Post written by Jane Hunt, former inaugural CEO at Fitted for Work.

  • Women’s workplace participation lags behind men’s by around 13 percentage points.
  • Women are paid less than men across all sectors and at all experience levels. The gender pay gap across all sectors of the economy stands at 17.5 per cent. The average woman working full-time earns $13,842 less each year than the average man working full-time (source: WGEA).
  • Women are also left behind in retirement even though they typically live longer and have more years of retirement ahead of them than men. There is a profound gender savings gap – men hold around 63% of total superannuation account balances, compared with 37% for women. Female superannuation balances are lower in every age group (source: ASFA)
  • Women find it more difficult to enter the workforce or re-enter the workforce when they become primary carers. The employment rates of female parents are 39 percentage points lower than male parents for families whose youngest child is under six years (source: AHRC)
  • 67% of women aged between 15-64 are in paid work, compared with 78% of men.

(Most of these statistics come from the Tuxedo Tuesday Fundraiser that some of our supporters are running because they feel passionate about equal work opportunities for men and women. Check it out at and don a Tux on March 11 or sponsor one of our team!).

 So, in the midst of this, how do we inspire change?

I have a range of solutions to this, and I have just added another BIG one to my list.

When I am talking with individuals, I make the ‘human’ case – I usually talk about a woman who is accessing one of our programs. Read Elizabeth’s story or Anna’s story and then tell everyone. Engaging people’s hearts is the best way to inspire change.

When I talk to employers, I make the ‘business’ case – companies that have diversity and employ men and women at all levels are more productive and have better problem-solving skills, they are more profitable and are better places to work for everyone. Having a bigger talent pool is always going to produce better results for companies.

When I talk with Federal politicians, I make the ‘productivity’ case – It is estimated that simply by bringing women’s workplace participation up the level of men, around $200 billion in real terms would be added to the national economy (source: ABS, Goldman Sachs).

And the BIG one I am adding is the ‘quota’ case – I am pro-quotas for women in leadership areas where they are seriously under-represented. In fact, if an organisation wants to change its culture and offer a ‘quota’ role, I would put my hand up for one of those positions (after I stop being the CEO of FFW I mean!). Why? Because, despite the counter-argument of ‘Don’t you want to be selected on your merits?’ I know the research shows time and again that women underestimate their abilities whilst men overestimate theirs. Given this, I know I am going to be qualified.  I know I am going to be able to do the job.

I can make a good case for more women being employed, whether it is ‘human’, ‘business’ or ‘productivity’. If it takes a ‘quota’ role to move the dial, then I will take the job.

Quotas might be the circuit-breaker that helps get employers beyond the ‘blind spot’ that stops them from appointing capable women to leadership roles. Quotas might help organisations reconsider the make-up of their leadership teams and actively change them for the good of their business.  Most importantly, other women working in or looking at the organisation as a potential employer will get to see another woman do a good job. No, scratch that thought, they will get to see another woman do a GREAT job.

So, let’s all advocate for the roles we want, and take a quota role if that is what is offered. For too long the ‘merit’ argument has been seriously weighed against women. Take the quota role and do a GREAT job. That way you can pave the way for others as well. Perhaps, then, next International Women’s Day we would all find ourselves eager to do a ‘stocktake’ on women in Australia and congratulate ourselves on the change.