FWX sheds light on COVID-19 question; Has equality improved?

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Financy
There are signs that the Coronavirus pandemic is creating a structural shift in gender equality as pressure eases on some of the key barriers to women’s financial progress in 2021 according to the Financy Women’s Index December quarter report.

Key Results from Financy Women’s Index (FWX)

  • The Financy Women’s Index (FWX) finished 2021 up 1.6% to 72.3 points with women’s financial progress and time to economic equality better than expected.
  • The key drivers of the FWX in 2021 included the closing of the gender gaps in employment, ASX 200 board positions and unpaid work.
  •  However there was a 2.2% drop in the Index during the December quarter, weighed down by a worsening gender pay gap.
  • The timeframe to economic gender equality now stands at 59 years, down from a revised 76 years based on the worst performing area – unpaid work.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, author of the Financy Women’s Index, said that 2022 presents a rare chance for Australia to consolidate the gains of 2021 towards economic gender equality.

The FWX finished 1.6% higher at 72.3 points compared to 71.2 points in December 2020, aided by a closing of gender gaps in employment, ASX 200 board positions and unpaid work.

It will now take 59 years to achieve financial gender equality in Australia, down from a revised 76 years in 2020, based on the worst performing area of progress – unpaid work.

The Financy Women’s Index data suggests that more flexible work arrangements and better division of unpaid labour has enabled women to spend less time on unpaid work overall, whilst men in contrast are spending slightly more of their overall time in this area.

This quarter, the Financy Women’s Index sheds some light on one of the big questions to have emerged during COVID-19 – who bore the brunt of the unpaid work?

Rhiannon Yetsenga, economist at Deloitte Access Economics made these remarks.

“The unpaid work index remains one the most important indicators of women’s progress, with the division of domestic tasks so closely tied to gender norms.”

“The pandemic and associated lockdowns have shown a path towards greater gender equality through more flexible working, but further cultural and structural change is required if we want to enable progress beyond the modest improvements seen this quarter.”

Despite the annual FWX improvement, a disappointing December quarter weighed on the result, with a 2.2% drop driven by a widening in the gender pay gap (14.2%).

Effie Zahos, independent director InvestSMART made these remarks of the findings.

“It’s frustrating to learn that, despite living in a wealthy, well-educated society in the 21st century, the FWX estimates it will take close to 22 years to close the gender pay gap.”

Other key findings on women’s economic progress

  • the gender gap in underemployment is now the smallest it has ever been, reflecting that strong labour market conditions combined with greater work flexibility during the pandemic has improved employment opportunities for Australian women.
  • there was also an improvement in the number of monthly hours worked by women (6% gain versus a 5% gain for men in the December quarter).
  • the number of women on ASX 200 boards increased over the latest quarter to 34.5%, as of January 31, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Nicki Hutley independent economist and Councillor at Climate Council said she is “optimistic” that changes in the unpaid work balance will stick long after the pandemic passes.

“There is still work to do and it’s concerning that some areas have worsened, especially the graduate salaries. A gap tends to expand over the years and sets up a lifetime of inequality.”

Dr Shane Oliver, chief economist AMP said Australia needs to work harder on gender equality.

“The pandemic and associated lockdowns have shown a path towards greater gender equality through more flexible working – the key is for business, governments and workers to grasp the opportunity and push forward long after we leave the pandemic behind.”

About the Financy Women’s Index

The Financy Women’s Index (FWX) provides a broad picture on the financial progress of Australian women across the economy and timeframes to achieving gender equality.

The Index is supported by InvestSMART, Deloitte and Deloitte Access Economics, Ecstra Foundation, Tech for Good Group and equality believer Connie McKeage.

The Report is peer reviewed by the Women’s Index Advisory Board; Nicki Hutley, Dr Shane Oliver, Simon Cheung, Roger Wilkins, Danielle Wood, Joanne Masters and Bruce Hockman.

Financy is a financial literacy and data insights company with a mission to help women and girls progress and live fearlessly. It helps firms be the solution to financial gender equality.