Focusing on women’s economic security
- Kate Gibson, ANZ Home Owners Portfolio Lead
As a teenager musing about what career I might aspire to, one piece of advice from my mother has stayed with me: “do something that will allow you to be financially independent”.
The opportunity to earn an income and build sufficient retirement savings to live comfortably is fundamental to economic security. The data are clear - fewer women are able to achieve economic security than men. Despite participating at a greater rate in higher education, women tend to gravitate to lower-paid professions, earn less than their male counterparts in many professions and are more likely to take time out of the workforce due to caring responsibilities. As a consequence, on average women in Australia retire with superannuation balances around 65 per cent that of men.
My choice to join ANZ in 2008 reflected two focuses: I wanted to work in banking as banks have a critical role in enabling people to build financial independence through managing their money effectively; and I had heard ANZ supported women into senior roles and to work flexibly.
At the time I had three daughters aged under 5 so the ability to work part-time was critical. Since joining, I’ve seen ANZ continue to build on these great foundations including broadening flexible work and parental leave from focusing on women to becoming an employee proposition offered to all staff.
Becoming a member of Chief Executive Women gives me the opportunity to share what I believe ANZ does well in these areas with a broader audience while learning from others - so we can all improve. It’s also an opportunity to advocate for women’s economic security through improving financial literacy and workplace participation.
Some people are fortunate to get a grounding in financial literacy early in their lives from their family or through their education. However, the 2018 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found while almost half of men surveyed were able to answer all the financial literacy questions correctly, only 35.4 per cent of female respondents could.
Financial wellbeing is core to ANZ’s strategy and purpose. Less than a third of financial wellbeing is made up by socioeconomic factors – leaving two thirds on the table across knowledge, confidence, and behaviour. Ensuring women have access to relevant knowledge and build the associated confidence is imperative to achieving financial equality and independence.
Women have historically assumed the main responsibility for child raising which has left them under-represented in the workforce or more likely to be in short-term roles. Women constitute just 38.1 per cent of all full-time employees in Australia but that number jumps to 75.1 per cent for part-time employees, according to Workplace Gender Equality Agency figures.
For many women, the shift to part-time work stalls their career progression. The challenge is in ensuring everyone, regardless of gender, who chooses this path continues to be provided with development opportunities.
This is especially important when it comes to ensuring a balanced pipeline for senior leadership roles. CEW’s most recent ASX300 survey noted currently only 16 per cent of CEO feeder roles, being CFO roles or ‘line roles’ with profit and loss responsibilities, are held by women. Women hold only 14 per cent of ‘line roles’ and 62 per cent of ASX300 companies have no women in line roles in their senior executive teams. ANZ has a track record of supporting women to grow and develop, including when they work part-time or utilise other forms of flexibility.