Significant spending and support from governments and businesses are needed to match the determination of women across Australia to end inequality, NSW Treasurer Matt Kean says.

The courage of Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame in standing up to the abuse they suffered will change the way politics and business operate in Australia, Mr Kean told a business summit in Sydney on Wednesday.

The women who rallied around them last year were employees, consumers and investors, and won’t invest in or buy from companies that have poor sexual harassment records, he warned executives at the Australian Financial Review summit.

Invest in the journalism that makes a difference.

EOFY Sale. A year for just $99.

SAVE 50%

Affording respect to women was also about harnessing their potential because often a woman was the best person for the job, Mr Kean said.

But almost half of Australian women report that the main reason they are unable to start a job or work more hours is because they are mostly responsible for caring for children.

Mr Kean has announced $1.4 billion in budget spending to make preschool more affordable for more NSW families, with fee relief locked in for the next four years.

The NSW budget due next week will also allocate $5 billion over the next decade to expand access to affordable childcare.

More than 18,000 early childhood teachers and carers will be supported to enter the sector or boost their skills under a $280 million workforce package.

The need to reduce the gender pay gap is well known. What’s less known is the gender investment gap.

“Businesses tell me all the time that we have a skills shortage – well there is no better way to address that skills shortage than by applying the skills of some of the most highly credentialed women in the world,” he said.

“We should also be backing our female entrepreneurs.”

Women-led startups received about five per cent of venture capital funding in Australia last year.

The NSW government has earmarked $10 million in seed funding to establish a female-founded venture capital fund, named in memory of the late businesswoman and designer Carla Zampatti.

Four in ten Australian women have been sexually harassed at work in the past five years, according to the Women’s Economic Opportunities Review Mr Kean commissioned after becoming treasurer.

Women are more likely to work in less secure, lower-paying, part-time or casual roles, earn less than men over the course of their lifetimes, and retire with about half the superannuation savings of men.

“But today, women across Australia are determined that that will not be their story anymore. And this has real economic implications,” Mr Kean said.

A NSW Intergenerational Report found the economy would be eight per cent larger by 2060 if women’s economic participation reached parity with men.

“The great insight of the ESG investment movement is that Environmental, Social and Governance concerns have financial consequences,” Mr Kean said.

But not enough attention was paid to the “S” in ESG – and the obvious reputational and financial impact of not respecting women, he added.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has flagged that a major focus of Tuesday’s budget will be removing barriers for women that stop them fully participating in the workforce.

Save this EOFY while you make a difference

Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

We’ve pushed our journalism as far as we could go. And that’s only been possible with reader support. Thank you. And if you haven’t yet subscribed, this is your time to join tens of thousands of Crikey members to take the plunge.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
SAVE 50%