.6% in Northern Europe and 28.6% in the US and Canada.


The Glass Cliff

When women do break through the glass ceiling to take on leadership roles, evidence shows that they often have to contend with the ‘glass cliff’. 

The glass cliff phenomenon sees women take on leadership positions that are risky or precarious, often having experiences that are different from their male counterparts.

Uncovered by GIWL ANU Director, Professor Michelle Ryan and her colleague Professor Alex Haslam, the glass cliff sees women appointed to senior leadership roles during periods of turmoil when the risk of failure is greatest. 


The Gender Pay Gap

Despite Australian legislation enshrining equal pay for equal work in 1972, nearly 50 years later the average Australian woman still has to work an extra 61 days a year to earn the same pay as the average man.

This persistent inequality has important consequences. It leaves women economically precarious, it creates significant gaps in retirement savings, and exacerbates the poor financial outcomes that women face in both the short and long term. As well as the negative impacts on individual women, by devaluing the work of one gender, Australian society and the Australian economy are missing out on the full impact of what women and men can contribute.

Gendered preferences in working patterns and caring responsibilities that are often used to explain, and justify, the gender pay gap are driven by strong societal norms and job segmentation. This means the ‘choices’ women make in their careers and the types of industries in which they work, are inherently constrained.

To improve gender equality in Australia, a multifaceted approach is needed. This includes a focus on improving parental leave (particularly for men), affordable childcare, valuing women’s work and work that is stereotypically done by women, addressing occupational segregation, and increasing pay transparency.

Current efforts to address these problems lack a firm evidence base and are fragmented into silos. 

Organisations spend a huge amount of time and money on gender equality initiatives, but in many areas there is a lack of evidence about what works

Meanwhile there are a huge number of passionate people and committed organisations working in this field, but there isn’t a broad, strong network that unites them

And learning from one country is not picked up by others.

This makes it difficult to focus resources where they will do most good.

To change this and realise our vision for equality, the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership will…

Strengthen evidence and understand what works
By drawing together existing findings from across sectors, disciplines and countries and by undertaking new solutions-focussed research

Translate solutions into action
By building feedback loops between research, policy and practice to make sure that precious time and resource is spent on effective interventions

Break down silos to build a global community
By acting as a hub for academics, policymakers and activists around the world to network and share findings

So join our network to be part of finding and sharing the best solutions

We are looking to partner with academic, activist, private and policymaking organisations who are interested in building a cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and global community focused on what works

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Updated:  24 January 2022/Responsible Officer:  Institute Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications