For more than 30 years now, women have been told they can be equal players with men at work. Women have been provided with more education, more opportunity and more acceptance than ever before. Yet still there are comparatively very few women in the top jobs.
How few? Put it this way: during his regular Finance Report on the ABC’s 7pm News in February, Alan Kohler showed a graph comparing the performance of US companies with female CEOs to the general market index. Fascinatingly, the graph showed that companies run by women performed better than those run by men.
“I can’t do that graph in Australia because the sample [of women CEOs] is too small here,” Mr Kohler told viewers.
Australia is number 24 on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, which compiles data on things such as education, health, social policies.
While this puts us into the realms of the more advanced nations in terms of gender equality but we’re still pretty far down the list for a nation that says it’s ready for women to engage more in the leadership arena.
There are currently 20 per cent of women on boards, which is up from 8 per cent a few years ago, but even Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, says that change here is “glacially slow”.
While we wish our daughters and granddaughters every success they wish for, how many of us, looking back through the lens of hindsight, would want that for ourselves?
If you had had the opportunities our girls have these days, would you have set your sights high? Would you be jostling for a seat at the bar or taking up golf to spend a bit of extra time with the boss?
Chances are you’d still have to do the lion’s share of the housework, as numerous studies have showed that even women working in top jobs still contribute to at least half of the domestic chores in the family.
And your pay would be smaller than if your husband was doing your job. The average pay gap that exists between full-time earnings for men and women in Australia is 18.6 per cent. If you’re in a management position, you could be earning as much as 45 per cent less than your male counterparts.
And then there’s the guilt and constant stigma of being a working mother, should you choose to have children. The fact that, even if you are the greater earner, it is most likely still you who would get hauled out of the office to retrieve a sick child from school.
With all that said, you would have the opportunity to pursue your dreams, be they financial freedom, making a difference or just working hard because you love to do so.
So what would you choose?
If you were at the beginning of your working life today, tell us, would you aim for the top?