Quick escape
See Categories

Invested in Equality? Here’s your annual report.

March 08 2018 By Mary Barry, Our Watch CEO

​When the financial year ends on June 30, many commentators look back and take stock of everything that rose and fell in economic terms in the past 12 months.

IWD report Image

Today, I’d like to look back with a different lens, at some of the things that rose and fell for women in the 12 months since International Women’s Day 2017.

The first thing to rise was a statue of a little girl bravely facing off Wall Street’s infamous charging bull. 

Officially titled Fearless Girl, it was built to mark International Women’s Day 2017 by reminding America’s most powerful corporations to put women on their boards.

Fearless Girl and the controversy she generated typify the year behind us, one in which the #metoo and #timesup movement took off around the world.

Almost like a prediction of the mixed reactions that would greet the rising up of millions of women in this movement, the artist who created the raging bull raged against the addition of Fearless Girl.

He argued that the bull symbolised prosperity and strength and that adding Fearless Girl violated his rights as an artist by making the bull seem villainous.  

But when you consider the fact that the world’s wealth is overwhelmingly controlled by corporations, and only a tiny proportion have adequate female representation on their boards, it seems that Fearless Girl has a point, and deserves her square metre of Wall Street pavement. 

Underlining the relevance of this tension closer to home, in October the Australian Institute of Company Directors found that the rate of women being appointed to the boards of ASX200 companies had stalled. Of the companies that did have any women on their boards, 64 had just one woman. 

In November, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released data showing that while overall rates of violence fell over the past four years, the decrease was twice as fast for men compared to women. The proportion of women who had experienced physical violence fell just a little over one point, from 4.7 per cent to 3.5 per cent – half as fast as the rate of violence against men, which fell from 10 per cent to 5 per cent in the same period.

The ABS data on sexual violence paints an even starker picture, with an increase in the proportion of women reporting experiencing sexual violence in the previous 12 months, to 1.8 per cent in 2016, up from to 1.2 per cent in 2012, representing an additional 56,000 women a year.

So here we are again on International Women’s Day, reflecting on a year of high profile revelations of harassment, abuse and violence against women, contemplating yet another set of highly gendered data, and wondering when progress is going to start speeding up for women.

However, there is good reason for us to carry a strong sense of optimism into the coming year.

These issues are on the public agenda like never before. And Australians are more committed than ever to achieving gender equality. 

Here at Our Watch, we are looking ahead to a year filled with opportunity for real social change in this country. 

A couple of weeks ago, Queensland began piloting Respectful Relationships Education in ten primary schools, teaching children from Year 1 onwards to reject violence and discrimination and value equality and respect. 

Yesterday, we launched #BecauseWhy – a campaign providing information, tools and resources to help parents challenge the kinds of gender stereotypes that can limit their children, and to support them to promote equality. We developed the campaign in response to research that showed parents are keenly seeking this kind of guidance. 

Later this year we’ll be releasing tools to help Australians safely take action when they witness sexist behaviour or abuse – again, in response to research that told us the vast majority want to know what they can do to create a more gender equal society. 

This time last year, #metoo hadn’t even happened yet. This time next year, it is my hope we will have real change to celebrate.