Skip to content

Equity Means Prosperity

Equity Means Prosperity
Everything needs to be measured, because what gets measured gets done
CEW Equity means prosperity

By Christine Christian

In my years running businesses, one truth stands out. Everything needs to be measured, because what gets measured gets done. Leaders in all endeavours will tell you the same thing. Good intentions will remain just that until you start to keep track of what’s really being done.

No business leader would dream of operating without all the data. They have no trouble comprehending the need for targets and goals, yet apart from some valuable work by the Workplace Gender Equity Agency, on a national level we’ve been operating by feel not fact.

So tracking Australia’s progress or, more important, our failure to progress in some areas, is vital. Measuring equity for women is the key for beginning to improve it – and to also keeping Australia on a prosperous path.

The COAG Reform Council, which gave itself the task of tracking our national gender equity performance, this week (Wed) released a report comparing outcomes for women and girls across Australia with that of the general population. The gaps highlighted by this data are stark. Girls do well at school and more women are gaining higher qualifications, but they also have lower starting salaries and pay, lower labour force participation, fewer opportunities for workplace leadership, and less superannuation to retire on.

This is inequity at every stage – and as a nation we should be hanging our heads.

The reform council’s key recommendation that Australia commit to annual performance reporting on gender outcomes is to be applauded. But why, in 2013, are we only at the stage of recommending annual tracking of key performance measures for such a vital area of our productivity, economy and social equity?

Chief Executive Women (CEW) counts among its members 270 senior women leaders from the corporate, public service, academic and not-for-profit sectors. We are determined to do what we can to see that 50 per cent of the Australian population are given the means to take a meaningful and rightful place in all aspects of society.

We believe there are numerous areas highlighted by this report where governments can and must play a leading role in improving the status of women in Australia. Senator Michaelia Cash, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, could do worse than use this report as a roadmap of the tasks that lie ahead if Australia is to remove barriers to employment and financial independence for women.

The roadmap is clear – women need access to quality, flexible and affordable childcare, the ability to work flexibly, equal pay, proper compensation for periods of interrupted work for caring responsibilities and the equitable distribution of superannuation.

Improving workforce participation of women sees a big economic payoff. The Grattan Institute has estimated that an extra six per cent of women in the workforce – to bring participation in Australia in line with Canada – would increase Australia’s GDP by around $25 billion.

The Productivity Commission review of child care is a great start, especially given the COAG Reform Council report shows that additional formal child care or preschool is needed for one in six children.

It also shows that the pay gap starts right after graduation, when women entering the workforce earn on average 10 per cent less than men even in areas such as law and dentistry. CEW works with organisations to help them overcome the “fact gap”. Our experience is that when the right questions are asked and robust data obtained, then organisations take action, even in the challenging area of pay equity.

One of the key questions we ask companies is: “Does the pay distribution by gender tell a story”. Invariably it does. None of them start out believing that hey treat men and women differently. But the data tells a different story.

And so it is with superannuation. Australia’s super system might be one of the world’s best, but it is failing women. On average, they retire with super payments of only one third those of men.

We welcome the “root-and-branch” review of the nation’s financial system, also announced this week, and suggest the terms of reference under consideration also address ways of addressing the gender gap. Elana Rubin, CEW member and former chair of Australian Super, believes gender might be drowned out if included in the sweeping review, but nevertheless says it is important that the government take the opportunity to address the shortfall of women’s retirement savings and close what is an unacceptable gap between women and men.

CEW believes it should be obvious why fixing super for women is good for the economy – not least because, as women generally live longer than men, more women having better super will relieve pressure on the age pension.

It all adds up to good news for all Australians.

Christine Christian is the President of Chief Executive Women and the former CEO of Dun & Bradstreet

Christine Christian


Christine Christian is Non Executive Company Director, ME Bank Limited, Lonsec Fiscal, Powerlinx Inc., State Library of Victoria


Media release: CEW welcomes the focus on the care economy and women’s workforce participation in this year’s Federal Budget Chief Executive Women (CEW) welcomes Federal Budget measures aimed at unlocking women’s workforce participation to address Australia’s economic challenges by removing barriers for women and families.  Today’s Federal Government budget has confirmed funding for several of CEW’s...
Media release | Monday, 6 May 2024 More than 200 women leaders including from business, unions, philanthropy, academia and the community sector have written to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urging him to provide economic security for women leaving violence by raising the rate of Jobseeker and Youth Allowance. Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook AM said: “Every...
Media release: Former CEW president Sam Mostyn to become Australia’s next governor-general Chief Executive Women (CEW) congratulates former CEW president Sam Mostyn AO on the announcement she will become Australia’s next governor-general. CEW president Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz says Sam is a visionary leader who transformed CEW’s advocacy agenda at a critical time for Australian women. “As...
Media release: CEW Welcomes ‘Working For Women’, A National Strategy To Achieve Gender Equality Chief Executive Women (CEW) has welcomed the National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality.  Released today by the federal Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, the strategy outlines priority areas for improvements in women’s affairs, including a commitment to paying superannuation on Commonwealth Paid...
Media release: CEW celebrates new era of gendered data transparency, calls on all employers to set gender equality targets Chief Executive Women (CEW) has welcomed the publication of gender pay gaps for every individual Australian employer with 100 or more employees, calling for all Australian businesses to set gender equality targets to increase women’s representation...
CEW calls on the Federal Government to unlock the economy by addressing women’s workforce participation CEW is calling on the Federal Government to address the country’s economic challenges with a suite of policy settings that will help unlock women’s workforce participation for the good of all. In its 2024-25 Pre Budget Submission, which has been...
CEW welcomes the findings of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) Scorecard, which has found that the average total remuneration gender pay gap has dropped to 21.7 per cent in 2023 from 22.8 per cent in 2022.  It is the second biggest single year drop since WGEA started collecting employer data in 2014, however, on...
CEW welcomes and supports the Productivity Commission’s Report into Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and takes this opportunity to welcome the new Productivity Commission Chair and CEW member Danielle Wood to this important role. CEW supports the key recommendations of the report, namely: Building towards universal, free or low-cost access for all children to...
Today we released our seventh annual Chief Executive Women Senior Executive Census which tracks the annual progress of women’s representation in the senior leadership teams of Australia’s top companies. Latest data shows that women remain undeniably underrepresented in leadership teams across Australia’s top businesses and gender parity at the top is still at least half...
CEW welcomes significant Federal Budget to enable women’s economic participation and support the most vulnerable women across the economy Chief Executive Women (CEW) welcomes the Federal Budget and Women’s Budget Statement as an impactful Budget for women, with crucial measures to enable women’s participation in the economy, while supporting vulnerable women who are most impacted...