Powerful voices reveal the reality of economic disparity for women

Catch up on the latest live panel discussion presented by the University of Wollongong and GongTalks.

Economic independence and housing solutions for women were the key topics brought to the table at a recent International Women's Day live panel discussion, presented by the University of Wollongong (UOW) and GongTalks.

The statistics paint a concerning picture: one in six Australian women have faced economic abuse, and women are experiencing homelessness in greater numbers than ever before. Recognising the urgency of these issues, a free live panel discussion was held to coincide with International Women's Day.

Presented by UOW's Luminaries series and GongTalks, the in-person event brought together leading academics, industry experts, and community advocates to explore the challenges women face in achieving financial freedom and housing stability. Hosted by Sydney Morning Herald Senior Social Affairs writer and UOW graduate Caitlin Fitzsimmons, the panel included:

The live discussion also demonstrates the University of Wollongong's commitment to United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). 



Just in case you missed the live webinar, we’ve compiled a selection of compelling statements by the distinguished panel that illustrate the systemic barriers to women's economic empowerment and access to safe, secure housing.


Widening impact of the gender pay gap

Trish Mundy highlighted the far-reaching disparity of the gender pay gap: “[Women] are earning less, their work is not valued in in the way that they are, because of a whole range of you know gender inequality, workplace segmentation, their work is not valued. All of this creates, part of the picture, of the gender pay gap. So, for me…even independently of whether you’re working, or you're not working, the reality is that those structural issues– those gender issues–are still impacting you.”


Ongoing effects of domestic violence

As the Executive Director of the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre Sally Stevenson spoke to the real life impact of domestic violence: “Is the choice between poverty and violence like, do you stay in a house that is violent and, in many ways, protect your children…or do you leave and you know you can't get out of poverty by living in the back of your car? … I can't overstress just how deep and broad and brutal our position is in society when we look at the intersection of health, housing, violence, and the position of women and how we treat women in our society.”


Pictured left to right: Tania Brown, Caitlin Fitzsimmons, Sally Stevenson AM, Trish Mundy and Catherine Moyle.


Righting wrongs in the rental market

Caitlin Fitzsimmons invited the panel’s thoughts on discrimination within the rental market: “…Dealing with this crazy rental and cost of living crisis it's difficult for everyone. But I'm hearing that it's also the stigma factor that, even when a woman has a really good income and can easily afford the rental property, she's being overlooked in favour of two people in one couple. And I don't know how much of that is because there's two people on the application instead of one, or how much is [affected by] stigma factor of the single mother.”


The power of generosity

Catherine Moyle called for solutions to this disparity in rental housing: “A single mother looks very different on paper to a single male or to a couple… Watching women that I love and respect struggling to get into housing, let alone the whole cost of living side of things, but actually getting through that door [has] taken things like connections. It's taken relationships, a colleague of mine who's a cousin of a real estate agent who managed to get somebody pre-approved [as] one of two people being put forward… We need more of that sort of generosity not just from politicians, not just from government but also looking at the way that we all have responsibility for that.”


Building better outcomes for women

Tania Brown illustrated the need to scale up local efforts to address housing inequality: “Housing is not just one level of government's fault…it is three tiers of government that need to work together…I got to dig the first sod out at Dapto, at a range of units that are being built for over 55s women and for women who are escaping domestic violence. Some great things are happening locally, we just need to do more. And that integration is so important in terms of breaking the intergenerational cycles of poverty that needs to be that [integrated] within communities so it's not groups living in isolation.”


Stream the full International Women's Day live panel discussion
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