To support women’s long-term financial security, retirement pension cannot be overlooked

In 2006, I interviewed for a management position in a global agency. Before entering the office, I took off my engagement ring. Why? The assumption at the time was that if you were about to get married, the chances were pretty high that pregnancy and children would follow soon after. The fear of many women was the loaded question: Who would want to hire someone who was going to take two years off in the next four years?

In fact, I would, and I do. Older women with children are an untapped resource, and as most moms already know, we can be incredibly effective. And while our industry is beginning to see an increase in the number of women in leadership positions, as well as more women business owners, we still need to address the inequality in which women are treated when it comes to their financial security. long-term. .

Of all the issues raised and new policies announced on International Women’s Day, I haven’t seen much progress in closing the financial security gap that women experience throughout their careers. The biggest problem we face in the creative industry is not just a pay gap, but a gap in labor force participation and the resulting inequality for women when it comes to their savings. When women return to work after starting a family, we also often lose them to go “on the client side”, which is seen as a better option financially.

Big companies with many times the scale of most creative companies offer generous leave policies, and they’re also the ones that have pushed to provide supers when people are on parental leave. However, it’s time to get out of the “we don’t have the financial resources to compete with the big multinationals” defense and change our view of what makes a business profitable.

ADVERTISING

Political parties of all colors this week abandoned the idea of ​​adding Super Guarantee payments to parental leave and once again it was left to the private sector to bridge the gap. Creative agencies typically don’t have the scale to match the leave policies of a major bank or retail company, so it’s understandable that women opt for roles that aren’t their first choice. and leave behind promising careers in our industry.

The statistics on the gap between the savings of men and those of women in the super across the age groups are confronted. The most compelling consequence is the number of women over 50 facing homelessness (up 31% over the last 5 years), which is growing alongside a widening savings gap between men and women.

These are of course the general statistics that every company should strive to solve, but how can agencies, even the smallest freelancers, who actually employ large numbers of women at the start of their careers, really help moms? to continue their professional life in the creative industry? and feel fully supported by the company in their desire to start a family?

First, there are those obvious milestones like a paternity leave policy that supports primary and secondary caregivers through the first few months of having a baby. There was a strong mix of small and large agencies announcing improvements to their leave policy on International Women’s Day, which is good to see. But in my opinion, that’s just the cost of entry.

Another mandatory program is the “reintegration” program which recognizes the real personal challenges that new parents face beyond managing their demanding personal schedules after having a child. There is good work being done here.

However, the solutions to ensure that your savings are not penalized for having a child are advancing at a snail’s pace. And it is urgent because the loss of savings between 25 and 35 years is amplified beyond 50 years.

Worse still, if you elected to return to work 3 or 4 days a week, you are paid 20-40% less in super guarantee payments.

As they say, a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money. Like a few others, we have introduced super contributions on top of furlough payments, but we have also started paying our returning mothers the payment equivalent to full-time work if they choose to work fewer days per week. Indeed, for primary caregivers who feel they need to return to full-time work, we recognize that their cleaning and childcare costs will reduce their savings, so we pay them 20% more in super each year. until their child goes to school. .

We haven’t fully cracked it yet and we think we need to keep working on it. However, I hope the industry discussion will shift to policies that have a direct bearing on the extent of the financial challenges women face, which is clearly not a short-term challenge.

Eithne McSwiney

Eithne McSwiney, Managing Director, GHO Sydney