The road to gender equality is promising. By Barbara Cosson

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day – Count her in: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress – is all about improving the pace of change towards gender equality, according to Simone Clarke, the chief executive of UN Women Australia.  

Clarke is optimistic that a new generation of both women and men has the skills, understanding and mindset to keep moving us forward. “I do hold great hope for the next generation because I see them challenging social norms,” she says. 

From the #MeToo movement to mandating consent education and lobbying for new consent laws, young women are continuing to bring inequalities out from the shadows. 

Clarke says young women are working to re-frame how young men think and act towards women, rejecting societal body image pressures and calling for concerted action on reproductive, mental and broader health challenges that were once often taboo.

When women are given the education,
tools and resources to enable them
to be economically independent,
everyone benefits.


“I think [the next generation] will create a different workplace.” She expects there will be more discussion about how to create better career paths for women.    

Clarke acknowledges the huge strides being made in some areas. For example, workplace environments have changed dramatically and are far more welcoming to women. While there are still many male-dominated sectors, there are few places women fear to tread.

However, she says cultural, structural and systemic issues continue to impact on women’s ability to take on leadership roles.

Putting more women in leadership is critical, Clarke explains, because “with a place at the decision-making table, women leaders can help shape nations and change communities”.

Corporate lawyer and Pymble Ladies’ College deputy chair Melinda Graham says that meaningful numbers of women in the highest echelons of the law such as “judges, senior barristers, equity partners in law firms, deans of law schools and general counsel of listed corporations” is only happening now despite 50 per cent of law graduates being women when she graduated in 1988. 

Graham worries that improvements in paid parental leave and recent social policies that support work-life balance, such as working from home, are not yet institutionalised, and to different degrees remain politicised. “In short, the place of educated women in Australian society is not yet assured,” she notes. “It remains fragile.” 

In short, the place of educated women in
Australian society is not yet assured.


Clarke agrees and says that while social expectations around women’s responsibility for care and household work remain entrenched, women’s full participation in the economy and in workplaces remains undermined.

This is compounded by a lack of financial independence, which underpins many of the inequalities women continue to face.

According to Clarke, women with financial resources are better able to escape violent relationships, are less likely to experience poverty and more likely to enjoy a secure retirement.  

“When women are given the education, tools and resources to enable them to be economically independent, everyone benefits. We have a more stable society, a greater spread of wealth, improved productivity in the workplace and economies can grow.”

Read more from the magazine…

Girls Don’t Change the World

A special International Women’s Day magazine by Pymble Ladies’ College, in association with the Financial Review.

This special publication features topical articles written by independent journalists about women’s achievements and challenges in business, law, sport, science, technology and education whilst highlighting the pace of change toward gender equality in Australia.