Media Release by The Hon Tanya Pibersek MP

International Women’s Day – 100 years on

The Australian Government is proud to celebrate the centenary of International Women’s Day and reflect on the achievements and contributions of Australian women.

The global theme for the International Women’s Day 2008 is Shaping Progress in honour of the original call to action in 1908, when clothing and textile workers in New York led 15,000 women to march through the streets demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

International Women’s Day is a time to congratulate women across Australia for the outstanding work they do every day.

It is also a time to acknowledge issues such as women’s economic security and financial independence, which remain of great concern.

From the moment a woman enters the workforce she is likely to earn less than her male colleagues; regardless of her career, industry or level.

ABS figures show that full-time women earn, on average, around 15 per cent less than full time working men.

Research from the Equality Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency shows female chief executives earn two thirds the median wage of male CEOs.

And graduate statistics show that new male graduates’ median starting salaries were $45,000, compared with starting salaries for female graduates of $42,000.

The Australian Government is committed to improving women’s economic security and independence through:

  • Building a modern workplace relations system that balances flexibility for employers and fairness for employees;
  • More family friendly workplace initiatives including the right to request extra parental leave and flexible working conditions;
  • Cutting taxes to encourage workforce participation;
  • The Equality Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency which helps over 7,000 businesses each year with pay equity issues, improving female employee’s access to training and development and reducing sex-based harassment and gender stereotypes in their workplaces;
  • Better quality, more affordable and accessible child care, an Office for Work and Family and a Productivity Commission examination into the best models of support for parents with new born children; and
  • The introduction of a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children which will be led by a National Council. (Figures show that around one in three women will be the victim of physical violence and one five the victim of sexual violence over their lifetime.)

The Government has also already begun the process necessary for Australia to become a party to the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Australian Government will be hosting multiple International Women’s Day events next week to celebrate the achievements of women across the country.

The Rudd Government is working hard to meet our commitments and improve the lives of Australian Women.