COVID-19 has not only upended society, it's also served to spotlight the growing gender divide. In Australia, women are paid approximately 13.9 per cent less than men, while discriminatory and unjust economic policies remain in place the world over. But according to the UN, women's empowerment boosts productivity and increases diversification, leading to a more sustainable society that will benefit everyone.
The good news is, there are businesses that are actively striving to make a change and bridge the gaps. From ending period poverty to fighting inequality, here are the Australian companies putting women at the forefront.
Alarmingly, one million Australians lack access to sanitary items such as pads and tampons each month, a statistic feminine care brand Veeda is striving to remedy. The company is making period poverty an ethical focus through its global charity, the Naturalena Foundation, and to date, has donated millions of sanitary products to women locally and across the world alongside partners including World Vision and Womankind Worldwide.
Within Australia this year, Veeda will gift a generous 160,000 pads to the charity, which will directly help up to 8,000 women manage their period for a month. It will also be supporting the charity's August Dignity Drive, which sees donation boxes placed out the front of Woolworths stores around the country, encouraging shoppers to 'Buy One, Gift One' for a woman in need.
As actress and Veeda Chief Brand Officer, Hilary Duff, explains, the impact of period poverty on young women has a direct and adverse effect on their education.
"If a girl misses a week of school each month due to the stigma and physical necessity of not having access to suitable sanitary products, her education is compromised thus impacting her future," says Duff. "Whether it's in my hometown, in Australia or in fact anywhere around the world, period poverty is a big issue, never more so than now. Through Veeda we want to change that."
Adds Naturalena's Co-Founder, Adrian Forsyth, "Period Poverty is a solvable issue and providing feminine care to young women who are missing school due to lack of period products is life-changing."
Visit veeda.com.au to find out more.
Australian work culture has shifted significantly in the last few decades, but the gender gap remains, particularly in the tech sector.
Luckily, former software engineer Ally Watson is in the process of making this largely male-dominated industry a more level playing field. Watson is the founder of Australian-based company Code Like A Girl, which aims to arm young women and girls with the tools they need to enter the world of coding via camps, courses, internships and events.
"The technology we build today determines the world we live in tomorrow," says Watson. "But if that world is being built under the leadership of only a small portion of our community, what kind of world will we have?"
It's a valid question, particularly as studies show that gender parity in the workplace is not just an ethical or moral issue, but also an economic one: $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women's equality.
Visit codelikeagirl.com.au to find out more.
Defined as "a person's ability to cope well with difficulties", Mettle is perhaps the ideal name for a Perth-based social enterprise that employs survivors of domestic violence.
The company produces gift hampers filled with sustainable goods, albeit with a twist – they're all designed and packed by women who have fled unsafe circumstances.
Bronwyn Bate, the founder of Mettle, launched the business in 2019 after learning that domestic violence is the largest driver of financial hardship and homelessness for women in Australia.
"The lack of safe and accessible employment and opportunities to establish financial independence can make it extremely difficult and dangerous to leave abusive environments," says Bate. "We exist to provide these opportunities and prevent women from returning to homelessness or their abuser."
But the support doesn't stop there: the women in Mettle's program are provided a guarantee of six months employment with on-the-job training opportunities.
Visit mettlegifts.com to find out more.
While a safe birth is commonplace in Australia, many women in developing countries lack access to basic medical care.
It was this thought that played on Robyn Jones' mind when she decided to launch social enterprise Mama Maya, which donates a birthing kit to a woman in need for every baby wrap sold on the brand's website.
"I started Mama Maya to make a difference to mamas all around the world," explains Jones. "The experience of pregnancy and birth is something virtually all mothers have gone through, yet the quality of care and access to even the most basic baby items couldn't be more different. So when I found myself with a large box full of seconds-quality muslins and loads of samples from the time spent getting our swaddles just right, I had a choice – I could sell them cheaply as 'seconds', or donate them to mothers who could really use them."
So far, Jones has donated 8000 birthing kits, helping to reduce the risk of infant or maternal complications the world over.
Visit mamamaya.com.au to find out more.
Brought to you by Veeda.