Senator Jane Hume is the Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy. She is also the first Minister for Women’s Economic Security, where she is working to secure the economic future of women in Australia. She has worked in the financial services industry prior to being elected to Parliament, including her most recent role as Senior Policy Adviser at Australian Super.
What led you to the decision to enter into politics?
I have always been interested in politics as my family were all members and I handed out how-to-vote cards even when I was a little tacker, without fully understanding why - but I didn't actually join the party until I was in my late early 30s. I'd just had my first child and I was handing out my how-to-vote cards and the leader of the opposition came past, and I knew him because he was my teacher at school. He asked why I hadn’t joined, and I didn’t have a reason, so I signed up the next day and I've been an active member ever since! But I didn't ever join with the intention of running, I just joined to be a volunteer. It was an interest that became a hobby and then became an obsession, which then became a profession. I was very lucky that I managed to have my interest in politics grow alongside my private sector career and they actually worked well together.
What do you think the biggest barrier is for women who are interested in entering politics?
I think the biggest barrier for women is often themselves. They like to be organised and have all their ducks lined up in a row before they make a big decision but there is no time that is the right time to enter politics. The trick is to make sure that all your ducks are lined up in a row all the time, because even the most prepared people, even the most qualified people for the job, often don't run for pre-selection or win a pre-selection because of bad luck or bad timing. So the trick is to always be prepared and hopefully the timing will find you.
Could you elaborate on your new portfolio as Minister for Women’s Economic Security and what you’re hoping to achieve ?
Well I have a very big portfolio title now! It makes for the worst acronym ever! Women’s economic security is something I'm very excited about. When I was working in superannuation I did some work on women's retirement outcomes, so this has been something of particular interest to me professionally, but beyond that, I’ve always been interested in women’s retirement outcomes because I've grown up through it. I started work in 1992, in the same year compulsory superannuation began, and I’ve made every superannuation mistake in the book. I worked in financial services which has the biggest gender pay gap, I took time off from the workforce to look after my children and time off to study, and I didn’t earn any super. Then I came back and worked part-time, and took on directorships which didn't pay super at all - and then I got divorced on top of that!
Every mistake you can make I made – I’ve lived that dream! But attitudes are now beginning to shift and even though we've had pay equality since the mid-1970s that doesn't necessarily mean that there is not a gender pay gap. They’re two very different things and people are now beginning to see that and it's beginning to manifest particularly now as more and more women are staying single, or finding themselves suddenly single later in life. That financial uncertainty seems to be becoming more apparent in things like impoverishment and homelessness for older women. I think our minds are focusing on how important it is, not only to see the gender pay gap come down, not just the female workforce increase, but also that focus on financial independence and financial well-being and taking control of your own financial future.
I also think that the people that graduate today do tend to walk out into positions where they at least start on par with men, because the work environment is totally different. I graduated into a recession and almost all my female university alumni and I struggled to get work, whereas all my male friends got jobs. We didn't think twice about it but that's what happened. I remember when I was in my 20s and I took a job, and it was a really good job, and I was ahead of a bloke and he said to me “that's alright you're in your late 20s, you’ll leave to have children soon and then I'll overtake you,” I was so cross with him, but he was right and he did. But things are changing which is great.
Your portfolio as Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy is also concerned with FinTech - where it’s been acknowledged that there is an underrepresentation of women, particularly as founders and leaders. What do you think can be done to promote women into these roles?
We already have some government programs to support women in innovation women and in STEM in particular. We also have support for women that are founding businesses, which is terrific but I think that we should also showcase some of the great women in Fintech and the really amazing women leading the way. There's the whole mentality of “can't be what you can’t see” so we need to work out how we push these women out there to become role models in their industry.
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