Chief Executive Women: five asks of the next government of Australia

Chief Executive Women has outlined five policy priorities to leverage women’s participation and leadership to boost the Australian economy.
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CEW members, more than 800 of Australia’s most experienced women leaders from across the country, are calling for real commitment and action from the next federal government on these priorities.

CEW President Sam Mostyn AO said the federal election comes at a crucial moment in time and Australia must act with urgency to remove the barriers that stand in the way of a prosperous and equitable economic recovery.

“The next government of Australia must prioritise women’s economic participation to help address the cost-of-living pressures faced by women and families and ensure a strong and flourishing Australian economy.

“The pandemic highlighted the structural cracks in our communities and the fragility of our social infrastructure.

“CEW is calling for intentional policymaking through five asks – investment in well-paid jobs in care sectors, affordable early education, expansion of Commonwealth Paid Parental leave, workplaces safe from sexual harassment and a gender-balanced Cabinet.

“If implemented, CEW’s policies would see great benefits for men, women and families across the country.”

CEW has written to Members of Parliament and candidates calling for the next government of Australia to boost the economy through prioritising women’s participation and leadership to support families, through five asks:

  • Invest in well-paid, secure jobs in care sectors: Our care industries are vital to a robust, functioning economy. They’re also growth industries for the future. But the workers – predominantly women – are running on empty. The next government should ensure secure employment and well-paid jobs for the care workforce, with long-term career growth to attract and retain young workers – both women and men.
  • Make quality early education and care more accessible and affordable: Affordable early education is a cost-of-living pressure for young families. The current system creates barriers for the secondary earner, affecting how they choose to work. The next government needs to increase the childcare subsidy to 95% for all low-income families. In addition, Australia should build towards a universal system where all kids under five have access to early education.
  • Expand Commonwealth Paid Parental leave for all parents: The next government of Australia should increase the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave scheme to 26 weeks immediately, shaped in a way that encourages both parents to share care. This shift would encourage men to share parental leave, helping to normalise flexible work and shared care responsibilities. CEW is also calling for extension of the superannuation guarantee to the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave scheme to reduce the gap between women and men at retirement.
  • Make workplaces safe from sexual harassment: Australia has been shocked and disappointed by stories of sexual harassment in workplaces around the country. This must stop. The next government of Australia needs to implement all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report, particularly the positive duty for employers under the Sex Discrimination Act and implement all Set the Standard recommendations to set the tone from the top. In addition, victims of domestic violence must be supported to continue to participate in the workforce with ten days of domestic and family violence leave mandated in the national employment standards.
  • Appoint a gender-balanced Cabinet: As Australia plans its recovery, we cannot afford to shape policy and expenditure without consciously including more than half the population. The next Federal Cabinet should better reflect Australia, with at least 40% of Ministerial roles appointed to women. A gender balanced cabinet will help ensure policies that more intentionally consider the lived experience, impacts and benefits for women.

Through the pandemic women were hit hard by job losses and through the recovery have not been able to access the decent, secure work and level of employment they need.

There is growing consensus on the way forward from major employer groups, academics, economists, unions and peak councils, and advocacy organisations and it is backed by solid evidence. The policy priorities identified by CEW have been backed by data, available here.

CEW represents more than 800 senior women leaders, including CEOs, chairs and non-executive directors, CFOs, COOs, leaders in the arts, sports, civil society organisations, and academics. At June 2021, CEW’s members oversaw more than $749 billion in revenue, more than 1.3 million employees, and contributed more than $249 billion to Australia’s GDP.

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