Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

October 17, 2020
| Women's Advocacy

Founder’s Weekly | 18th September 2020

Here's what you need to know this week on women in the world...

Fellow remarkable women,

This week, we’ll be looking at what the UK fintech industry is doing to combat harassment in the workplace. Meanwhile in Australia, Aussie women are being encouraged to have more children but are being given no support to do so, especially with the startling lack of representation in the workplace and the prevalence of domestic violence in the wake of COVID.

So let's get stuck into it!

UK fintechs launch the Fintech For All Charter

The UK’s fintech community, led by InChorus and supported by Innovate Finance, the FinTech Alliance, Level39, and the Financial Conduct Authority has just announced the launch of the Fintech For All Charter. Addressing the deep inequalities that have traditionally plagued this industry, this initiative aims to end harassment and promote diversity within financial tech services. Let me tell you - it’s a big yes from me!

Currently in the UK, high levels of workplace harassment are (sadly) the norm. A survey conducted by InChorus found that in a study of 500 incidents, 85% of these were related to gender, with 84% of victims being harassed more than once. Furthermore, a disturbing 78% of victims don’t officially report the incident because they either don’t think the incident was serious enough to address, they didn’t think action would be taken, the manager was involved, or they didn’t think they would be believed. 

What’s more, 63% of participants want their companies to implement training to prevent harassment, while 51% believe that a set of employment standards will help to effectively tackle the issue. As a result, the Charter was formed.

Under the new initiative, every signatory agrees to:

  • - Ensure at least one member of the senior executive team is accountable for Diversity & Inclusion
  • - Create and promote an effective Harassment and Bullying policy 
  • - Provide a range of appropriate reporting channels so employees can speak up safely
  • - Ensure that action is taken as per the Harassment and Bullying policy


Considering the prevalence of gender-based harassment across the financial industries in countries all around the world, I can only hope that industry leaders look to the UK and take a leaf out of their book. As I say almost every week, for too long, cases of employee harassment have not been taken seriously and, although the tide is now turning, there is still so much more we need to do.

If the government wants us to have more kids, they need to provide the support

With Australia’s population growth rate forecast to be 0.6% in 2021 (the lowest since 1916), Treasurer Josh Frydenburg has been encouraging Aussies to have more kids. He’s even gone so far as to quote Peter Costello who said we should have “one for mum, one for dad and one for the country”.

Leaving aside the many issues with that statement, including the fact that women are not incubators and baby-making machines, the fact is that these days, having multiple children just isn’t affordable. With the astronomical price of childcare, schooling costs, accommodation costs and more - having a child is expensive, let alone multiple.

So Josh Frydenburg, if you want us to have more kids, you need to have the systems in place that allow us to do so. Let’s start with the issue of parental leave. 

Currently in Australia, Dads and partners get zero paid parental leave. And, although Mums can transfer a portion of the 26 weeks of leave to their partner, that’s about as far as it goes. Furthermore, our current rate of paid parental leave (which I’m tempted to just call maternity leave at this point, because it definitely does not support fathers) offers the primary carer only 18 weeks of paid leave at minimum wage (A$753.80). For the secondary carer, only two weeks of minimum wage is provided.

How does this stack up against other countries? Not very well at all. Compared to other countries, our 18 weeks of minimum wage is the equivalent of 7.9 weeks annual average salary. It’s even more depressing when we compare it to the OECD average of 54.1 weeks of paid parental leave for Mums and eight weeks for Dads or partners.

In a society that doesn’t give fathers and partners the ability to take up a greater load of childbearing responsibilities and that actively penalises women for having children with lower lifetime earnings - why would any women listen to a government mandate to just “have more kids”? 

Simply put, if Frydenberg wants us Aussie women to start having more kids, then we need the systems in place to support this. At a bare minimum, Dads and partners need their own paid leave entitlements, as well as greater support and understanding for their roles as caregivers. 

It will take 200 years for female fund managers to be on par with their male colleagues

According to new research, it’s going to take at least 200 years for female fund managers to achieve the same status as their male colleagues. Let’s just let that sink in for a second. 

Currently, only 1,762 of the 16,018 active fund managers are women. In addition to this already abysmally low number, the rate of growth continues at a snail-like pace with the percentage of roles held by women only increasing 0.7% in the past four years.

According to the report, one of the main reasons for these low numbers is the rapid turnover of women. Compared with 27% of men, over the past 10 years, 42% of female fund managers have moved positions. Basically, despite new initiatives to attract more female talent, keeping them appears to be the problem - and it’s one that needs to be addressed if we are to fix the issue. As the report states:

“There is no point in recruiting female managers if you can’t keep them in those roles. Is it company culture? Flexible working? One reason why turnover is so high could be the maternity leave effect. When fund managers return to work after maternity leave, many need flexible working or reduced hours.”]

It is clear that in addition to efforts to recruiting more women, workplaces need to do more with regards to their current company cultures. Whether that is instituting policies to handle harassment, promoting flexible and part-time working opportunities, or changing an entrenched “boy’s club” culture - workplaces need to change if we are to achieve parity. And they need to change fast. 

COVID-19 is trapping women in abusive households

Although the numbers we’ve discussed multiple times now may be shocking, it (sadly) comes as no surprise to me that the pandemic and resulting quarantines have disproportionately been affecting victims of violence.

A combination of unemployment, lack of accommodation and financial dependence has meant that while many victims need to escape - they have nowhere to go. In fact, a survey of 34 community services across NSW has found that 85% reported an increase in the complexity of client cases and rising rates of women experiencing domestic violence, with many encountering it for the first time in the relationship.

According to a recent survey:

“The biggest concerns being flagged by frontline specialists at the moment are that perpetrators are ramping up their use of violence and abuse in the context of excessive drug and alcohol misuse, unemployment, and financial pressures. The results emphasised the economic impacts, which are driving an escalation of violence and abuse, while at the same time leaving victims with less financial means to escape their abusers.”

It’s a horrific cycle which is trapping women all around Australia. And make no mistake; this is a problem that is disproportionately affecting women. Former senator and inaugural chair of Our Watch Natasha Stott Despoja urges us to remember this, stating: 

“Workplaces and governments must not lose sight of the link between gender equality and preventing violence against women. That means applying a gendered lens to all policies and legislation, like ensuring the economic stimulus measures do not disproportionately benefit male-dominated industries.”

Rather than funnelling money in boosting traditional male industries, we need policies that strengthen women’s economic security and financial independence, as well as greater budgets for community and welfare services aimed at protecting the most vulnerable members of our community. This includes adequate housing and space refuges, as well as more stringent policies regarding the prevention of domestic violence. It means harsher penalties for those committing these offences and greater awareness of the dangers facing women and children in Australia. Otherwise, the future for women in Australia is looking bleak.

There is no place for domestic violence. If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, then please, either call 000 or call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) - our national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling service available to you 24 hours, 7 days a week. 

There is no shame in asking for help.

Until next week,

Shivani

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