Sharon Daley, Queensland Council of Social Service

The change that has occurred in result of the successful #MeToo and #TimesUp movements has surprised many. It is hoped now that these movements will serve as a catalyst to greater gender parity around the world.

The World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings tell us that gender parity is more than 200 years away.

This year’s International Women’s Day (8 March) theme is #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

What does gender parity look like for Australian women?

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, Australian women have made significant strides towards achieving equality with men over the past few decades. This can be evidenced at universities, in workplaces, in boardrooms and in government – a growing number of women are taking on leadership roles and forging pathways for other women and girls to follow.

However, despite the Sex Discrimination Act being enforced since 1984, women and girls continue to experience inequality and discrimination in Australia. In 2013, Australia was ranked 24th on a global index measuring gender equality, slipping from a high point of 15th in 2006.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the national gender pay gap is currently at 15.3 per cent and it has remained stuck between 15 per cent and 19 per cent for the past two decades.

WGEA and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) both show a gender gap favouring full-time working men over full-time working women in every industry and occupational category in Australia.

A quarter of women were sexually harassed in the workplace between 2007 and 2012 with the harasser most likely to be a co-worker, according to data from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

ABS figures show that one in three Australian women aged 15 years and over has experienced physical violence and nearly one in five has experienced sexual assault.

While, domestic and family violence is the leading preventable cause of death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 years - more than smoking and obesity.

The statistics become even more confronting when we look at specific groups of women.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

According to findings from the Women’s Legal Services NSW, chronic disadvantage is experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women due to the intersection of racial and gender discrimination. Access to justice and legal services, especially in regard to situations of family violence and sexual assault disadvantage this group of Australian women.

They also suffer from unequal access to accommodation, health, employment and education support services and are almost 20 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Women with disabilities

In Australia women with disabilities are underrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions in both public and political life, and do not have equal access to education, employment and health, according to findings from the Women’s Legal Services NSW.

Women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Multiple barriers to equal participation in the workforce and in the wider community are faced by immigrant and refugee women. These barriers arise from intersecting discrimination including racial, cultural, religious and linguistic background as well as gender.

Women from rural areas

Women in rural and regional Australia are subject to intersectional discrimination because of their gender and geographical location. These women face problems of access to adequate health care facilities, education and adequate living conditions.

There has never been a better time for women to push for change and improve gender parity in Australia. On International Women’s Day we should be celebrating the achievements made by Australian women.

We should be mindful of the gap that still exists and #PressforProgress for ALL Australian women.

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