Today we mark International Women’s Day 2020 and recognise the power, as well as the unrealised potential, of the world’s 3.8 billion women.
The theme of this year’s IWD is #EachforEqual, to highlight the effort that each of us can make as individuals to promote gender equality.
I ask all Australians today to both celebrate the role of women and to reflect on the challenges that we as a society still face in ensuring that all women are able to fulfil their potential.
We should recognise that considerable progress has been made towards gender equality in Australia, while acknowledging there is more to do. The gender pay gap has narrowed to a record low and women’s participation in the workforce is at its highest level.
Today, the most difficult of issues such as domestic violence and sexual harassment are openly discussed, where before they were hidden. Behaviour that once went unchallenged or unremarked upon, is now regarded as unacceptable by the majority of Australians.
We are regularly reminded, however, that some grievous exceptions persist. In particular, many women are still deprived of that most basic right to feel safe in their homes and respected in their workplaces.
The horrific murder of Hannah Clarke and her children, and attacks on women and children across our country, remind us that we must keep working to change our culture and attitudes in relation to family and domestic violence. We must each resolve that men’s violence against women will not go undetected, unreported or unpunished.
A report released last week by the Australian Human Rights Commission into sexual harassment in the workplace showed many women in Australia continue to face harassment and discrimination.
It is our duty as a modern society to respect one another, and to foster a culture in which Australian men grow up respecting the women in their lives. Changing attitudes is fundamental to achieving a gender equal world. In so many ways, that must start with respect.
Internationally, Australia will continue to promote equality for women in our region and beyond. As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, I have the unique advantage of being able to speak to counterparts about the intrinsic role of women in diplomacy, in peace and security, and to use women’s empowerment as way to strengthen relationships.
One area where I have sought to strengthen the synergies between my two portfolios is the participation of women and girls in sport. I see firsthand how sport is changing women’s lives and acting as a successful tool of diplomacy.
When women and girls feel safe and valued, they are free to pursue their potential. They’re free to participate fully in civic and social and economic life. That is good for the whole nation.