International Women’s Day 2013: Despite Having a Female PM, A Lot Needs to Be Done to Achieve Equality for Women in Australia

  @ibtimesau on

While more women have broken glass ceilings in the political and corporate world, much more needs to be done to have more full equality for women, according to organisations that represent women's rights in Australia. The organisations are in solidarity with other women's rights groups in other countries as the world observers International Women's Day on Friday, March 8.

There is no denying that females, who represent half of the global population, have assumed higher roles in government and board rooms. Australia is headed by a female, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, while South Korea welcomed its first female president, Park Jeun-Hye on the last week of February.

Ms Gillard insisted she felt and was treated equal by males even during her younger days, although her current political nemesis in an alleged misogynist.

"As a girl growing up in Adelaide, I have never had anyone tell me there were things I could not achieve. I had never had anyone shut down or shout down my aspirations. I have never felt lucky, just equal," World News quoted Ms Gillard's International Women's Day message for Aussie women.

Ms Gillard, however, acknowledges being female has some minor drawbacks too like her recent slip in India.

According to a MasterCard study on global advancement of women, among 14 Asia-Pacific nations, Australian women came second on the list with a 76 index scored. Ahead of Australia were New Zealand women who got an index score of 77.8, and ranked third were Filipino women who received an index score of 70.5.

However, reality is majority of public and private organisations are controlled by men. Females comprise only 10 per cent of executives in Australian Stock Exchange listed companies while average weekly earnings for Aussie women are lower by an average of $250 compared to their male counterparts.

The gender pay gap is also felt in other countries. A new study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that full-time women workers earned only 80.9 per cent weekly pay compared to men. The figure actually went down from 82.2 per cent in 2011.

There are some lucky ones, particularly those in the corporate world, such as Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer who got a whopping $1.1 million bonus for her five-and-a-half months running the Internet company.

The amount, however, is a fraction of her $56 million long-term stock compensation plus $1 million annual pay which were offered to her in exchange for leaving Google.

But the bonuses and hefty executive pay packages are apparently worth it because since she joined Yahoo! in late 2012, Yahoo's share price rose by 46 per cent even if she took some time off to give birth during those five and a half months she started working for Yahoo!

However, upon her return to work, she immediately banned work-from-home arrangements of employees which has affect female as well male employees with young kids to look after and no nanny available to help them.

However, not many women could achieve the highs that Ms Mayer had reached since some Asian countries still practice gendercide in which fetuses are aborted once it is confirmed that the baby inside the mother's womb is female.

To help curb the practice, South Korea launched a Love Your Daughter campaign which convinces couples not to abort female fetuses. It includes a ban on doctors to reveal the gender of a fetus to South Korean parents, but the prohibition was eventually overturned for being unconstitutional.

For female children not aborted, one problem that they must also endure during their childhood or even adult years is domestic violence.

International Women's Day should not only be an occasion to celebrate and recognise the achievements of women but also a time for those on the receiving end of domestic violence to demand for more safety and better opportunities as well.

Perhaps this 1975 hit song by American singer Helen Reddy, best known for her I am Woman song, encapsulates that last message as half of the globe's populace observe women's day.

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