The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is committed to
addressing imbalances and promoting gender
equality across the retail sector to improve choice, career
progression and financial security for women through their
working life and into retirement.
Equality is a fundamental human right for all, regardless of gender identity. For the Australian retail sector, the most immediate priority in terms of gender equality is to address imbalances between women and men.
Women control an estimated 75% of consumer spending and represent 57% of the retail workforce. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency1 though
Female directors represent 27% of board positions 1
Female CEOs lead 17% of Australian retail businesses 1
There is a 15% gender pay gap between women & men working in similar roles1
One side effect of this pay gap is lower retirement savings for women. As at June 2019, the median superannuation balance for men at retirement was $178,800 in comparison to $137,050 for women, equating to a 23% gap2 in savings.
In addition, complaints statistics released by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported that 76% of the 479 sexual discrimination claims in 2019-20 were made by women3 and the 2020 Respect@Work Report notes that women are 50% more likely than men to have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
This imbalance is generally worse for First Nations’ women, women of colour, trans women and women with a disability.
The ARA’s role is to unify our sector behind a common
vision for change, outline the policy and advocacy measures
that will frame discussions with government and other
stakeholders, and support our members’ efforts to address
In addition, the ARA Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Advisory Committee will also:
- Continue to shape, advance and promote gender equality in retail through the delivery of a suite of initiatives
- Endorse a gap analysis against best practice and
prioritise areas of improvement for Australian retail
- Work with the WGEA to monitor our sector’s progress
- Partner with a range of industry experts to develop a set
of practical tools and resources
To meet our commitment of advancing and promoting gender equality in the Australian retail sector, we need to:
- Focus primarily on addressing the imbalance between women and men in our sector but ensure that gender equality is not positioned exclusively as a ‘women’s issue’
- Recognise that members may have different challenges and may require different solutions, given the differences between large national and international retailers, and our small and medium sized members who represent 95% of the ARA’s membership
- Leverage expertise from the ARA’s largest members to uplift capability across the whole sector
To improve choice, career progression and financial security for women in retail, the ARA believes the sector will need to:
- Develop and deploy awareness campaigns, education events and forums to address sector-specific sexual discrimination and harassment issues, in line with Recommendation 47 for key industry groups outlined in the Respect@Work Report4
- Identify opportunities to strengthen policies in relation to workplace sexual discrimination and harassment
- Adopt a 40:40:20 gender mix in boards and executive teams, with an aspirational target that 50% of director and leadership positions should be filled by women by 2030, in-line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals
- Take actions to address the gender pay gap and remove barriers to financial security for women in retail, through their working life and at retirement
- Remove barriers that hinder women in retail realising their full potential, through improved flexibility, career pathways and return-to-work options for working parents
- Advocate for more cost-effective childcare and increased flexibility in childcare arrangements
- Offer equal access to parental leave and address the stigma of men taking on caring responsibilities
- Support community efforts to address violence towards women and establish leave provisions to support victims of domestic and family violence
- Remove rigid gendered stereotypes in advertising, product ranging and pricing, signage and visual displays
The retail industry needs leaders in positions of power to come together to lead tangible and sustainable change in improving gender equality across the retail sector in Australia.
In 2022, the ARA partnered with Deloitte for the inaugural Gender Equality Symposium. This event brought together Senior Executive and Board members from the ARA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee to share insights on how their organisation is advancing gender equality.
The below case studies demonstrate the positive role that some of our members have already taken to establish a solid foundation for great things to come.
Mainstreaming flexible working
The following ARA Members support and commit to the ARA’s Gender Equality Position Statement.
Source and Notes
1 – WGEA Data Explorer – Retail Trade (https://data.wgea.gov.au/industries/76)
2 – Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, 2022-23 Pre-budget Submission
3 – AHRC 2019-20 Complaints Statistics (https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-10/AHRC_AR_2019-20_Complaint_Stats_Final.pdf)
4 – AHRC Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/publications/respectwork-sexual-harassment-national-inquiry-report-2020)