Inspiring inclusion this International Women’s Day

March 1, 2024

After spending most of her life as a stay-at-home mum, Ivy never imagined that one day she would be sleeping in the tunnel of a train station. When her marriage fell apart, she had no superannuation or job skills and the last thing she wanted was to be a burden on her adult children.

If you think Ivy’s story sounds familiar, it’s because thousands of Australian women share an almost identical story. The 2021 Census reported an increase of 6.6% to 7,325 women over 55 experiencing homelessness. Research shows that many older women don’t identify as being homeless, as they view homelessness as the stereotypical image of a man sleeping rough.

According to the Mercy Foundation, “Many women move between staying with children, relatives or friends to keep a roof over their head. Some are adept at house-sitting whilst others sleep in their car when there is nowhere else to go.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) this week, Ivy’s story should be at the forefront of our minds as we discuss gender pay gaps, superannuation disparities and imbalances in care of children. The theme for IWD 2024 is Inspire Inclusion, which highlights the role of inclusion in achieving gender equality. It calls for action to breakdown barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create environments where all women are valued and respected.

Research by Australia’s Centre for Future Work revealed that Australian women earn $1m less on average over their lifetimes than men and retire with $136,000 less in superannuation. Women earning the median wage will accumulate approximately $393,676 in super, $151,000 below what is considered a ‘comfortable retirement’.

According to the Centre for Future Work, “If the gender pay gap was eliminated women would be $3 billion per week better off.” Despite the gender pay gap narrowing slowly, unless there is significant intervention it will not be completely eradicated until the year 2053 when more than 60% of the current workforce will be retired.

Like Ivy, many women take several years out of the workforce to raise children, which exacerbates the gender super gap. After living comfortably for 20 years, Ivy’s divorce was the catalyst for everything in her life to fall apart and to be left with nothing. The fear of being left with nothing is what stops many women from leaving violent relationships.

As a nation, we have come a long way in reducing the gender pay gap and increasing opportunities for women in the workplace… but a lot more still needs to happen.

What can you do?

There are many ways, both virtual and in-person, to participate in IWD 2024. Remember, this year’s theme is Inspire Inclusion. Every time you speak about women’s rights and equal standing in your community, you are celebrating and participating!

Here are some other ideas to learn more and be active on International Women’s Day:

  • Here is a local, national, and international events database
  • Search the #InspireInclusion hashtag to see IWD 2024 stories on social media
  • Explore volunteer opportunities with the International Women’s Development Agency
  • Encourage men to be involved in IWD celebrations and activities
  • Wear purple – it’s the colour of IWD and symbolises justice and dignity
  • Organise an online event with your friends that supports women’s voices
  • Read books by women about the lives of women, especially with a book club
  • Donate to your favourite women’s organisation.

However you choose to celebrate, have a happy International Women’s Day!

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