As the world’s sixth largest country, Australia is well known for a strong economy, great holiday destinations, laidback lifestyles and some of the world’s most livable cities, including Melbourne ranking at number 1 on the Economist Intelligence Unit global “liveability” study and Adelaide’s recent ranking in Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities to visit in 2014.
However, when the topic centres on gender equality, Australia ranks 24th out of 110 countries according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2013. In sequential order, starting at number one, the top ten spots were taken this year by Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, The Phillipines, Ireland, New Zealand, Denmark, Switzerland and Nicaragua.
Over the last four years, 95 countries have improved their performance and unfortunately Australia sits among the remaining 15 that have widened the gap, ranking four spots below its position at number 20 in 2009.
This being said, when it comes to investments made in women’s education, Australia is among the top ranking countries and the results of this is visible in women’s economic and political participation. Improving slightly on the Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index, Australia gained one position from the previous year (rank 25 in 2012).
Ranking 69th for health and survival and 43rd for political empowerment contributes to the lower ranking position on the country on the index. Health and survival is determined by the sex ratio at birth and the life expectancy of females vs. males; while political empowerment is measured by the ratio of females to males with seats in parliament as well as in ministerial roles, and the number of years females have been head of state during the past 50 years.
Closing economic and participation gaps will be the next step for Australia, if we plan to rank in the top 20. In particular, gaps in senior positions, wages and leadership levels will need to be shortened as this will, in addition to moving Australia higher up on the index, have a large boosting effect on the economy and GDP.
A booming economy is strongly linked to a country’s innovation capabilities, and in order for Australia to continue to be innovative we need to encourage a diverse environment. Evidence suggests that companies that successfully integrate the female half of the available talent pool across their internal leadership structure benefit through more informed decisions and engagement in less risky behaviour.
Put simply, gender-equal teams are more successful and business leaders as well as policy makers must put in place practices that provide equal opportunities for women rising to leadership positions internally. Only then can we move toward a more gender diverse nation.
Warm wishes, Donny