Growth

Female breadwinners on the rise: survey

Eloise Keating /

The number of Australian women reporting they are the breadwinners in their households has risen by more than 10% in the past six years, according to research released by the National Australia Bank this week.

The survey, which was conducted by Roy Morgan on behalf of NAB, found women are nominating themselves as the main income earner in 39.5% of Australian households, compared to the 28.8% who said they earn more than their partners in 2008.

However, the increase in the number of women who see themselves as the breadwinner in their household did not correspond with a decrease in the number of men who see themselves as bringing home the bacon, which has remained steady at 85%.

The bank said this can be attributed to “some people considering themselves to be the main income earner in their household when they are not”.

NAB said in a statement the research focused on women who were married or living in a de facto relationship. A spokesperson for NAB told SmartCompany Roy Morgan data is based on a survey of 50,000 people a year.

NAB Business executive general manager Angela Mentis welcomed the research findings, but said in the statement “there is still a way to go”.

“Women are becoming more economically powerful and increasing out-earning men … [but] a young woman of 25 today will still earn on average almost 50% less over her lifetime than a young man of the same age,” said Mentis.

“The research also found the average wage of women who identify themselves as the main household income earner is still significantly lower than that of men who identify as the main income earners,” said Mentis.

“It’s vital we create an environment where female business leaders and women acting as the main breadwinner in their household are seen as the norm, not the exception,” said Mentis.

The NAB research follows the release earlier this month of international rankings which placed Australia as the second best place in the world to be a female entrepreneur.

Emma Isaacs, chief executive of Business Chicks, told SmartCompany at the time the rankings don’t surprise her as Australia now has “a really strong community of women who are starting their own businesses, simply because they want to create work that works for their situation”.

However, Isaacs said “unconscious bias works against women in all aspects of work” and although “we might be seeing more women than ever starting businesses … a really small percentage are growing into medium and big businesses”.

Orsi Parkanyi, director and founder of Women as Entrepreneurs, told SmartCompany there are many factors contributing to the low numbers of female entrepreneurs in Australia, including cultural factors such as women not being involved in business for as long as men.

There is also a lack of access to funding and investment for female entrepreneurs, says Parkanyi, and an absence of female role models.

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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