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Office for Women

Economic status

Women continue to earn less than men, are less likely to advance their careers as far as men, and are more likely to spend their final years in poverty.1

Research has shown that closing the gap between men and women's employment rates would boost the level of Australia's GDP by 11%.2 In addition, companies operating with a gender-balance actually enhance their innovation and gain a competitive advantage.3

Removing disincentives for women to enter the paid workforce would increase the size of the Australian economy by about $25 billion per year.4

In this section you can learn more about the issues affecting women's employment and economic status in South Australia, including:

Equal Pay

Equal Pay

Pay equity means equal pay for work of equal or comparable value, regardless of gender.

The gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. It is a measure of women’s overall position in the paid workforce and does not compare like roles.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) data both show a gender pay gap favouring full-time working men over full-time working women in every industry and occupational category in Australia.

The gender pay gap has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades.1

Lower wage rates mean lower lifetime earnings for women. The gender pay gap has implications for women's financial security, particularly in older age.

The gender pay gap is influenced by a number of interrelated factors. According to research by KPMG, sex discrimination continues to be the single largest factor contributing to the gender pay gap.2 Industrial and occupational segregation, years spent out of the workforce, age and part-time employment are other contributing factors.3

More information


  1. Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Gender Pay Gap
  2. KPMG, She's Price[d]less:The economics of the gender pay gap
  3. KPMG, She's Price[d]less:The economics of the gender pay gap

Flexible Work

Flexible Work

Many people, particularly women, struggle to balance work and the responsibilities of caring for children, family members and friends. Flexibility is equally important and relevant for men and women as it breaks the bias around gender roles outside the workplace. Access to flexible work options enable women and men to manage their work and caring responsibilities while remaining in employment.

There are benefits to flexible work options for both employees and employers and a range of flexible workplace arrangements can be used within a wide range of business settings. Flexibility can improve business practices, success requires leadership, accountability, innovation, dedication, long term support and accountability for results.

Flexible working arrangements can include:

  • Flexible location, eg working from home or somewhere else more convenient, instead of the office.
  • Flexible hours, eg changing start or finish times to accommodate personal or family commitments.
  • Flexible patterns, eg for example, working longer days to provide for a shorter working week.
  • Flexible rostering, eg split shifts.

More information:

Gender Neutral Recruitment Guidelines

Gender Neutral Recruitment Guidelines

Gender neutral recruitment is the practice of setting aside the gender of applicants when hiring staff in order to:

  • address gendered biases and unconscious bias in recruitment, and
  • increase the number of women in leadership and in male-dominated industries.

For many years increasing women’s participation in employment has been argued as a matter of equality and the ‘right’ thing to do. Today women’s full participation in employment is argued on the basis of economics — it is now the ‘smart’ thing to do.

The Office for Women developed these guidelines to help organisations to identify ways they can increase the number of women in senior positions through gender neutral recruitment.

The Guidelines for Gender Neutral Recruitment (PDF 771.9 KB) outline a number of techniques that can be put into practice to work towards gender neutral recruitment.

Paid Parental Leave

Paid Parental Leave

Australia's national Paid Parental Leave scheme currently provides leave for a total of 18 weeks which can be shared by eligible parents after the birth or adoption of their child. The leave is fully funded by the Australian Government and is paid at the adult minimum wage for each week of leave, with benefits subject to normal taxation.

The scheme is provided in addition to existing employer funded paid parental leave schemes.

Paid parental leave encourages women to stay connected to the workforce while parenting full time and aims to increase women's workforce participation.

Dad and Partner Pay

Dad and Partner Pay is available to eligible fathers and partners caring for a child born or adopted from 1 January 2013. It provides eligible working fathers or partners, including adopting parents and parents in same-sex couples, with two weeks of Dad and Partner Pay at the rate of the National Minimum Wage.

Keeping in Touch days - staying connected to the workplace

Keeping in touch days allow an employee who is still on unpaid parental leave to go back to work for a few days. This is a good way for employees who are caring for a baby or newly adopted child to stay up to date with their workplace, refresh their skills and assist their return to work.

An employee on unpaid parental leave gets 10 keeping in touch days. This doesn't affect their unpaid parental leave entitlement and is paid at their normal wage. If the employee extends their period of unpaid parental leave beyond 12 months, they can take an additional 10 days.

Work on a keeping in touch day may include:

  • participating in a planning day
  • doing training or
  • attending a conference.

Useful Links:



Women can face unique challenges when it comes to retirement savings. Lower pay, time out of the workforce to raise children and running a single-parent household can make it challenging to build a reasonable amount of super.

Women also tend to live longer than men, making it even more essential for them to accumulate enough superannuation to last through retirement.

Workplace Gender Equality data shows that a gender pay gap in average annual earnings for full-time permanent employees results in an annual 19.3% shortfall in superannuation contributions for women compared to men.1

The average Australian woman currently retires with about $127,000 in superannuation savings, compared to $176,000 for men.2

35% of women have no money prepared for retirement and one in three Australian women do not have any superannuation at all, including 60 per cent of women aged 65 to 69.3

More information:


  1. Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Pay gap leads to 19.3% annual super shortfall for full-time women
  2. Roy Morgan (2018), Single Source Survey
  3. Association of Super Funds Australia (2014), An update on the level and distribution of retirement savings.

Women in STEM

Women in STEM

Careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) offer the opportunity to engage in some of the most exciting realms of discovery and technological innovation.

Increasing opportunities for women in these fields is essential to our economy and to achieve gender equality.

By attracting and retaining more women in the STEM workforce we will maximize innovation, creativity, and competitiveness.

How to Attract and Retain Women in STEM

Women Trailblazers and Role Models

Mentoring, Professional Groups and Networking


Girls in ICT Day

UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Statistics and Resources

Women's Leadership and Economic Security Strategy 2021–2024

Women's Leadership and Economic Security Strategy 2021–2024

Download: Women's Leadership and Economic Security Strategy 2021–2024 (PDF 2.3 MB)

Download: Women's Leadership and Economic Security Strategy 2021–2024 in high resolution (PDF 12.5 MB)



Aboriginal people have made and continue to make a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the state of South Australia.

The Government of South Australia acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as traditional owners and occupants of South Australian land and waters.

The Government of South Australia acknowledges that the spiritual, social, cultural and economic practices of Aboriginal people come from their traditional lands and waters, and that Aboriginal people maintain cultural and heritage beliefs, languages and laws that are of ongoing importance today.

Please be aware that this document may contain images or names of deceased persons in the photographs or printed material.

The Government of South Australia also acknowledges and thanks the business, community and government organisations that have dedicated their time and knowledge to informing this strategy.

We would also like to acknowledge Deloitte Australia for contributing to the development of this strategy.

A message from the Premier

A message from the Premier

South Australia has a proud history as a leader in promoting equality, fairness and innovation, from the arts, to technology, to human rights and public policy.

South Australian women have played a pivotal role in our achievements and we know they are key to our state’s future.

In 1894 South Australia made history by being one of the first in the world to give women the right to vote for their member of parliament. In the 125 years since, women have contributed to this state as leaders across all areas of the community including business and government.

The Government of South Australia recognises the important contribution that women and girls make to our state and is committed to promoting women’s equal participation in all aspects of life. We know that women’s leadership and access to economic security are fundamental human rights and are critical to achieving gender equality. We also know that this provides a strong foundation for economic growth and benefits the state, employers and communities.

Together all levels of government, business and community organisations must ensure the hard-fought gains of the past decades are not lost.

The Women’s Leadership and Economic Security Strategy is the Government’s plan to ensure that South Australian women have equal opportunities to contribute to and benefit from employment, entrepreneurship, leadership and economic security.

This strategy furthers our commitment to transforming South Australia into the Growth State by partnering with industry to create economic opportunity for the future.

Hon Steven Marshall MP
Premier of South Australia

A message from the Minister

A message from the Minister

South Australian women and girls have so much to offer our state.

With a wealth of untapped potential, I am committed to ensuring that our women thrive, and South Australia achieves improving gender equality, in turn improving economic and social outcomes for all.

I admire the achievements of South Australian women, from our first incorporated businesswoman Gladys Sym Choon, the first woman Governor of an Australian State and the first woman university Chancellor Dame Roma Mitchell – to Vickie Chapman, the first female Deputy Premier and the first female Attorney-General.

With each generation, progress towards gender equality has enabled women and girls to achieve more than those before them.

We now focus our attention on the future. We must continue to ensure all women and girls have the same opportunity as men to participate in our economy, can realise their potential to lead across all areas of our community, and are empowered to attain a level of financial security that generates greater choice and agency – whether old or young, newly arrived in Australia or part of one of the world’s oldest living cultures.

Now is the time to ensure recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is inclusive and improves outcomes for women and recognises their experiences, ability, culture and place of residence.

This strategy is inclusive of all people who identify as women and girls in South Australia in line with the Department of Human Services’ Diversity and Inclusion Strategy (2020–2023) which recognises that diversity can take many forms and promotes fairness, safety and inclusivity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

We all need to play our part in championing equality. This strategy will help guide all South Australians to achieve this.

Hon Michelle Lensink MLC
Minister for Human Services

Women in South Australia

Women in South Australia

There are approximately 897,000 women living in South Australia, comprising 51 per cent of the population (Latest data as at June 2020). 

Work force participation

Since the 1970s, the number of women in the South Australian workforce has doubled, with women’s participation in the labour force higher than ever before (Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia (January 2021), 18 February 2021).

Women in South Australia participate in the labour force at a rate of 58.5 per cent, compared to 66.8 per cent for men (Two-year average seasonally adjusted ABS labour force participation rate, March 2019–February 2021).

51 per cent of women in the workforce work part-time in South Australia, compared to 21 per cent of men (Two year average, original ABS labour force full time and part time employed, March 2019—February 2021). 

Women make up 52.76 per cent of public sector executives (Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, 2020 State of the Sector Report (PDF 1.45 MB) (2020)).

Gender pay gap

On average women in Australia are paid less than men but in South Australia we are improving faster than the national average.

The gender pay gap in South Australia is 8.3 per cent. For every dollar a man makes, a woman earns $0.92. The gender pay gap across Australia is 13.4 per cent. For every dollar a man makes, women Australia-wide earn about $0.87 (November 2020, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Average Weekly Earnings, Australia (November 2020), 25 February 2021, seasonally adjusted, Earnings; Full Time; Adult; Ordinary time earnings;).

SA needs to target efforts in some key areas.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in South Australia are more likely to be unemployed than non-Indigenous women, with an unemployment rate of 17.2 per cent compared to 6.7 per cent for non-Indigenous women at the latest census (2016 census, LFSP Labour Force Status by SEXP Sex and INGP Indigenous Status by STATE (UR), place of usual residence). 

Education and training

Women make up over half of enrolments at South Australian universities — comprising 60.5 per cent of domestic enrolments in 2019. Women are underrepresented in enrolments in fields of study including STEM subjects, accounting for 18.6 per cent of engineering and related technologies enrolments and 16.2 per cent of information technology enrolments in the state in 2019 (uCube 2019 domestic enrolments by gender by field of education).

However, in 2019 there was a positive increase in the number of women domestic enrolments in engineering and related technologies, up by 40.4 per cent and up by 10.2 per cent for information technology enrolments in the state (uCube 2019 domestic enrolments by gender by field of education).

Each year, since 2016, women in South Australia have made up more than 50 per cent of government-funded Vocational Education and Training (VET) students, are more likely to study at higher Certificate levels and are more likely to progress to higher levels of study once they have completed a Certificate II. However, women’s training is heavily concentrated in certain fields of education. (NCVER Government funded VET Students, South Australia 20142019 and 1 Jan to 30 Sep 2020.)

As at the 30 September 2020, women represented 25.7 per cent of all apprenticeship and traineeship positions in South Australia. (NCVER apprentices and trainees 2020, September quarter, South Australia). There was a positive increase of 7.9 percent for female apprentices and trainees in training from 30 September 2019 to 30 September 2020. While this is an area of positive improvement, a greater focus is needed to support the increase in women’s completion rates. Women complete 1.1 apprenticeship or traineeship for every 2.0 completed by men in South Australia (NCVER Databuilder, completions, 2020, South Australia).  

Care economy

Women do most of the unpaid work: across Australia, mothers spend 57 hours caring for their children and undertaking housework per week, compared to 29 hours for fathers, a 28-hour difference weekly in unpaid work (Australian Institute of Family Studies). 

For full-time working women, 19 per cent spend more than 14 hours a week on unpaid domestic work, compared to 7.7 per cent of full-time working men (excluding unpaid care work) (Economic Security Statement for Women, 2020, p.38). 

At retirement, women in Australia aged 60–64 with superannuation have an average balance of $279,167 compared to $344,718 for men, a difference of 19 per cent. This is required to stretch further for women, as the average life expectancy for women in South Australia is 84.7 years compared to 80.4 years for men (ATO statistic reported by the ABC 29 March 2021 in "Paul Keating says Australians owed superannuation increase after being 'robbed' of real wage adjustments", ABS Life Tables, Life expectancy at birth 2017–2019).


Across Australia, women accounted for 30.9 per cent of owner managers of incorporated enterprises with employees. At the last census, South Australian women comprised 29.2 per cent of owner managers of incorporated enterprises with employees (Australian statistic from Labour Force, detailed, Feb 2021, SA statistic from 2016 census).

35.5 per cent of elected candidates in local government are women across South Australia. The share is 31.2 per cent in rural and regional South Australia compared to 43.5 per cent in metropolitan Adelaide (Electoral Commission SA ‘Local Government ELECTION REPORT – 2018’). There are 26 women mayors in South Australia, making up 38.2 per cent of mayoral positions (Local Government Association provided figure 20 April 2021).

Nationally, there has been scrutiny on the gender division of recipients of Order of Australia honours: men received more than 70 per cent of the honours from their inception in 1975 to 2017, as highlighted by the ‘Honour a Woman’ movement. In 2020, South Australia achieved near parity in Order of Australia recipients, with 30 of 61 awards going to women.



Women’s economic participation drives powerful and positive change.

For women, the benefits include additional financial security, greater career choice and opportunities and improved social, health and wellbeing outcomes. For our community and economy, this means increased business productivity and effectiveness as well as potential for innovation.

Underlying women’s lower participation rate and the gender pay gap is gender inequality. The drivers of gender inequality are multiple and complex and require whole-of-community actions to address. No single sector or industry can achieve change alone. Conversely, it also means that any changes driven in one sector will likely positively benefit other sectors.

The South Australian Women’s Leadership and Economic Security Strategy 2021–2024 outlines how the Government of South Australia will work with its partners across business and the community to advance women’s economic participation and security as well as improve opportunities for leadership across all sectors in our state.

How the strategy was developed

Over the last 12 months, the Office for Women, in the Department of Human Services has met with businesses, industry and peak bodies, community groups and other government agencies to explore the barriers and opportunities to promote women’s economic security, participation and leadership in South Australia. This strategy has been informed by a robust consultation process including individual discussions as well as targeted online surveys with stakeholders.

In March 2021, the Department of Human Services held a Roundtable with leaders from across sectors. We spoke with industry representatives from a range of areas including Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), building and construction, agriculture, finance, and state and local governments. We gained invaluable knowledge and insight into what a community and economy that promotes women’s participation can look like and how business, community and government can work together to make it happen. These consultations, along with research, data, and best practice, were used to inform the vision, principles and directions that will drive the strategy forward.

How to read the strategy

The strategy rests upon a clear vision that describes South Australia as a state where all women have access to the same opportunities as men – and can benefit from those opportunities. This vision is underpinned by several principles that articulate the values and logic that will shape this work. Together, the vision and principles inform the three essential pillars that comprise the foundation of this strategy:

  • Pillar 1: Employment and entrepreneurship
  • Pillar 2: Leadership and recognition
  • Pillar 3: Financial wellbeing.

Under each of these pillars, the strategy outlines a range of opportunities and corresponding areas of future direction that will drive change over the next three years. To realise meaningful change, the Department of Human Services will work with a broad cross-section of community, business, and government representatives to develop actions for each year of the strategy that will be reported in annual action plans. This will keep us on track and able to adapt to new developments and opportunities. The first annual action plan for 2021–22 will be released in September 2021, following discussion with stakeholders interested in partnering to develop initiatives or projects that will uphold the strategy’s vision.

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Strategy at a glance

Strategy at a glance

Our vision

Women and girls are empowered to achieve financial security and become leaders in a thriving South Australian economy. They have equal access to opportunities, can exercise their agency and are recognised for their contribution.


The South Australian Women’s Leadership and Economic Security Strategy rests on the following principles that guide the strategy and inform subsequent action plans:

  • Everyone has the right to fully participate in our community and economy and can harness opportunities for success.
  • Equality for women benefits all of us and is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Achieving gender equality requires proactive, collaborative and coordinated effort from the government, business and community sectors.
  • Achieving gender equality requires recognition that different factors impact on how women experience inequality, and that a range of actions are needed to bring about change for all women.
  • Women in regional and rural South Australia face distinct economic opportunities and challenges.
  • Gender equality includes men.

How we will get there

The South Australian Women’s Leadership and Economic Security Strategy spans 2021 to 2024.

Annual action plans will be released for each financial year during this period to ensure that actions remain relevant and responsive to opportunities and challenges as they arise.

The ecosystem for this strategy

The ecosystem for this strategy

The South Australian Women’s Leadership and Economic Security Strategy sits within a broader environment. It reflects objectives and priorities — economic, legislative and policy — that are important at the local, national and international levels.

International environment

  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and optional protocol
  • Beijing Platform for Action
  • UN Women’s Empowerment Principles
  • United Nations sustainable development goals and targets
  • G20 leaders’ commitment to reduce the gender participation gap between men and women (aged 15–64) by 25 per cent by 2025 in their respective countries (the Brisbane goal)

National environment

  • The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Commonwealth)
  • Towards 2025: An Australian Government Strategy to Boost Women’s Workforce Participation
  • Women’s Budget Statement 2021–22
  • Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020)
  • National Women’s Health Policy 2010–2030
  • National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children and Action Plans
  • Advancing Women in STEM Strategy

South Australian environment

  • Growth State: Our Plan for Prosperity
  • 2030 Hi-Tech Sector Strategy
  • Committed to Safety: A framework for addressing domestic, family and sexual violence in South Australia
  • South Australian Government Aboriginal Affairs Action Plan
  • South Australia’s Plan for Ageing Well 2020–2025
  • Our Housing Future 2020–2030
  • Strong Futures Youth Action Plan
  • DHS Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2020–2023: A workplace where we can all thrive
  • South Australian Public Sector Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Plan 2019–21
  • EXCITE Strategy
  • Future Industries Exchange for Entrepreneurship (FIXE) Entrepreneurship and Start Up Strategy
  • Adelaide City Deal
  • Volunteering Strategy for South Australia 2021–2027
  • Training Priorities Plan 2020–2021.

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A state of firsts

A state of firsts

South Australia has a proud history of advancing women’s rights and gender equality, being the first state in Australia to grant women the right to vote and to stand in parliament.

In 2019, the state celebrated the 125th anniversary of legislation enabling women to vote in general elections in South Australia and to stand and be elected to parliament. This was the first legislation of its kind in Australia and pioneering worldwide. (see Reference 1)

South Australia has produced the first female Prime Minister in Australia, the first Aboriginal woman to be made a Member of the Order of Australia, the first woman to lead an Australian political party, the first woman Supreme Court judge (see Reference 2), and the first woman Governor in Australia. (see Reference 3)

The University of Adelaide was the first in Australia to admit women to university on equal terms with men. It produced the first woman surgeon graduate, elected the first woman to a university council, and had the first woman university Chancellor. (see Reference 4) Throughout our history and toward the future, South Australian women have made, and will continue to make, an impact at home and around the world.

Dr Alitya (Alice) Rigney AO

The first Aboriginal woman to become a school principal in Australia. Dr Rigney was the principal of Kaurna Plains School for Aboriginal students in Adelaide’s north and is recognised for making a significant contribution to the preservation of the Kaurna Language.

Ms Ruby Hammond PSM

The first Aboriginal South Australian to seek election to the Federal Parliament. She was also the foundation member of the Council of Aboriginal Women of SA and an Indigenous rights campaigner.

Ms Janine Haines AM

The first female federal parliamentary leader of an Australian political party, serving as the Democrats' leader from 1986 to 1990.

The Hon Julia Gillard AC

The first female Prime Minister of Australia. She moved with her family to Adelaide in 1966 and attended Unley High School, going on to become Australia’s 27th Prime Minister from 2010-2013.

The Hon Vickie Chapman MP

The first female Deputy Premier and the first female Attorney-General in South Australia.

Dr Helen Mayo OBE

The first woman elected to a University Council in Australia. She served continuously for 46 years.

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Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue AC CBE DSG

The first Aboriginal woman to be made a member of the Order of Australia.

Dame Roma Mitchell AC DBE CVO QC

The first female Governor of an Australian state, first female university chancellor, first female QC and first female Supreme Court judge.

Ms Kate Cocks

South Australia’s first policewoman.

Ms Edith Emily Dornwell BSc

The first woman awarded a degree in science in Australia and the second woman to graduate with an Australian degree.

Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AO

The first Australian member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 28 years. In 1995 when elected to the federal Senate she was the youngest woman (at 26) to sit in Parliament and continued on to be the longest-serving Democrat Senator in the party’s history.

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Senator the Hon Penny Wong

The first female Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and first female Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

At the age of 25, the first Greens senator to be elected in South Australia.

Ms Catherine Helen Spence

The first female political candidate, standing for the Federal Convention in 1897. She also wrote the first novel about Australia by a woman, entitled ‘Clara Morison’ in 1854. She was also the first woman in Australia to participate in an official enquiry when she was appointed to the Commissions of Enquiry into the Adelaide Hospital in 1895.

Dame Nancy Buttfield DBE

The first woman to serve in the Australian Parliament as a representative of South Australia in 1955.

Ms Joyce Steele OBE and Ms Jessie Cooper

The first two women elected to the Parliament of South Australia. Joyce Steele was elected to the House of Assembly and Jessie Cooper was elected to the Legislative Council at the 1959 South Australian election.

Ms Susan Benny

The first woman elected to local government in Australia when she was elected to the Brighton Council in 1919. She represented the Seacliff ward until December 1921.

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Women and girls are empowered to achieve financial security and become leaders in a thriving South Australian economy. They have equal access to opportunities, can exercise their agency and are recognised for their contribution.

We aspire to a South Australia that actively and continuously creates and promotes opportunities across all sectors for women and girls to contribute their experience, skills and knowledge.

We recognise that all women and girls have aptitudes and agency no matter their background, age or ability. We know that when women are economically empowered, they are in the best place to lead, innovate, support and effect change. South Australia has borne and nurtured countless achievers across a range of industries and we want this to continue.

We want to live in a state where girls and boys know that whatever path they choose, whether it be in business, science, education, sport, arts, politics or public service, they do not face social, legislative or economic barriers. As a community we are all responsible for removing obstacles and introducing new and innovative ways to effect this change.

We want to build stronger foundations to ensure future generations are empowered to meet their full potential. We want boys and men to continue to be part of this vision and contribute to the reforms that are required to make it a reality.

Gender equality benefits all areas of the state — economy, social and civic life, political and legislative reform, business, sport, arts and industry. In today’s growing economic environment, we cannot ignore our biggest untapped talent pool — women.

South Australia is a place where everyone plays a role in promoting this vision.

The principles of the strategy

The principles of the strategy

The South Australian Women’s Leadership and Economic Security Strategy is underpinned by the following principles which guide the strategy and will inform annual action plans. These principles provide a lens through which to view and challenge our thinking, ensuring that actions are targeted, inclusive and goal oriented.

Everyone has the right to fully participate in our community and economy and can harness opportunities for success

This strategy aims to break down and eliminate barriers which prevent women reaching their full potential. Our success as an economy and as a society depends on our ability to enable all South Australians to succeed as individuals.

Equality for women benefits all of us and is everyone’s responsibility

The evidence is clear: we all benefit from gender equality. Whether through increased economic growth and higher business profitability or the financial benefits created for individual women and their families, gender equality is not a zero-sum game.

We have everything to gain but must all play a part, however small, to ensure the game is fair.

Achieving gender equality requires proactive, collaborative and coordinated effort from the government, business and community sectors

The drivers of gender inequality are multiple and complex and require whole-of-community actions to drive change. This means that no single sector or industry can achieve change alone. Conversely, it also means that any changes driven in one sector will likely positively benefit other sectors. Strong partnerships are crucial to developing and delivering on future actions to promote change.

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Achieving gender equality requires recognition that different factors impact on how women experience inequality, and that a range of actions are needed to bring about change for all women

The experiences of women, as with men, differ greatly. Their diverse characteristics — including race, ethnicity, age, ability, First Nation status, caring responsibilities, sexuality, gender identity, geography and socioeconomic status — interact and can intensify experiences of discrimination and disadvantage.

The actions that will support this strategy acknowledge the effects of women’s diverse experiences so that we can ensure future generations will not be experiencing the same challenges we are today.

Women in regional and rural South Australia face distinct economic opportunities and challenges

Regional and rural South Australia is home to a small but significant number of the state’s female population. Small populations and long distances can limit access to employment, training and services.

Consequently, workplace opportunities in regional areas are typically fewer and less diverse than in greater Adelaide.

We recognise this and will work actively with stakeholders from different parts of South Australia to ensure that actions that are generated from this strategy support women across all areas of the state.

Gender equality includes men

Gender equality benefits us all. Everyone needs to be part of the conversation including boys and men. Because there are more men in senior positions in workplaces, they are better able to act as public champions and effective advocates for change.

When we progress gender equality in workplaces, every workplace participant will benefit from greater productivity, flexibility, innovation and diversity because of the wider pools of talent and fairer processes on which they are based.

Although this strategy focuses on goals to improve women’s economic participation, financial security and leadership, the outcomes and inclusion of all genders is important to achieve the vision articulated in this strategy.

“Gender inequality continues to affect our whole community. It is everyone’s responsibility to help make it happen and needs commitment and leadership from all of us. Roundtable participant, 5 March 2021

“We need to recognise that the challenges and opportunities for women and girls will be different depending on their age, stage of life, where they live and other circumstances. This strategy needs to account for this.” Roundtable participant, 5 March 2021

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Pillar 1: Employment and entrepreneurship

Pillar 1: Employment and entrepreneurship

Empowering South Australian women to join the workforce, start their own businesses or progress in their chosen field means breaking down barriers and generating new opportunities.

This means equipping women and girls of all ages to determine a career path based on their capabilities and interests, not their gender. It also means equipping businesses and employers across all sectors with the tools and information to support and enable women to participate at all levels and work in environments that are free from sexual harassment, violence and discrimination.


Women and girls are empowered to fully participate in the economy, can benefit from more opportunities to start and grow businesses and can engage in all forms of employment without discrimination or social and economic barriers. Businesses and workplaces across all sectors recognise the benefits of diverse and flexible workplaces for productivity and innovation.

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Increase flexible work opportunities for all

Flexible work can benefit women and men but is a game changer for women’s participation and progression. Flexible work typically means changes to the hours, pattern, or location of work which can help balance competing priorities in life. (see Reference 5)

This is of particular importance noting women’s greater caring responsibilities.

The benefits are not just for women as employees. Employers and workplaces benefit from increased productivity, improved employee wellbeing, more women in leadership positions, and higher attraction and retention of employees when workplaces work for women.

Improve access to all occupations and industries, regardless of gender

Throughout the education system, from early childhood to secondary school and beyond, there are opportunities to support the next generation to consider all pathways, leaving behind traditional notions of gendered work and allowing for everyone to make decisions based on interest and aptitude.

Education and training providers, employers and government can work hand in hand to support the cultural and practical changes necessary to broaden and deepen opportunities across a wider range of training pathways and industries.

Across the country, we know that the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields continue to be areas underrepresented by women. As a sector that is recognised for its rapid growth, high paying jobs, and significance to South Australia’s economic future — as demonstrated through initiatives such as Lot Fourteen and the Tonsley Innovation Precinct — efforts to increase the representation of women in STEM are vital. Promoting gender diversity across all industries and occupations benefits individuals as well as workplaces and the community.

Where can a career in the tech industry take you?

Her Tech Path is a community of women in South Australia working in the tech sector who want to celebrate and inspire women and girls to consider rewarding and diverse careers in the technology sector. Her Tech Path runs free school workshops for high schools in metropolitan Adelaide to showcase "Where can the tech industry take you?" with a panel of women working in the sector.

Case study: Teresa Janowski
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Fast Track

With a background in computer science, Teresa Janowski is an advocate, educator, and entrepreneur who is passionate about creating opportunities for girls in STEM.

Drawing on over 25 years of experience in training and management roles, Teresa created the award-winning mentoring programs STEM Sista and STEM Mista in 2013 to support participants aged 14–17 to learn about opportunities in a career in STEM. Through STEM Sista, girls at different stages of their study and career can meet with women in STEM for support as role models and advisors.

Teresa launched her own company, STEM Fast Track in 2018 and aims to impact and empower over 10,000 high school students by 2022.

"We seek to cultivate young minds that will one day pioneer the technological advancements of tomorrow, giving humanity and our planet the best possible future.” Teresa Janowski

Boost apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities for women and girls

South Australian women are more educated than ever before. With more women than men attending university in South Australia there is a strong pipeline of female talent. (see Reference 6)

Since 2016, more women have undertaken government-funded vocational education and training (VET) than men. However, despite these recent increases, women remain underrepresented in some apprenticeship and traineeship pathways. This gender disparity is not a phenomenon that is limited to South Australia and there are increasing numbers of programs worldwide that are aiming to increase the numbers of women and girls in trades and training. There is an opportunity for partnerships between the Government of South Australia, industry and training providers to support women to make career choices in a wider range of skilled professions.

Harness women’s entrepreneurship

Women are underrepresented as entrepreneurs in South Australia and make up less than a third of owner-managers of incorporated enterprises. (see Reference 7)

Government and community initiatives such as the Future Industries eXchange for Entrepreneurship (FIXE), Women in Innovation SA and Her Tech Path provide openings to build, promote and support women’s enterprise and female start-ups.

This not only benefits South Australia by enabling women to reach their full potential but allows women to design their work to suit their own interest, passions and circumstances.

Case study: Rebecca Wessels
CEO of Ochre Dawn

Rebecca Wessels is the founder and CEO of Ochre Dawn, a 100 percent Aboriginal owned and operated company providing creative services to clients across the country.

After years working in IT and community services, Rebecca took the step to become an entrepreneur, leveraging her previous experiences and forging a pathway to provide opportunities for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through her business.

Rebecca is passionate about the preservation of language and culture, including her own Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal heritage.

Through her business, she provides employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, including to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in South Australia, and supports her clients to embrace Indigenous artwork and storytelling in branding.

Rebecca works with Indigenous artists and clients to negotiate appropriate payment and royalties, supports her clients to adopt protocols for working with Indigenous artists, and has worked to establish strong networks with legal and copyright experts and with Indigenous elders to create an ethical commercial space for Indigenous artists.

“I often compare my entrepreneurial journey to my bungee jumping experience. Always make sure you’ve done some training, got the right tools and systems in place, have an encouraging cheer squad of supporters on the sidelines and a wise coach whispering in your ear ‘you’ve got this’ as they give you a gentle push!” Rebecca Wessels

Learn from the growing evidence base to eliminate bias, discrimination and sexual harassment based on gender

There is growing evidence that initiatives such as ‘blind recruiting’, gender balanced recruitment panels, unconscious bias training, gender pay audits and the use of KPIs and targets for managers and leaders are effective tools against discrimination.

We have broad opportunity across all sectors to promote and make accessible best practice solutions to address bias and workplace gender discrimination.

Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020) also provides South Australia with a strong opportunity to focus effort on combatting sexual harassment and other forms of gendered violence that prevent women from enjoying safe workplaces.

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Towards 2025: An Australian Government strategy to boost women’s workforce participation identifies five key areas requiring continued action (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office for Women, 2017).

The Women’s Economic Security Statement 2020 captures five national government priorities relating to workforce participation, choice, women in leadership and closing the gender pay gap (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office for Women, 2018 and 2020).

Career Revive is an initiative to support regional employers to attract and retain women returning to work after a career break through the provision of expert business improvement advice and support (Department of Education, Skills and Employment, 2019).

Advancing Women in STEM Strategy and the Women in STEM Decadal Plan both aim to attract more women and girls to STEM and create environments for them to thrive and progress across both employment and education (Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, 2019).

Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WISE) comprises a grants program to inspire more girls and women to pursue careers in STEM and entrepreneurship (Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, 2016).

Curious Minds is a hands-on extension and mentoring program to ignite girls’ passion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Department of Education, Skills and Employment).

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) leads the effort for gender equality in workplaces nationally.

Techgirls Competition is a program for young women that combines problem-solving through a social, business and technical lens (TechGirls Movement Foundation). (see Reference 8)

Boosting Female Founders is an initiative supporting female founded start-ups with matched grants to help female majority-owned and led businesses (Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, 2020). (see Reference 9)

South Australia

Inspiring South Australia is a strategy to increase the community’s engagement with science. It includes a platform to recognise South Australian women’s contributions to science and promote their participation in STEM (Department for Innovation and Skills).

EXCITE is a 10-year strategy to place South Australia in the top quartile of OECD nations by 2030 for key measures of performance in the research and innovation chain. It includes a commitment to establish a South Australian Champions for Diversity in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics & Medicine (STEMM) Group that will focus on participation of women and girls in STEMM (Department for Innovation and Skills, 2020). (see Reference 10)

The Chiefs for Gender Equity (SA Leaders for Gender Equity) is a group of senior business leaders from prominent South Australian companies representing key industry sectors brought together with the common aim of advancing gender equity.

The Future Industries eXchange for Entrepreneurship (FIXE) is a Government of South Australia strategy to grow the culture of entrepreneurship in South Australia. Programs including the FIXE Leadership Program and FIXE Scholarship Program aim to advance women's economic participation through skills development and training programs. (see Reference 11)

The Skilling South Australia initiative is focused on partnerships with employers, industry and training providers to assist South Australians to obtain skills and qualifications to build careers and meet the workforce needs of industry. Skilling South Australia projects are co-designed with business and industry to support skilled career opportunities and outcomes, including pathways for women into sustainable employment (Department for Innovation and Skills).

Chooks SA was established to promote and develop South Australia as a top place in the world for investment in women innovators and entrepreneurs.

SafeWork SA coordinate the annual Augusta Zadow Awards providing grants to support initiatives, research and further education that improves health and safety for women and young workers in South Australia.

The STEM Scholarship Program was established to support underrepresented students to study advanced STEM SACE subjects. For the 2020/21 SACE round girls make up 78 per cent of the total scholarship holders (up from 72 per cent in 2019/20 and 55 per cent in 2018/19). (Department for Education).

The VET for School Students policy will provide improved career education and vocational pathways to employment for students enrolled in school. Through this policy, girls will have better information and advice on the career options open to them and will be encouraged to pursue pathways in traditionally male vocational areas, such as automotive and building and construction.

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Future directions

In 2021–22, DHS will:

  • Partner with businesses and peak bodies to:
    • Identify and publicise opportunities for women to participate in different industries, particularly male-dominated industries through establishing a range of practical supports and resources tailored for diverse sectors and workplace settings.
    • Promote and encourage flexible workplace practices.
    • Promote and encourage paid domestic and family violence leave to ensure that women experiencing violence stay connected to employment.

Through future action plans, DHS will:

  • Partner with businesses and peak bodies to:
    • Develop a cross-sector commitment to a South Australian Gender Equality Statement, incorporating targets relating to areas of interest including gender pay gaps, flexible working arrangements and compliance with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) requirements.
    • Establish an online platform for South Australian businesses and entrepreneurs as a one stop shop to promote contemporary best practice and evidence to promote women’s participation in business. This would include events, case studies of best practice and ways of acknowledging and promoting outstanding businesses.
    • Collect and publish relevant data to establish a baseline of women’s participation in major South Australian infrastructure projects.
  • Leverage and promote Australian Government initiatives to support women of all ages to re-enter the workforce.
  • Collaborate with a range of State Government agencies including:
    • The Department for Innovation and Skills to address potential barriers for women and girls to undertake training and apprenticeships in traditionally male-dominated industries; create new training pathways and re-introducing traineeships in growing industries where women are well represented (including areas like social care, health and early childhood education), and address barriers to study or occupations with a focus on STEM areas for women and girls.
    • The Department for Education to advance gender-neutral education and career pathways and gender-neutral career advice, as well as actively challenge gender stereotypes in industries and occupations.
    • The Office of the Chief Entrepreneur and industry bodies to consider best practice for increasing the engagement of women in entrepreneurship.
    • The Department for Infrastructure and Transport to promote opportunities to increase women’s participation on major government infrastructure projects.

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Measures of success

  • The establishment of a cross-sector South Australian Gender Equality Statement.
  • Increased number of women completing apprenticeships and traineeships.
  • Increased number of women studying and working in non-traditional industries.
  • Increased number of women completing Year 12 and tertiary courses in STEM.
  • Increased number of women business owners and entrepreneurs.
  • Increased number of businesses with flexible working arrangements.
  • Increased number of men taking parental leave or accessing flexible work arrangements.

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Pillar 2: Leadership and recognition

Pillar 2: Leadership and recognition

Fair representation in leadership and acknowledgement of the rich and important contribution of women of all backgrounds and from all areas in South Australia remains critical.

We must ensure women leaders are visible and that women have fair access to leadership opportunities. This will acknowledge the contribution of women today and inspire our next generation of leaders.

Organisations are most effective when leaders are representative of their people. Leadership teams that embrace diversity think more broadly, consider a wider range of issues, bring a variety of perspectives, and generate more innovative solutions. Research shows more effective governance and economic performance when women are represented in increased numbers on boards and executive roles.

We want to realise this goal and to recognise and celebrate the work and commitment of South Australian women and girls across the state.

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More women and girls are in leadership positions and are recognised and valued for their skills and contributions to their chosen fields.

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Achieve a higher share of women in managerial and leadership roles in workplaces across all sectors

The ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘glass elevator’ are experienced here, as they are around the world, with women less likely to reach managerial and leadership positions. They are often underrepresented even in industries comprised mostly of women.

The payoff from achieving parity is significant: 2020 research by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found that an increase in the share of women ‘top-tier’ managers by 10 percent or more, led to a 6.6 percent increase in the market value of Australian ASX-listed companies, worth the equivalent of A$104.7 million.(see Reference 12)

Achieving parity in leadership can also benefit participation. In 2017, Deloitte Access Economics found that across Australia, achieving parity at the manager level and above, could lead to a total economic benefit of A$10.8 billion through increased workforce participation. (see Reference 13)

Increase the number and visibility of women leaders and role models

Women and girls are leaders, whether in their careers, volunteering in their communities, or as elected representatives. But there remains a gap, especially in the positions of greatest influence.

Increasing the visibility of women leaders and role models can be achieved in different ways, including awards and public recognition, awareness raising campaigns and media appearances.

In South Australia and across the nation, there has been a push to nominate women for prestigious awards, such as the Order of Australia. This has been successful in recent years with the numbers of women receiving these honours increasing. Additionally, women-only awards have been used to shine a light on the achievements of women, especially in non-traditional fields, with success.

Industry bodies and community groups have also led initiatives to increase the prominence of women experts cited in the media, including in economics and finance.

Case study: Robyn Verrall
Director, Bully’s Meats

Robyn Verrall has enjoyed a unique career path, embracing work opportunities in both traditionally female and male fields, navigating the opportunities and challenges of life in regional South Australia and breaking down barriers to get to where she is today.

After beginning her career as a registered nurse, Robyn moved into management roles in medical equipment sales, travelling around Australia in a hands-on teaching role. Her career took a turn after she married a farmer, prompting a desire to turn her attention to agriculture.

Following a steep learning curve over 17 years, Robyn is now the executive of multiple farming enterprises owned and operated in South Australia, providing meat products to Australian and international markets, a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and a Fellow of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation.

Robyn champions women in agriculture and women’s employment and inclusion more generally, including through her active roles in the Women in Business Regional Network and the SA Leaders for Gender Equity.

“Make yourself visible, keep asking the questions, evaluate all the responses until you get the answer you need to participate and share. Find that person and that group that will elevate you to be successful and keep putting yourself forward so others can find you.” Robyn Verrall

Promoting best practice across the public sector

All workplaces have a role to play in achieving the vision of this strategy, but State Government agencies can lead the way.

As of June 2020, over 100,000 people worked in the public sector, comprising 13 percent of the South Australian workforce, meaning that any action within the sector can positively impact many others.

Government and the public sector can lead with continued commitment to policies that promote gender equality and inclusion. Already there has been significant progress on public sector boards and committees: as of June 2020, 48.6 percent of public sector board and committee members were women. (see Reference 14)

There are clear benefits here – aside from the upside of diversity for the public sector itself, the Government can be the exemplar employer to promote and share good practice initiatives across the private sector and help to train the next generation of leaders. The public sector is the state’s largest employer, and women make up 69 per cent of its workforce, and 52.76 per cent of executives (as of 30 June 2020).

Recognising unpaid work

There is an opportunity to shift the conversation and broaden the economic framework that informs policymaking through a greater focus on gender and the value of unpaid work.

All parts of the community can play a role in developing new narratives and establishing different culture norms about traditionally gender-based roles and what gender equality can look like in different settings.

Unpaid work – 72 percent of which is done by women – has significant value, even if those services are not purchased. Price Waterhouse Coopers estimated in 2017 that the market replacement cost of unpaid work in Australia would contribute over $565 billion to the economy, or an additional third to GDP. (see Reference 15)

Unpaid work is not usually captured in measures of value and production, which can lead to this activity being ‘invisible’. Increasing efforts to talk about the value of unpaid work and including it in decision-making can help this work be recognised while improving the accuracy of activity reported in the state.

Employing a gender lens to review decision-making not only ensures that the needs of all South Australians are met, it promotes recognition of the multiple and diverse ways women contribute to and benefit from policies and programs across all sectors.

Case study: Kelly Keates
Zonge Engineering
Multiple award winner

Kelly never imagined herself as working in the mining sector or as a multiple award winner in her profession.

In high school she wanted to be a speech therapist and studied a Bachelor of Arts after graduating school. Kelly’s career path took a different turn after taking an opportunity to work underground in a mine upon completing her degree. This led to an ongoing passion for the remoteness and unique environment of mining work.

Following this first foray into mining, Kelly joined Zonge Australia, an Adelaide-based operation within a global electrical geophysical mining exploration company. With the support of the business owner, Kelly improved efficiency and expanded the scope of the company’s services, leading to her promotion to company director.

In 2007, Kelly took ownership of the business, juggling responsibilities as a business owner and entrepreneur with three young children.

Kelly’s leadership and excellence has been recognised and supported through awards including a Premier’s Award for Excellence in Leadership for Women in Resources in 2016, a Women in Innovation Award in 2020 and as the recipient of the University of Oxford’s Advanced Management and Leadership Programme Outstanding Alumni Award in 2017.

“I am humbled to have won a number of awards over the years; the recognition has been inspirational. It has helped to remove all doubt that my achievements are substantial and given me more confidence as a businesswoman. Winning the opportunity to further my education has had the biggest impact.” Kelly Keates

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Honour a Woman is a national movement of volunteer Australians working towards gender equality in the Australian honours system. In 2020, South Australia achieved near parity in Order of Australia recipients, with 30 of 61 awards going to women. (see Reference 16)

Board Links is a database connecting Australia’s industry leading women with opportunities to be considered for Australian Government board appointments (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office for Women).

Agrifutures Rural Woman of the Year Awards is Australia’s leading award acknowledging the essential role women play in rural industries, businesses, and communities. State and national winners receive a bursary to develop a project or skills that benefit their industries and communities (Agrifutures Australia and supported in South Australia by Department of Primary Industries and Regions).

South Australia

Inspiring South Australian Women’s Awards recognise outstanding women who have made significant contributions to the community (Australia Day Council Australia SA and Office for Women).

The South Australian Women’s Honour Roll acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of women in our community and their achievements. The Honour Roll is held every two years. (Department of Human Services).

The Premier’s Council for Women (PCW) partners with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment (OCPSE) and other State Government agencies to showcase and promote examples where the Government of South Australia promotes and innovates for women in leadership.

Boarding Call is an online database for making appointments to State Government boards and committees (Department of the Premier and Cabinet).

Veterans SA’s Pilot Mentoring Program includes the Female Veteran Mentoring Program and is open to all those who identify as female who have had military experience currently living in South Australia to further develop their personal and professional skills.

Women influencing Agribusiness and Regions aims to raise the profile of agribusiness and demonstrate the diversity of roles it offers in urban and regional areas and the important contributions being made by women (Department of Primary Industries and Regions in partnership with women in primary industry).

Women in Innovation SA is a community of volunteer professionals passionate about innovation and technology striving to support and elevate South Australia's innovative women. The annual Winnovation Awards recognises South Australian women leaders in business.

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Future directions

In 2021–22, DHS will:

  • Partner with the Premier’s Council for Women to increase leadership opportunities and platforms for recognition of women leaders of all ages.
  • Partner with the Department for Trade and Investment and the Department for Innovation and Skills to secure opportunities to promote and nurture women’s participation and leadership in South Australia’s burgeoning high-tech sector.
  • Partner with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment (OCPSE) and other State Government agencies to showcase and promote examples where the Government of South Australia promotes and innovates for women in leadership.
  • Collaborate with the Office of the Chief Scientist for South Australia to promote engagement with the Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) or similar programs to ensure the retention of female talent in South Australia.
  • Work with Honour a Woman ambassadors and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet to grow the number of nominations for women in prestigious awards, while also engaging with industry bodies to further spotlight the ongoing importance and role of women-specific awards.

Through future action plans, DHS will:

  • Partner with businesses and peak bodies to identify opportunities across different sectors for women to progress to leadership positions particularly in male-dominated industries, and the support required by businesses and individuals to achieve this.
  • Partner with the STEM sector in South Australia including government agencies, existing and emerging private business and the university sector to explore establishing a Centre for STEAM Equity located at the Lot Fourteen Innovation neighbourhood.
    • This would be focused on prioritising efforts that support STEAM education and mentoring, training, skill-building, access to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, and by developing hybrid finance models that involve private sector investment and incentives.
  • Partner with the Department of Treasury and Finance to highlight key spend on initiatives that support gender equality across all government portfolios.
  • Work with the Local Government Association and community bodies to promote the involvement of women in local councils and community organisations as a leadership pathway.

Measures of success

  • Increased number and visibility of women leaders and role models.
  • A higher share of women in managerial and leadership roles in the workplace.
  • More women are nominated for and receive notable awards, including Australian Honours and Awards.
  • Women hold 50 per cent of board positions and managerial roles in government and the private sector.

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Pillar 3: Financial wellbeing

Pillar 3: Financial wellbeing

All women and girls in South Australia should enjoy economic security and financial wellbeing. This is fundamental to strengthening women’s rights and promoting their agency to have control over their lives and exert influence across all areas of society.

Financial wellbeing is critical to achieving gender equality and economic growth.

Being financially secure increases women’s access to opportunities such as technology, education, employment and housing while enabling them to be active contributors to the local economy and global markets.

It allows them to have control over their own time, lives and bodies, and an increased voice, agency and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions.


Women and girls are equipped and educated to attain economic security and wellbeing by removing barriers to accessible employment, backed by building strong foundations in financial literacy.

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Close the financial literacy gap

Financial literacy is essential for economic security and empowerment. It gives women and men ‘a combination of awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve financial wellbeing’. (see Reference 17)

Australian and South Australian women are, on average, less financially literate than men (see Reference 18). A recent study found that half of South Australian women were financially literate, compared to approximately two thirds of South Australian men. Finding finances overwhelming and hard to understand is more common in younger Australians and Australians over the age of 50 (see Reference 19). This evidence highlights an opportunity to boost financial literacy through targeted education aimed at women across their lifespan.

Reduce the gender pay gap in South Australia

Having a sufficient income is necessary to achieve financial wellbeing. For women, reducing the gender pay gap is an important step in supporting their economic empowerment.

Studies have found that reducing the gender pay gap also has significant payoffs for the economy: participation rates, economic activity and spending may all lift with reduced gender pay gaps, which in turn would raise South Australia’s Gross State Product. In 2018, KPMG found that halving the gender pay gap in Australia and reducing discrimination in the workforce could result in a payoff valued at $60 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2038. (see Reference 20)

Case study: Zahra Foundation Australia

Zahra Foundation Australia was established to support women and children who have experienced or are experiencing domestic and family violence by creating opportunities for economic empowerment.

On 21 March 2010, Zahra Abrahimzadeh attended the Persian New Year function at the Adelaide Convention Centre to celebrate the cultural event, and her 44th birthday. This celebration was cut short when her estranged husband killed her in front of 300 witnesses, following 20 years of domestic violence. Her legacy lives on through the commitment of her children and the establishment of the Zahra Foundation Australia.

Their programs and small grants create pathways for women into further education and employment and include a specialist financial counselling service for domestic violence related debt (including through outreach at the Women’s Information Service) and a range of community education workshops and courses that have a strong focus on financial literacy.

Support older women’s inclusion

Older women have been recognised as the fastest-growing group of homeless people in Australia. (see Reference 21)

Their life experiences and varying circumstances with respect to their assets, income and capacity to work all impact on their financial wellbeing.

Supporting older women to be economically secure (such as through housing supports, targeted financial literacy initiatives and continued work to prevent age discrimination in the workplace) would enable them to enjoy their lives and participate more freely in society and the economy.

Initiatives to boost older South Australians’ inclusion in the community could also improve outcomes for the rest of society. Recent initiatives such as the documentary series ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ have sparked public interest in intergenerational care, presenting an opportunity for South Australia (see Reference 22). With our state’s ageing population, inter-generational mentoring or skill sharing may increase social inclusion and help grow our economy.

Case study: Nani Johnston
Pathway to Home Ownership Program

With a background in finance, Nani Johnston has a passion for teaching financial literacy, improving financial independence and helping others achieve home ownership.

Nani had lessons of financial independence instilled in her from childhood, learning from her dad that owning a home provides security, while her mum taught her that the ability to manage money and to be in control of one’s finances provides increased independence and options to choose your life path.

Professionally, Nani works as an accredited finance broker, but also spends her time working with local councils delivering various financial literacy programs for young and mature adults. In 2017, Nani founded a Pathway to Home Ownership program, aiming to help people control their finances and own their own homes. She delivers workshops for first home buyers to help them understand the ins and outs of buying their first home. Currently, Nani is working on improving the program with clear identifiable and measurable steps that can assist people in achieving home ownership.

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MoneySmart identifies five key areas requiring continued action (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office for Women, 2017).

National Financial Capability Strategy 2018 seeks to increase financial literacy of all Australians including a focus on women and older women (ASIC).

South Australia

Affordable SA provides easy to access information, resources, support and services on a range of issues that impact on women’s financial wellbeing.

Statewide Financial Counselling Services Program co-locates Financial Counsellors with community organisations to provide information, support and debt advocacy to assist people in financial difficulty. Women make up 62 per cent of financial counselling service recipients.

No Interest Loans (NILs) provide low-income families and individuals with safe, fair and affordable credit for essential goods and services – such as fridges, washing machines, car repairs and medical procedures for up to $1,500. Specialised loans are also available for women leaving violent relationships to help them be safe at home, move to safety, or rebuild their lives up to ten years after.

LaunchME is an innovative microenterprise initiative first trialled in South Australia and now run by Good Shepherd. Over 70 per cent of the applicants have been women who have established microenterprises or further developed their existing microenterprise.

Utilities Literacy Program provides three separate streams of support to the community aimed at building the capacity of South Australians to manage their utility bill costs (energy, water and telecommunications). This includes workshops for community sector workers to build skills and knowledge of utility debt and usage so they can effectively assist their clients, as well as conducting public information sessions and offering case management support.

Vulnerable South Australian Support Package provided extra support to vulnerable South Australians impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The support package included additional funding for food relief, emergency relief and financial resilience and wellbeing activities, including a specific support initiative for small businesses and small traders whose revenue was reduced as a result of the pandemic. Over 70 per cent of those small businesses and small traders supported by the program and negatively affected by the pandemic were female owner/operated.

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Future directions

In 2021–22, DHS will:

  • Promote a Grants SA round to include a focus on women’s economic participation and financial resilience.
  • Work through the Women’s Information Service to:
    • target financial literacy programs to vulnerable groups of women, including older women
    • promote Australian Government initiatives about financial security.
  • Work with other State Government agencies to address the gender pay gap, including legal frameworks and reporting requirements.
  • Pilot an intergenerational mentoring program (or skills sharing program), connecting women aged 55+ with young women to increase social inclusion.
  • Release gender pay gap industry scorecards for South Australia’s industries, leveraging ABS and WGEA data sources.

Through future action plans, DHS will:

  • Work in partnership with the Department for Education to promote financial literacy education initiatives to girls that can further close the financial literacy gap.
  • Work with social networks including Chooks SA to increase the number of women who can access venture capital and funding at a rate equivalent to their male peers.
  • Support a tailored, female-focused, accessible financial education program in partnership with the wider community, which covers topics including financial literacy, superannuation and asset management. Consider developing tailored programs for groups such as young women, older women, rural women, CALD groups, gender-diverse and other groups.
  • Release gender pay gap industry scorecards for South Australia’s industries, leveraging ABS and WGEA data sources.
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Measures of success

  • An increase in the number of community initiatives and grants to highlight the importance of financial literacy.
  • Women entrepreneurs can access venture capital and funding at a rate equivalent to their male peers.
  • Reduction in the number of women relying on their partner’s income to meet living costs in retirement or retiring on no personal income.

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Next steps

Next steps

The South Australian Women’s Leadership and Economic Security Strategy 2021–2024 is designed to be a partnership between government, business and community to advance the position of women and girls in South Australia.

Over the next three years, the Department of Human Services will work with government agencies and stakeholders from the business and community sectors to develop annual action plans that showcase the actions for the upcoming year. These annual plans will include actions under each of the three pillars highlighted in this strategy. These actions will draw from the key future directions, will be specific and measurable and include agreed outcomes where appropriate. Responsibility for different actions may rest with government, industry or community bodies.

Some early actions for 2020–21 are included in this strategy.

The annual action plans will include a monitoring framework to track progress around implementation.



1. Office for Women, ‘125th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage’.

2. AdelaideAZ, ‘University of Adelaide second in the world and Australia’s first to admit women students on equal terms in 1881’.

Alison Mackinnon, ‘Early Graduates’, The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, 2014.

3. AdelaideAZ, ‘University of Adelaide second in the world and Australia’s first to admit women students on equal terms in 1881’.

4. AdelaideAZ, ‘University of Adelaide second in the world and Australia’s first to admit women students on equal terms in 1881

Alison Mackinnon, ‘Early Graduates’, The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia (2014).

5. ‘Flexible Work’ Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

6. Department of Education, Skills and Employment, ‘uCube’, Higher Education Statistics (2019).

7. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016 Census of Population and Housing (2017).

8. Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, ‘Australian Government science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives for girls and women’, (PDF 267 KB) (2019).

9. ‘Boosting Female Founders Initiative’, (6 April 2021).

10. Government of South Australia, The Excite Strategic Plan (PDF 2.4 MB) (September 2020).

11. Government of South Australia, FIXE: Future Industries Exchange for Entrepreneurship (PDF 1.9MB) (2019).

12. ‘More women at the top proves better for business’, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (18 June 2020).

13. Deloitte Access Economics, Diversity Dividend Report (PDF 3MB) (report commissioned by Westpac, October 2017).

14. Government of South Australia, South Australian Government Boards and Committees Information (PDF 1.9 MB) (June 2020).

15. PwC Economics and Policy, Understanding the unpaid economy (PDF 2 MB) (March 2017).

16. Honour a Woman, ‘It’s time for Australian states and territories to act on equal honours this Queen’s Birthday’ (June 2020).

17. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), OECD/INFE 2020 International Survey of Adult Financial Literacy (2020) (PDF 4.3 MB).

18. Alison Preston, ‘Financial Literacy in Australia: Insights from HILDA Data’ (PDF 743 KB) Financial Capability (March 2020)

19. Alison Preston, ‘Financial Literacy in Australia: Insights from HILDA Data’ (PDF 743 KB) Financial Capability (March 2020)

20. KPMG, She’s Price(d)less (PDF 371 KB) (report commissioned by the Diversity Council of Australia and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 22 August 2019)

21. Australian Human Rights Commission, Older Women’s Risk of Homelessness: Background Paper (April 2019)

22. Samantha Selinger-Morris, ‘It’s been healing’: older people are the key to our happiness’, The Sydney Morning Herald (4 April 2021)

Contact us

Phone 8303 0691

Alternative formats

The information in this publication can be provided in an alternative format or another language on request.

Useful links

Useful links


  1. Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA)
  2. Goldman Sachs JBWere, Australia's Hidden Resource: The Economic Case for Increasing Female Participation (2009), p2.
  3. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, 'Why Japan's Talent Wars Now Hinge on Women', Harvard Business Review Blog Network, 9 December 2013
  4. The Grattan Institute, Game-changers: Economic reform priorities for Australia (2013), p39.
Page last updated : 09 Jun 2022

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Last Updated:
02 Mar 2021
Printed on:
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The Office for Women website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016