Gender agenda

Inspiring change through education is part of our DNA at TAFE NSW and is what motivates me most in my role as Managing Director

Tomorrow is International Women's Day. This global event, which aims to highlight and eliminate gender inequality, has been recognised for over a century. The theme for 2014 is "inspiring change".

I've been thinking about this theme and what it might mean for us in practical terms. What can we actually do to inspire change? Especially for an issue as complex and widespread as gender inequality.

My experiences as an Australian Volunteer Abroad in Zambia taught me early in my career that the single most powerful force for change is education. Now, many years on working in TAFE NSW, I still see the power of education to inspire and change peoples' lives every day. Inspiring change through education is part of our DNA at TAFE NSW and is what motivates me most in my role as Managing Director.

International Women's Day reminds us that in many societies across the globe, women are still deprived of access to education, safe working conditions, healthcare (especially regarding reproductive health) and equal pay for equal work. Women are predominantly the victims of violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. And women are still under-represented in leadership roles and decision-making positions.

In January 2012 The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that only 29% (66 out of 226) of all members of Federal parliament were women, despite women making up half of Australia's total population.

ABS figures released in February 2014 show that, on average, full-time women's earnings are 17.1% less per week than full-time men's earnings (a difference that equates to $262.50 per week).

Women also remain significantly under-represented in senior corporate positions within the top 200 ASX companies. In 2012, only 3% of boardrooms across the nation had a woman as chair and 3.5% of companies had a female Chief Executive.

I know there may be some who don't see the importance or relevance of International Women's Day today, arguing that women have already achieved equal rights with men.

I would encourage you to take some time out on International Women's Day to reflect on our many achievements in addressing gender inequality both in Australia and around the world but also to be inspired to do much more.