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Financy Women's Index

Financy is an online resource dedicated to women’s financial progress and economic gender equality, and the latest quarterly Financy Women's Index (FWX) reveals that COVID-19 has indeed hampered women’s progress.

The FWX is supported by Deloitte Access Economics modelling, and tracks women’s financial progress over time. It covers a range of indicators, including employment, underemployment, unpaid work, fields of education, earnings, superannuation, and gender diversity on boards.

Relative to September 2020, the FWX dropped 3% to 74 points (out of 100). In quarterly terms, this is the largest drop in the index since December 2012. Perhaps even more worrying than the relapse in the index itself, is the revised timeframe to equality estimates (Figure 1). This quarter’s FWX predicts it will take more than a century – 101 years to be precise – to reach gender equality in Australia.

Figure 1: Years to equality, December 2020 

Source: Financy and Deloitte Access Economics.

The poor quarterly performance is largely being driven by the gender gap in unpaid work. Even prior to COVID-19, the sub-index was in decline, as men continued to spend nearly half the time of women caring for families or doing housework. And while 2020 data for the sub-index is not yet available, the latest evidence indicates that women have been taking on an extra hour of unpaid work relative to men during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The education sub-index, which captures enrolments by field of study and expected future earnings by gender, has stagnated. Despite high levels of female educational attainment, the index shows that women tend to self-select into fields of study that have lower expected pay. For example, the most popular field of study for women is ‘society and culture’, associated with an average weekly wage of $1,390, while the most popular field of study for men, ‘management and culture’, attracts an average weekly wage of $1,680. However, the index would also increase if incomes rose for occupations that are female-dominated, such as in health and education – in other words, if society placed higher value on these sectors.

But it’s not all bad news. Australia’s strong economic rebound has aided women’s progress across the gender pay gap and representation on ASX 200 boards. In fact, gender diversity on boards is up more than 6% relative to December 2019 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Female representation on ASX 200 boards

Source: Financy and Deloitte Access Economics, based on AICD.

Ultimately however, reaching gender parity will depend on whether women’s progress continues to improve across all indicators, including those covered by the FWX, not just a select few.