The film Suffragette is a timely reminder of at times violent struggles women faced in the UK to attain equal voting rights with men.  Similar campaigns to gain women the vote have occurred in other countries though fortunately with less violence.

The film also included real life examples of how, in the early 1900s, women lacked equality in terms of pay, legal rights, and many other aspects of social life.  Women then were truly second class citizens.

Much has been achieved during the twentieth century on gender equality.  Yet each advance such as equal pay for equal work, equal access to education and training, had to be fought for.  Despite the many changes full gender equality is yet to be achieved, as statistics recently put out by the Victorian Government show.

  • Workforce participation, women = 58.8 %, men = 71.4 %.
  • Women in full-time work earn $15,000 less than men each year.
  • Women retire with just over half the superannuation savings of men.
  • Women hold only 21% of directorships on ASX boards.
  • Only 50 of Victoria’s 128 State parliamentarians are women.
  • Women represent 67% of the Victorian public sector, yet only 37% of executive roles.
  • Australian women spend almost twice as much time on unpaid work as men.

With gender inequality still an issue of concern it is heartening that this year’s Australia of the Year, David Morrison, former army chief, is an outspoken advocate for gender equality and diversity.

Suffragette and David Morrison’s appointment have serendipitously coincided with the Victorian Government release of a consultation paper on ‘A Gender Equality Strategy for Victoria’.  The government is seeking input from the community and invites Victorians to send in their ideas and submissions, to guide their future actions and priorities.  To direct responses in a meaningful way the consultation paper includes fourteen questions.  Some of these questions are rather general while others relate specifically to pay, superannuation, business and workplaces.

Humanists have long supported and campaigned for gender equality.  It is part of our Humanist world-view, so HSV will prepare a submission on this important issue and member input is welcome.  We will discuss this issue on Sunday 14 February.  Please come along and help us formulate constructive ideas.

Rosslyn Ives

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