How super is super for women?
In a nod to International Women’s Day, we take a look at some gender-related issues within superannuation
Superannuation is critical to any Australian’s retirement, but how do Australian women fare when it comes to their account balances in superannuation? And are women well represented as trustees of superannuation boards? Are we there yet? Are we #EmbracingEquity?
As we lean in to this year’s International Women’s Day at Morningstar, we take a closer look at some of the annual fund-level superannuation statistics released by APRA in December 2022.
Superannuation Account Balances—The Gap Between Women and Men
The average female account balance per age bracket compared to the average male is disheartening.
There’s still a significant gap in the account balances between women and men, particularly in the 45–60 years age brackets, which is really when the full effect of child-rearing responsibilities and the compounded lifetime impact of lower paid work shows up.
A difference of more than $44,000 on average between 55 and 59 years old is material. Lower overall balances for women, who have a longer life expectancy, is not a good news story.
And don’t get too excited that the gap reduces markedly from 65 years onwards; this is likely attributable to women outliving men and subsequent account balance transfers to female widows.
Women also aren’t featuring as prominently as we’d like at the higher end of the account balance spectrum, with almost half the number of female accounts at $500,000 or more compared to male counterparts. And again, you’d expect that gap to be wider if you controlled for women who have inherited at least part of that account balance.
Gender Diversity on Trustee Boards—The Progress Report
In good news, the representation of women acting as trustees on superannuation boards is definitely trending in the right direction. There is noticeable improvement in the representation levels of women on superannuation boards in the past five years.
Granted, there are still eight funds with 15% or less of their board composed of women, but there are 44 funds with women representing more than 30% of board seats.
These 44 funds account for almost two thirds of all funds represented in the data. So how does this compare with five years ago?
Just less than half of all funds had more than 30% of women on their board. That’s progress! Success would obviously be 100% of funds with more than 30% of women on their board, and perhaps in the next few years we will get there.
Are We #EmbracingEquity?
So, are we there yet? Short answer is no.
The solutions to this complex problem are not easy—that’s clear. But it’s not enough to say, “it’s too complex.”
The superannuation system should be focused on providing adequate income for all Australians—and this includes women.
However, as the saying goes, culture starts at the top; we are slowly starting to see board representation levels improve, and there are an increasing number of women taking top jobs at superannuation funds.
The superannuation industry obviously cannot solve this issue in isolation. We need all Australians, including the government, to lean in and tackle this ongoing and complex societal issue.