Yesterday there was an article in News Corps Australian Network’s, news.com.au titled ‘Why women are put off by super’. In the article HESTA CEO, Debby Blakey said, quite rightly, that “One of the biggest obstacles (for women to improve their super balance) is the message from many in the industry telling people they will need $1.5 million in super to retire comfortably.”
I was dismayed to see that news.com.au have changed the title of the story to women-dont-know-how-to-boost-their-super-balances. This change of title shifted the story‘s message from, the super industry needing to target their message to women better, to women being blamed for their poor super balances. This message feeds into the all too common theme of blaming women for their lack of financial security.
Women are often portrayed as being less financial capable than men. This perception ignores the fact that many women’s ability to achieve financial security is hindered, not by their financial skills, but by substantial structural gender barriers. Unfortunately many women believe the myth that their gender inherently means they are less financial literate and competent. In fact the opposite is true the 2015, ANZ Women’s Report; barriers to achieving financial gender equity, states:
…women, on average, were more careful managers of money – they keep track of their finances and fewer women than men were ‘impulsive’ in their attitudes.
The suggestion that women are less financial secure because they don’t understand money completely ignores societal gender biases which sees women on average earn 18.8% less than men. Female dominated professions such as caring work, retail and hospitality are often poorly paid, with many employees subject to casualization and under employment.
Overwhelmingly it is women that take time off work to care for children or older dependants. In addition to not earning an income whilst caring for family members full time, women during these absences from work are not earning superannuation or receiving professional development that would assist with their career progression when they return to the workforce.
So let’s stop blaming women and instead let’s knock down the gendered societal barriers to financial security. When women says it is just too hard and they want to give up, recognise this may not be because of a lack of financial literacy, but because women understand the difficulty of trying to achieve financial security with a lot less money than men.
Let’s praise women for their financial skills and promote women as good financial decision makers, so women can be actively encouraged to make financial decisions that will improve their financial security. And last but not least, let’s stop having negative and harmful news title such as; ‘Women don’t know how to boost their super balances’.
Julie Kun is a passionate advocate and campaigner for women’s equality. Julie has provided strategic planning and collaborative leadership in the community services sector for over 20 years and is the Deputy CEO of WIRE Women’s Information a Victorian state wide women’s service that provides information and support to any women on any issue. WIRE amplifies the voices of women in its advocacy so that our vision of a society were women and safe, respected valued and empowered to make genuine choices can be achieved.