HR Leader logo
Stay connected.   Subscribe  to our newsletter

Addressing the systemic inequality facing women takes urgency

By Kace O'Neill | |5 minute read
Addressing The Systemic Inequality Facing Women Takes Urgency

Commitment to policy reforms that address the systemic lifelong inequality facing women is well overdue. Meaningful conversations need to be had for real change to occur.

Decisions have been made, and awareness has been raised around the significant financial and social burdens that affect women daily, but more is needed to change the status quo. The recent federal budget offers some benefits towards this issue, but questions have been raised around the inadequacies of addressing gender inequality as a whole.

Deep-rooted issues that affect women in Australia are under a much-needed spotlight at the moment. Data shows that in the last year alone, there has been a 30 per cent spike in the rate of Australian women killed by their partner.


As reported previously on HR Leader, rallies have taken place throughout Australia recently as the death toll for 2023 reached 64, and a slew of recent murders have shocked the public.

As the calls for stronger laws to protect women rise, other issues that affect them are being highlighted, with one being the financial burdens they face. For example, women make up about 60 per cent of those who owe money and hold 58 per cent of the overall HECS-HELP debts.

Kris Grant, chief executive of ASPL Group, shared some insight on what’s needed to help uplift women from these burdens.

"When HECS-HELP was introduced, fewer women attended university, the nuclear family was more common, and housing was more affordable. These policies did not account for contemporary issues such as career breaks for caregiving, lower wages in female dominated industries, and rates of relationship breakdowns.”

“Consequently, women's debts tend to rise and persist longer, disadvantaging them throughout their lives,” Grant said.

The gender pay gap in Australia remains a significant issue, currently standing at 21.7 per cent. This stark difference further impacts the financial burden and barriers to the accrual of wealth that women face throughout their lives. This disparity extends to retirement savings, with the median balance for those aged 60 to 64 at $211,996 for men and only $158,806 for women.

"These figures highlight the long-term financial insecurity faced by women," Grant said. "Lower superannuation savings co-existing with high rates of gender-based violence are significant contributors behind women over the age of 55 making up the fastest-growing demographic experiencing homelessness.”

Although the 2024 federal budget introduced wiping $3 billion in university debts, Grant believes these measures that were implemented do little to address the issues women are facing or the long-lasting impacts of these issues.

"The government must go beyond temporary relief and re-examine the societal challenges women face today," Grant said.

Instead, Grant has called for comprehensive workplace reforms, equitable pay structures, and increased funding to prepare women for retirement.

"The government's current approach amounts to band-aid solutions that fail to address systemic issues. We need a complete overhaul of policies and systems that perpetuate gender inequality.”

“Furthermore, there must be meaningful acknowledgement of the direct correlation between gender inequality reinforced in government systems, with incidents of gender-based violence enacted in broader society. One cannot be adequately addressed in isolation of the other,” Grant said.


Gender pay gap

The term "gender pay gap" refers to the customarily higher average incomes and salaries that men receive over women.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.