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How we got here

Working for Women: A Strategy for Gender Equality is informed by the lived experience, knowledge and expertise of thousands of individuals and groups from across Australia, including women’s advocacy groups, businesses, unions, and civil society.

The Office for Women in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet led development of the Strategy in consultation with individuals, organisations, industry, business, and State and Territory Governments. The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce’s Report, Women's Economic Equality: A 10-year plan to unleash the full capacity and contribution of women to the Australian economy, informed the direction of the Strategy, as did input from the National Women’s Alliances.

A consultation discussion paper was released on International Women’s Day 2023 (8 March), kicking off public consultations that were held from 8 March to 19 April 2023. The community were invited to share experiences and priorities for gender equality in Australia to inform the Strategy through a public online survey and in response to the discussion paper. This built on a series of 14 roundtable discussions held over November and December 2022. 

Consultations that informed Working for Women

The Strategy has also taken into account academic research and submissions to related Australian Government work such as:

Survey responses

2,735 people responded to the online public survey.

Of the total respondents, 75 per cent were women, 56 per cent had some type of caring responsibility, 51 per cent were aged between 35-54 and, 76 per cent lived in an urban, suburban, metro area or a major city.

18 per cent were men and 1 per cent identified as non-binary. 2 per cent identified as being Aboriginal and or both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, 13 per cent identified as a person with disability, and 32 per cent identified with a background other than Anglo-Australian.

What we heard

Almost half of people surveyed think that women and men aren’t treated “very equally” in Australian society.

Of all respondents, 72% per cent thought women and men are treated either ‘not very equally’ or ‘very unequally’. However when the responses were disaggregated, men and women shared different views, with 80% of women, but only 39% of men, saying women and men are treated either ‘not very equally’ or ‘very unequally’

Some common words that respondents used to describe what gender equality means were: opportunities; rights; respect; safety; no discrimination; and improving some areas of our society to ensure men benefit from gender equality too.

Respondents said gender equality is:

  • “A world where gender doesn’t enter into any decisions about work, career, opportunity
  • “The ability to be fairly treated regardless of your gender. Having the opportunity to do and say things regardless of your gender.
  • “We need to ensure that we don’t just fix gender equality for white women. We need to focus on gender equality for disabled women, queer women, Indigenous women and migrant women”.
  • “I think men are given a raw deal when it comes to parenting whether it be leave or access which I feel is extremely unequal.”
  • “More services for men parenting their children”.
  • Safety from family, domestic and sexual violence was a key issue raised, with addressing intimate partner violence; safety for women in all public spaces; and online and sexual harassment being top priorities for respondents.

Safety from family, domestic and sexual violence was highlighted as a main priority across responses. Key areas of concern were intimate partner violence, safety for women in all public spaces and online, and sexual harassment.

Example responses on specific action that could be taken to improve safety included: increasing support services and housing for survivors; ensuring safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women; violence prevention, improved e-safety; engaging men in reducing violence; and ensuring a fair criminal justice response.

Respondents said:

  • “The experience and threat of violence significantly curtails women's safety and equality, limiting their full and equal participation in public and private life as well as their health, wellbeing and economic outcomes. If women and gender diverse people are not safe, they are not equal.”
  • “Enough money on retirement: a major concern of mine is not having enough money on retirement due to the impact of carer responsibilities. Organizations/public sector could consider additional superannuation contributions for women who have returned from the workforce due to having children”.
  • “Ensure all workplaces are free of sexual harassment by taking actions against perpetrators. This will improve workplace climates in all industries, and allow women to pursue their careers free of harassment and hopefully be better represented at the top levels of businesses and government”.
  • “Sexual violence including domestic violence. The estimated 1.1 million women in New South Wales (37%) have experienced violence (physical and/or sexual) since the age of 15, according to ABS statistics concerns me, and the rise of anti-feminist rhetoric as an expression of this trend”.

When it comes to women’s economic equality, occupational segregation in the care industry and male dominated sectors, the gender pay gap, and unpaid care responsibilities were identified as barriers to economic equality.

Respondents said:

  • “The gender pay gap, and how female industries as a whole receive less pay than male dominated industries. As a nurse, I am literally saving lives every day, experiencing abuse and excrement, while a plumber – in a male dominated role with a TAFE certificate – earns more than me”.
  • “Eliminate the gender pay gap & superannuation gaps. This should not exist in 2023. Value female dominated industries, health, aged care, education; essential through Covid but continue to be underpaid, undervalued and under-resourced”.

Policy suggestions for women’s economic equality focused on: paid parental leave; flexible work arrangements; affordable childcare; closing the superannuation and gender pay gaps supporting women led businesses and entrepreneurship, and period and menopause leave.

Respondents said:

  • “Ensuring women who leave the workforce to build a family continue to receive superannuation for the duration of paid and unpaid parental leave.”
  • “Gender equality must be tackled at a systems level. We live in a primarily patriarchal and capitalist society that has been built to benefit men. We cannot expect women to thrive with these systems still in place. They need to be acknowledged and transformed.”

Gender norms or harmful stereotypes and attitudes were raised throughout survey responses as integral to achieving gender equality in Australia. 

Respondents said:  

  • “Gendered stereotypes - these allow society to minimise the importance of investing in better childcare options, parental leave options, domestic violence, addressing the overrepresentation of women working in traditionally feminised roles, making systemic changes to improve the leadership track.”
  • “Stereotypes need to be smashed, including surrounding men. For example men wishing to care for children shouldn’t be seen as an exception”.
  • “Ending negative gender stereotypes that harm men and prevent them from being able to speak about their emotions, make them feel weak for having issues and make it impossible to seek help with a friend or counsellor for most men.”
  • “Keep pushing on workplace equality. Women and young girls need to know to their bones that if they choose not to have kids, or get married, or fit the socially constructed mould, they are still valuable. They’re not giving up their only life option, they are choosing their own path - and that’s good!”

Many responses called for the Strategy to prioritise the needs of diverse groups of women.

Respondents said:  

  • “Intersectionality - ensuring that those who face the most discrimination are helped by the National Strategy, such as First Nations individuals, trans and non-binary folks, those from working class backgrounds, migrants and refugees.”
  • “Collecting data on minority groups that are heavily impacted eg. First Nations women, foreign women, disabled, etc they require different support and without the right data they can't be supported properly.”

Discussion paper responses

A total of 174 organisations across Australia responded to the discussion paper. Some of these were collective submissions from a group of organisations.

What we heard

In the written submissions, women’s economic equality was the most frequently raised priority, with almost 30 per cent of respondents focusing on this issue in their submission. Women’s safety and the Government’s role in progressing gender equality was identified by 13 per cent of responses as a core issue for the Strategy. 

Many responses raised gender norms and violence against women as the key drivers of gender inequality, with many stakeholders noting we will not make progress without addressing these issues.

The majority of responses highlighted that the Strategy must have a strong intersectional gender lens to inform its development to ensure increased representation of diverse women, including First Nations women, women with disabilities, LGBTQI+ women, and women from culturally diverse backgrounds. 

Key concerns raised in discussion paper responses


The vast majority of responses raised safety from family and domestic violence, street and workplace harassment, and sexual violence as either a contributing factor to economic inequality, or a result of gender inequality. 

Women’s economic equality

Some responses called for a nationwide reform agenda for the care and support economy. These responses noted that women make up the majority of workers in these sectors, and are more likely to provide unpaid care when formal services are not available.

Stakeholders called on the government to address the high proportion of insecure roles in this sector, the low pay rates, workforce shortages, and to respond appropriately to the projected increased demand for workers over the next decade. These responses noted that care is undervalued in Australia.

Key areas of concern raised included:

  • women's workforce pay and conditions
  • addressing under representation of women in traditionally male sectors
  • accessible and affordable early childhood education and care
  • improved superannuation support and retirement security, and
  • improved sharing and recognition of unpaid care work, household labour and volunteering for all genders.

Gender norms

Cultural norms and gendered stereotypes were raised frequently by organisations. Stakeholders reflected on the important role of parents, carers and early childhood education in actively challenging dominant gender norms from the beginning of a child’s life—recognising that attitudes, beliefs and behaviours learned at home, in childcare, throughout primary school, and cemented in secondary school, are often held for life. Engaging men and boys from a young age to learn to challenge unhealthy models of masculinity and male peer relations was another key issue raised.

Leadership and representation

A number of stakeholders, particularly those focused on specific industries in their responses, noted prioritising gender equal leadership and representation should be a key area for action under the Strategy. Responses consistently referred to discrimination, biased leadership models, support and visibility as the main challenges in achieving gender equal leadership and representation.

Diversity in leadership was also raised in a number of responses—emphasising that leadership efforts should not be limited to elevating white women, but ensure that a wide variety of diverse voices are represented in decision-making.

The Government’s role in addressing gender equality

There was a strong recognition of the role of Government in gender equality beyond service delivery and support payments. Many discussion paper responses noted the critical nature of a gender lens being placed across all policy development.

Data limitations

As raised in the discussion paper, there is a significant limitation of data available for government to understand the full extent of gender inequality for intersectional groups in Australia. Key data gaps raised in discussion paper responses included:

  • data for culturally and racially marginalised women, particularly in the gender pay gap
  • differences between urban women's employment outcomes and those of rural women
  • cohort specific datasets, and
  • industrial and occupational segregation and how this contributes to the gender pay gap, women’s leadership, and pay equity—particularly in ‘feminised’ industries.


Under the Privacy Act 1988 (the Privacy Act), the online survey responses above have been de-identified and written submissions from individuals and organisations have not been made public. To find out more visit the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s privacy policy.