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IMAGINE Gender Equality Report_March 2024.pdf (634.52 kB)

IMAGINE Gender Equality Project Report: March 2024

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Gender equality remains a key concern for governments and organisations around the world. Inequalities experienced by women and girls continue to limit life opportunities and outcomes globally, including in Australia. However, how to assess gender equality and track advancement is a persistent and challenging issue. Whilst existing international Gender Equality Indices (GEIs), incorporating multiple indicators of gender-based inequalities in resources and opportunity, have offered compelling proof of gender disparities worldwide, their primary purpose is to compare nations globally. They are not designed for, nor detailed enough, to fully document and assess gender equality within a nation and have limitations when it comes to capturing gender equality in high-income environments like Australia.

Given the recent rapid expansion of laws and programs addressing gender equality in Australia, there is a distinct need to track and measure progress. Additionally, accurate measurements of gender equality are required to direct government and private sector efforts to instigate successful programs and policies that promote gender equality in Australia. Therefore, to address these gaps, and to better understand the patterning of gender inequality in Australia, we identified that an Australian specific gender equality index was required. In direct response, the Innovative Measurement of Australian Gender (IN)Equality (IMAGINE) project was conceived. The project firstly establishing a conceptual framework for the operationalisation of gender equality in Australia, and subsequently developing a multi-dimensional measure of gender equality for application to the Australian context, known as the Australian Gender Equality Index (AGEI).

The AGEI is the first of its kind in Australia. Developed through extensive consultation with government and stakeholders, it is an area-level relative measure of gender equality specific to Australia. Importantly, the measure is underpinned by a conceptual framework that integrates feminist, social, and intersectional theories, including prominent thought leaders on social and economic capitals, gender equity, and how the gender system distributes power and socially reproduces gender across the life course. As per other GEIs, the AGEI incorporates multiple indicators of gender-based inequalities. Indicator selection was a considerable process, focused on how gendered social positions are reflected across a range of domains in society (e.g. economic wellbeing, educational attainment, and representation in leadership). Ultimately, indicator selection was informed not only by expert opinion/consultation as well as conceptual fit but was also dictated by data availability and feasibility considerations.

The resultant AGEI is a composite index comprised of 12 indicators. Drawn from aggregated linked census data, it measures the gender gap in Australian adults in: poverty; housing stress; receipt of single parent pension; annual income; investments and wealth; time spent on domestic chores; caregiving; STEM education; full-time employment; occupational skill level; retirement savings; and valued male dominated occupations. Operationalised at statistical areas 3&4, for the comparison of geographical areas across Australia, the goal of indexation in developing the AGEI was to reduce the set of 12 selected indicators to a single area-level measure of female disadvantage. Three different approaches were applied to weight the indicators to derive an overall index of gender equality across Australia: (1) an equally weighted average of indicators, (2) a scaled weighted average with weights determined by principal components analysis (PCA), and (3) a weighted average of indictors, with weights determined by a survey of a panel of experts. Based on high-level results, the AGEI estimates that Australian women on average are approximately 70% more disadvantaged than men. Results also indicate consistent inequality across states and territories (60%-80% more female disadvantage). It is important to note that the most striking observation to arise from the preliminary findings is the universal level of disadvantage experienced by Australian women relative to Australian men, regardless of geographic level. It is also noteworthy that there was relative consistency in the state-based patterning across the different weighting approaches, and further, there were substantial consistency between estimates calculated at both SA3 and SA4. In future applications, we anticipate that the index could lead to better understanding how gender equality is patterned throughout Australia, how it varies at different intersections, and how it is associated with a variety of other experiences, behaviours, and outcomes.

In summary, while numerous limitations of this index are acknowledged, the AGEI is novel measurement tool that offers a means to understand the distribution and patterning of gender equality across Australia.


Gender equality in Australia: impact on social, economic and health outcomes

Australian Research Council

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