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Advancing women with disability

On International Women’s Day, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) calls on organisations across Australia to recognise women with disability as ready and willing to lead.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day, PWDA is excited to launch a new project, ‘Advancing Women with Disability in the Workplace’ (Advancing Women). The project aims to improve outcomes for women, girls, feminine-identifying and non-binary people with disability in Australia across both leadership representation, and workforce participation and safety.

“As Australia makes great strides to improve the safety and representation of women and other minorities in the workplace, we cannot leave women with disability behind. We need equity not cupcakes,” said Ms Nicole Lee, PWDA President.

“Now is the time to raise the voice and stories of women with disability; to learn from them to advance our representation and engagement in leadership roles and ensure the sustainability of our employment and our safety in the workplace,” said Ms Lee.

“Women with disability are ready and willing to lead,” said Ms Samantha Connor, PWDA Vice-President. “We must improve outcomes for all women in the workplace, especially those who are too often overlooked and economically marginalised,” said Ms Connor.

“The Advancing Women project has been developed in recognition of the gross underrepresentation of women with disability in leadership and decision-making roles across the Australian workforce,” said Ms Lizzy Fowler, PWDA Director of Strategic Projects.

“The project will seek to develop an understanding of the barriers and enablers to leadership representation for women with disability, informed by those with lived experience across regional and metropolitan Australia,” said Ms Fowler.

In launching the Advancing Women project, PWDA aims to build a critical mass of allies who together, will create workplaces where employing, retaining and developing women with disability is business as usual. This will be a huge positive for workplaces as well as women with disability – a group who face multiple barriers to inclusion and equity.

The project will go on to deliver an educational program targeting organisations across Australia designed to promote leadership, meaningful workforce participation and workplace safety for women with disability, alongside a leadership mentoring program for women with disability.

Key Facts:

· Data from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs shows that, across 19 countries surveyed in 2017, while both women and men with disability are underrepresented, only 2.3 per cent of women with disability compared to 2.8 per cent of men with disability held a position as a legislator, senior official or manager.

· The same data showed that, in 14 out of 18 countries in Asia and the Pacific region, there was no female parliamentarian with disability in the national legislative body; and in the other four countries, the share of women parliamentarians with disability ranged from 0.3 to 6.3 per cent.

· Working age people with disability are twice as likely to be unemployed as those without disability (see AIHW 2022).

· According to the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women remain underrepresented in key decision-making roles across almost all industries in the Australian workforce.

· Australian women only comprise 19.4% of CEOs, 33% of board members and 32.5% of key management positions. The data does not reveal the percentage of these women who have a disability.

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