Women in rural areas face more disadvantage than their big-city counterparts.
In 2017, a report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission on International Women’s Day revealed that women in rural and regional areas are far more likely to experience disadvantage and discrimination in the workplace (and in society more broadly) than women who are located in urban areas near big cities.
Kate Jenkins, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, spoke to over 1000 Australian women in order to formulate the report. Kate heard hundreds of stories and suggestions for potential solutions to ingrained problems, and also identified many key themes the nation should be looking at if we truly were to work towards full gender equity.
Unsurprisingly, not only were the trials and tribulations of women in rural and regional Australia mentioned multiple times in the report, but they were also handpicked as an area that needed more attention to solve some serious problems.
People, and women in particular, who are located in rural and regional areas do experience more barriers and hardship. From lower rates of completed high school education, difficulty in accessing tertiary education opportunities, sparse public transport options, less employment opportunities and higher instances of women working for free (for example, working on the family farm), it is harder for women to access education, professional development opportunities, and support systems that will allow them to excel in their chosen profession or career.
On top of this, the gender pay gap in rural and regional areas in Australia is higher than the national average. While the gap is currently at its lowest in 20 years, an Australian Government Gender Equity Study released in 2017 found that women working in rural industries were paid 21.8 per cent less than their male counterparts. The national gender pay gap in 2017 was 15.3 per cent.
Furthermore, the report from Kate Jenkins also found that intersectional women (for example, women from CALD backgrounds, women who identify as LGBTQI+, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women with a disability) were more likely to face further discrimination in rural and regional towns.
For many years, Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) has been presenting Women’s Leadership Symposiums in all the major capital cities in Australia. However, this year we have launched the Australian Women’s Leadership Forums, a suite of six rural leadership events in regional centres across the country throughout October and November
WLA is also offering a grants program for women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds who wish to attend the day. Applications for a grant can be found here and close on the 21st of September.
The one day forums will include presentations from local leaders and businesswomen, three leadership development workshops, a panel discussion and a keynote address from Tracey Spicer AM.
In light of the extra troubles that women in rural areas face when trying to access the same opportunities as their big city counterparts, we are really excited to be able to bring this opportunity to these communities.
The regional Forums will take place in Ballarat, Coffs Harbour, Rockhampton, Toowoomba, Alice Springs and Albury-Wodonga.
It will be interesting to see how well Ballarat Council and the Victorian Government are able to follow through on their plans. We can’t wait to see how they go.