Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
The 50|50 Foundation is a research and advocacy centre with a focus on achieving equal representation of women in leadership and key decision-making roles in all levels of government and public institutions around Australia.
The 50|50 Foundation was founded by Virginia Haussegger AM in 2017. It is part of the Faculty of Business, Governance and Law at the University of Canberra.
Our approach is underpinned by three core pillars:
Share the load
Share the benefits
Share the power.
Research shows that with women in Australia still carry a disproportionate load when it comes to undertaking unpaid domestic work and childcare in the home. Our own research during the COVID pandemic indicates this has been further exacerbated during lockdown and restricted work and schooling. This load acts as a major disincentive to women taking on more senior, leadership roles and reinforces the gender norms of male as breadwinner and women as primary carers at home, working part-time. In policy terms, Share the Load calls for a meaningful increase to paid parental leave for Dads and Partners, to ingrain shared care from the start of a couple’s parenting journey. It also requires a concerted focus on accessible flexible work options for all parents.
As economic actors, women do not share equally in terms of their share of wealth or income. A persistent gender pay gap, women experiencing more career breaks and time out of the workforce for caring, the fact that the industries that have a higher concentration of women are among the lowest paid and that women are under-represented in senior positions in the public and private sectors mean that overall, women’s lifetime earnings are much lower, on average, than men’s. As a result, women reach retirement age with on average less than half the superannuation balances of men and consequently more likely to be relegated to poverty in later life. Economic security is a key plank in women’s leadership aspirations.
Without women from a diversity of backgrounds equally represented in key decision-making and leadership positions, public policy can be blind to the different lived experiences and needs of our population. In 2020, gender diversity in leadership in the national parliament has stalled at a time when it is most needed to ensure that those who have been adversely affected by the twin crises of the pandemic and the economic recession that followed.
More broadly, power needs to be balanced in many ways to support equality and better outcomes for all in our country. Unacceptable abuse of power – be it in domestic, family or sexual violence, online or in the workplace – is damaging for everyone. It reduces trust and respect, weakens homes and communities and ultimately acts as a cultural web of disincentives to women seeking positions of leadership. Clear public standards and expectations enshrined in workplace codes of conduct, further work to combat online abuse and renewed investment in programs to address domestic violence and coercion are all central to provide the platform for all women to aspire to, and become, leaders.