Let’s create a superpower

Published 26 March 2012 13:12, Updated 27 March 2012 15:35

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Australia has been getting some compliments lately. Style magazine Monocle – coffee table accessory of choice for many a magazine writer – dubbed the lucky country a “superpower in the South Pacific”.

Business research outfit, the Economist Intelligence Unit recently ranked Australia fifth in the world for “overall women’s economic opportunity” in 2012 (beaten by Sweden, Norway, Finland and Belgium).

A survey of expatriates by banking and financial services group HSBC named Australia as the number one destination for expats. Many of those who picked Australia as their destination of choice perceived the nation would offer them a better quality of life.

So many conversations about the standards of life women experience look at how bad it can be, documenting lives in the developing world, where it is a daily struggle for security, clean water and food. That’s a long way from the experience of many women in Australia.

So, I was thinking, what if we combine the accolades and ask, what would it take for Australia to become a “superpower for women”? I’m talking about the best of the best: A utopian dream.

No sappy half measures.

Faced with this question, in Carrie Bradshaw style, I asked my friends (and also consulted the Twitterati). Here are a few of the suggestions:

Recognition: Acknowledge women’s fundamental importance to the economy and wider society. Enshrine this in our way of life. From laws to culture, commerce to health, decisions should be made that facilitate and respect gender equality. A good start would be equal pay for equal work and extending superannuation payments across periods women leave the workforce to have kids.

Better urban planning: Australian cities often rank among the world’s most liveable. But they could be better for parents. We need shorter distances between work, home and schools and a good spread of convenient child care. While we’re at it, let’s make that child care better quality and tax deductible.

Enlightened management: We could call for the law to demand quotas for women on boards. We know companies don’t tend to make changes unless they are forced to – such as the improvement of environmental standards. But as we are striving for a utopian solution, how about making Australian management the best in the world? That would mean drawing on the largest talent pool, of which women are a part, and ensuring that that talent pool also contributes to ranks all the way up these businesses.

New men: And a suggestion from one friend, which might appeal to a subset of women. “Bring in a lot of single, straight, well-adjusted, charming, tall, intelligent, funny men who are monogamous, loyal, clean the house, do the shopping and cooking, open doors, never cheat, always compliment their female partner and are successful at their own careers and are generally well rounded adorable people who would give anything to come to Australia and marry us single gals!”

What would you change about Australia to make it a superpower for women? Write and tell me your views.

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