In keeping with our 25 years of Women in Super celebrations, this year’s National Road Show topic was a way of reconnecting with our roots after several years of covering broader topics of importance to modern day workplaces, including, mental health (2018, Lucy Brogden), and domestic violence (2016, Rosie Batty).
Over the past two months, we have been touring around the country for our 2019 National Road Show with Julia Angrisano – Director of AustralianSuper and the National Secretary of the Finance Sector Union, discussing the Future of Super.
Julia represents the changing face of the union movement today - which is younger, feminised and more diverse than ever before. The modern-day union member is a female nurse not a male construction worker in a hi-vis vest, and so, whilst there are many challenges for those who are prepared to move with the times and adapt to the many changes ahead, there are also many rewards.
Julia spoke about her own leadership journey and how the work that was done over the previous 40 years by women such as the founder of Women in Super, Mavis Robertson, enabled a new generation of female leaders to take their place in modern workplaces, and take up opportunities to lead organisations in a way that had not happened before.
However, Julia noted that her leadership journey differs from that of most women in the finance and superannuation sector, as she was offered the role of National Secretary of the Finance Sector Union while on parental leave with her third child. Julia spoke about the challenges facing many women in our sector who find that their leadership options disappear in their prime childbearing years for many reasons, often ones that are outside their control.
Given that our superannuation system is based on income earned, this lack of promotion can have devastating impacts on the retirement savings of women. The finance sector has the largest gender pay gap of all sectors of our economy today, and women currently retire with less than half the superannuation savings of men.
Julia spoke about how we might future-proof our superannuation system to ensure it meets the needs of all Australians given the changing models for work and work structures. Given that women not only make up the majority of employees in the finance sector, but are also the largest group of part-time workers, we need to think of them when designing a superannuation system that meets the needs of future generations.
We need a system that accommodates the lived experiences of everyone, not just those who can participate in the workforce in a full-time capacity over a long period of time. This is becoming especially important as the numbers engaging in flexible, independent work grow; the gig economy continues to expand and the demise of one job for life becomes the norm.
Julia outlined several options that we could consider in order to future-proof our superannuation system so that we can ensure a dignified retirement for those starting work today and retiring 50 years from now. Creating a system that not only ensures that today’s young women enjoy retirement incomes in-line with their male counterparts, but one that is more equitable to those undertaking valuable caring responsibilities.
We also need to design a system that ensures that those who are born with a disability, and their carers, are not automatically condemned to reliance on the full Age Pension, or even worse, poverty, in retirement simply because they could not participate in the workforce on a permanent full-time basis or were not born independently wealthy.
We still have a long way to go, in order to be equal.
The sessions were thought-provoking and inspiring, and left all those who attended with a call to action: campaign for change. Don’t wait for employers to change policies – ask for change that will then become standard.
Our annual National Road Show has become a firm fixture in our calendar, and continues to create opportunitities for our members and the wider superannuation industry to come together and hear from thought-provoking keynote speakers. Over the years, we have had the honour of presenting a range of fascinating speakers, covering some very important topics. It is important to us that we provide the same experience in all capital cities across the country.