Health and Wellbeing
Health and wellbeing is significantly impacted, if not determined, by access to resources outside a narrowly conceived health system. Education, employment and income, safe and affordable housing all contribute, with research consistently showing that areas of low socioeconomic position have the worst health outcomes, and the highest rates of avoidable death.
As women tend to be concentrated in lower wage positions or industries and are more likely to be in unpaid caring roles, the health burden of these social determinants is even greater for women. In addition, women are more exposed to marginalisation and discrimination, and more likely to be socially isolated or victims of past trauma. All are common barriers to women accessing the necessary resources to ensure good health and wellbeing.
In turn, health issues, and manifestations of health issues, are impacted by gender. A gender lens must therefore be applied to health care services in the ACT to differentiate between requirements for health related matters for males, females and those of diverse gender identities, and to ensure that affordable and accessible gender and culturally-sensitive health services are provided across the ACT.
There is a need for services and initiatives which respond to the different requirements of women and men and recognise that some health issues are particularly influential for women’s wellbeing, including contraception and reproductive health, maternity care and birthing options, and the profound impact of past or current trauma and violence.
Housing and Homelessness
We know that low income earners are particularly vulnerable to housing stress, with women therefore being especially vulnerable. Gender inequality factors such as attitudes towards gender roles and caring, violence against women and the gender pay gap all contribute to women’s vulnerability to housing crisis.
There is a need for support for women to access sustainable housing to be responsive to the particular needs of women. Women with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, those who have experienced violence, older women, and women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds may have specific housing needs and support that is sensitive to the range of challenges faced, including the need to provide trauma informed responses in the area of housing support.
The ACT Government is committed to putting in place measures to reduce the incidence of violence against women and girls and to ensure that they feel safe in their homes and communities.
This ongoing commitment will be addressed through the whole of government Safer Families Reforms which will result in transformation to the way our community works together to address family and domestic violence. This work adds and provides a significant boost to work currently underway through the Second Implementation Plan of the ACT Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Strategy 2011-2017 and to ACT’s contribution to the implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
The safety of women and girls in the ACT is related to gender equality. Women are less likely to experience violence when women’s economic, social and political rights are adequately protected. Work under the ACT Women’s Plan 2016-26 across all priority areas will contribute to the significant investment the ACT Government has made towards Safer Families by addressing the gender related causes of domestic and family violence.
Safety and perceptions of safety in public places are key to women’s equal and full participation. There is a requirement for all areas of government to consider how to ensure women feel safe. In areas such as urban planning, public transport, and institutions such as university campuses, women’s safety considerations are key.
The ACT has the second lowest pay gap compared with other jurisdictions. However, at November 2015, ACT women working full-time ordinary hours each week earned on average $1209, compared with ACT men, who earned $1536 each week. Women tend to reach retirement age with significantly less superannuation and tend to have lower levels of life savings and home ownership.
Women who face discrimination and disadvantage as a result of a range of factors such as disability, being subject to violence and caring responsibilities have an increased risk of financial hardship.
Actions to be identified to improve ACT women’s economic security will ensure the ACT Government continues to take action to work across government and with our non-government, community and business partners to identify measures to be taken to enhance women’s economic security, particularly for groups of women who face disadvantage. This work will include enhancing opportunities for women within the ACT Public Service (ACTPS).
To make progress on women’s economic security it is vital to examine what can be done across the lifespan. This includes consideration of factors such as girl’s access to education and measures to facilitate girls to excel in subjects including in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Other factors to be considered across the lifespan include: the need for flexible work options; women’s increased likelihood of having a combination of low savings and minimal superannuation; the need for improved financial planning and literacy skills; and the ongoing need for supported pathways to employment for women who face particular challenges resulting from intersectionality.
It is essential that women are able to take up leadership roles in order to influence decisions which affect their lives and to ensure women are able to realise their full potential.
The ACTPS, as an employer ensures measures are taken to promote gender equality within ACTPS. Women make up 65 per cent of the ACTPS workforce. There has been a 4 per cent increase of women in senior executive roles over the last four years with 42 per cent of senior executive positions being held by women.
However, more men than women continue to take up leadership positions across decision making bodies and in public and private sector executive roles and there is still work to be done to enable women to take up leadership opportunities. While it is helpful to provide developmental opportunities for women to increase their capacity for leadership it is also important to address systemic and cultural barriers, including addressing gender-based discrimination.
Leadership empowers women and girls to have a voice and influence their community.
It is vital that decision making bodies are reflective of the communities they represent and that women with a range of life experiences and backgrounds are able to take up leadership positions. This includes women with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, LGBTIQ women, women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds and women who have experienced factors such as violence and living in poverty.