A level playing field, yeah right
Thinking back to what life was like for women before feminism reminds long-time equal rights campaigner Sue Kedgley just how far we’ve come.
“There have been huge positive changes. In the 1970’s, when women’s liberation began, the whole of society was organised around meeting men’s needs. Men had the careers and men had the power. There was barely a woman in Parliament.
There was overt discrimination against women, there was no early childcare, no abortion, not even equal pay until 1972, no domestic purposes benefit until 1973. It was an unbelievable struggle for women”
However thinking back also reminds Kedgley how far the country has to go.
Commenting on a study from researchers at AUT on the wellbeing of women over 50 years. Kedgley said it highlighted that although women were better educated with more opportunities; they still bore the brunt of domestic duties and were lower paid than men.
The study found women spent an hour more each day on housework and twice as much time on primary childcare.
“That’s most revealing. That hour extra a day of housework would have a huge impact on women’s lives. Women are still having to do it all. It would leave them chronically exhausted and they don’t have enough time for themselves.”
Kedgley said being the primary caregiver for children also saw women penalised in their careers.
“Women take some time out to have children, either a year or five years, and their career suffers. They call it being ‘put on the mummy track’, on the slow track.”
The study also highlighted the gender pay gap – where, on average women earned only 86 per cent of what men earned.
Kedgley said that was in addition to women still being locked in low wage positions with long hours. Because women looked after the children and therefore were unable to work as long as men, it resulted in discrimination.
Women have changed a huge amount. We’re far more independent; we have more self-confidence and have greater opportunities. The positive changes can’t be underestimated.
But until the workplace becomes more family-friendly there are going to be huge problems for women.
And in terms of pay parity – I feel like we’re going to have to wait for a very long time for that.”
– Sunday Star Times October 14, 2012