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Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress.

07 February 2024
• 4 minute read
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International Women’s Day, held on March 8 every year, is described as “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.” But it’s not simply about recognising how far we’ve come, it’s also about generating “a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

One area in which there’s still plenty of work to be done is financial inclusion, which is reflected in the UN International Women’s Day theme of ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress.’ In the Australian context, factors such as unpaid work, divorce and single parenthood all contribute to financial inequality.

Understanding the scale of the issue

Recent research by Great Southern Bank has shone light on the realities facing women, with 15 per cent of females saying they wouldn’t be able to cover a sudden or unexpected cost equivalent to one month’s income, compared to just eight per cent of males.

Unsurprisingly, this has implications for a subject close to Great Southern Bank’s heart, namely homeownership, with women significantly less confident of achieving their goals in this area (23 per cent) compared to 32 per cent of men.

But perhaps most concerning of all is the fact that similar patterns can be observed within Gen Z, a generation for whom live-in relationships, childbirth and other life events understood to contribute to financial inequality mostly haven’t happened yet.

A newly-published study by ASIC Moneysmart found that Gen Z women are less likely than Gen Z men to research ways to grow their wealth (14 per cent compared to 21 per cent). They’re also more likely to have no personal savings (11 per cent compared to four per cent), and more likely to use buy-now-pay-later services (32 per cent compared to 25 per cent).

Girl maths don’t add up

At least some of the blame can be laid at the door of a new TikTok trend called ‘girl maths’, which promotes unhealthy and illogical ways of managing money to young females. These include regarding cash purchases as practically free, and thinking about an expensive dress, for example, in terms of ‘cost per wear’ rather than the actual price.

The importance of financial literacy

Kylie Olsen manages Great Southern Bank’s Financial Assistance team. She believes that improving financial literacy is key to reversing this trend. In her words, “It's about understanding your budget. We all have household expenses and a budget to live by. It is about making sure that we understand what income we have coming in and what expenses we have going out, and having a realistic budget to follow that is tailored to this.”

Great Southern Bank is here to help

Of course, life doesn’t always go to plan. As Kylie says, “If unexpected circumstances occur, we are here to help our customers through it as best we can.”

So what should customers do in such a situation and what can they expect from Great Southern Bank?

“If you’re facing financial difficulties, then please contact us”, says Kylie. “We have a number of different options such as providing breathing room on loan repayments in the form of deferments or reduced repayments. Each customer is assessed according to their individual circumstances, and we work with them on meaningful solutions to get them back on their feet.”

The level of support available goes well beyond simply keeping up with financial obligations. As Kylie points out, “We also partner with a program called CareRing, operated by UnitingCare, which offers customers independent financial counselling, access to government programs, and support for those experiencing mental health issues and family violence.”

Furthermore, “All our financial assistance team members have undertaken vicarious trauma and non-bias training as well as being mental health accredited, so we are very well placed to have helpful conversations with our customers when they come to us for assistance.”

A real-life example

Kylie gives the example of a customer whose husband had lost his job. She explains, “Due to his loss of employment, he suffered some very severe mental health issues. When his wife got in touch, we were able to empower her to have the confidence and trust in my team to speak honestly about their situation.

We encouraged a referral to CareRing, who were able to offer him specialised treatment and a back-to-work mental health program. During this process, we continued to work with his wife to reassure her of our assistance and support for their household finances.

We were also able to help them manage their loan repayments so they could keep their car. This was especially important as they have young children. Fast forward 12 months and he’s back in full-time work, and we are still in touch and working with them to this day.”

Getting in touch

So, what’s the best way to get in touch?

“There are a number of ways customers can contact us if they’re experiencing financial difficulty”, says Kylie. “They can call the Financial Assistance team (1800 110 440, select option 2), fill out the form on our website, or pop into a branch. Our team provides regular training for our frontline staff on options to assist with early intervention, and how to encourage customers to discuss their situation in confidence.  Our financial assistance team are specialists in helping customers who may be facing hard times to navigate their individual circumstances. We empower customers to talk about their finances and are always here to support.”

Important Information

Great Southern Bank, a business name of Credit Union Australia Ltd ABN 44 087 650 959, AFSL and Australian Credit Licence Number 238317. Conditions, fees and charges apply. This is general information and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Consider the appropriateness of the information, including the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) booklet, before acting on it. The Financial Claims Scheme may apply to this product; refer to the T&Cs for more information.

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