Perception and experiences of the super gap - full interview

As part of our Women and Super series, to help bridge the superannuation gap, we recently interviewed three fantastic Aussies, Kylie Travers, Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, and Conrad Liveris to discuss their perceptions and experiences of the super gap.

Kylie has overcome incredible hardships including domestic violence, illness, raising two daughters with learning disabilities, and homelessness. Now, at 32, Kylie is a CEO, published author, motivational speaker, consultant, and worthy recipient of a slew of awards and nominations.

Bianca is founder, CEO and editor of Financy, “an online women’s money magazine which represents a movement towards women living their best, most fulfilling lives through achieving their money goals”.

Conrad is a corporate advisor for workplaces and risk, and is a specialist in restructuring, employee remuneration, HR policy, and recruitment. He has written for publications across Australia, Asia and the US, and chairs a series of arts, health and community service non-profit and government groups.

Kylie Travers

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman

Conrad Liveris

Q1 Virgin Money: How do you feel about the current super gap in Australia?

Kylie Travers (K): Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me. One of my biggest concerns with it is when you look at the statistics, the growing rate of older women who are homeless and dependent on inadequate Government assistance.

When you combine decades of wage inequality, the fact women have more time out of the workforce than men to care for any children with a lack of education and understanding about superannuation, finance and compound interest, this gap is the result. The super gap issue need to be tackled by both men and women if we want it to change.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman (B): I’m optimistic that things will improve in the future but if I’m to be honest about the rate of progress and where we have come from, then I think it’s a sad reflection of the struggles of women in underpaid industries and the lack of recognition for the massive amount of unpaid work women do for their families and society.

Conrad Liveris (C): After a lifetime of care, and usually scattered and low-paid work, women are retiring into poverty. That’s not right.

Q2 Virgin Money: Australia ranks 46th in the Global Gender Gap. In your opinion, why does Australia lag other countries and how do you think this impacts women’s ability to save for their future?

K: Lack of education. On top of an undereducated public, superannuation and finances aren’t included in the school curriculum properly. It is generally considered to be taught at home or you figure it out yourself.

Relying on welfare. Millions of Australians are veterans, single parents and people living with disabilities who rely on Centrelink to survive. It is extremely difficult to go from Centrelink to a job and gets harder the longer you are on it. The longer you’re on it, the less you have going into superannuation.

Divorce. Most women I know or who have spoken to me at events spent years raising children with no superannuation accrued, then in order to have full custody of the kids, they signed away all rights to the superannuation in their husband’s fund and they have to start over.

Women spending time out of the workforce. Typically, it is the woman who stays at home with the kids, sometimes for over a decade and usually between the ages of 20 and 35. By the time women enter the workforce again it is usually at lower paid positions than males the same age, plus they are playing financial catch-up.

Childcare is pitted against the woman's income instead of being viewed as a family expense. When looking at going back to work, most families compare the cost of childcare against the income the woman will bring home.

B: Australia has a male dominated workplace culture at the top and still in many families from a breadwinning point of view. While this is slowing changing, women also have a tendency to put themselves last and this needs to change. Women also need to take the time to better educate themselves and their daughters about money and making smarter decisions for their futures.

C: Women’s economic opportunity struggles because of the competing demands on their time, as opposed to men’s, and the nature of work they tend to find themselves in. While the caring professions are dominated by women and are lower paid, the rising number of women in other fields, like law where the majority of lawyers are women, are in more junior roles and exempt from higher salaries.

Consistently, the superannuation gap emanates from a frustrating and complex mix of factors that have no silver bullet. Women’s opportunity is limited through structural and societal factors, which can lead to precarious retirement.

Q3 Virgin Money: Do you believe the Gap relates only to gender or should this be considered more broadly?

K: We need to consider it more broadly. We have more men being stay at home dads, we have a variety of relationship styles yet everything is still viewed from the heterosexual lens with a man and woman and often based on the woman taking time off to have kids. If we look at the causes for wage gaps (which include gender, race, religion and so on), combine it with gaps in the workforce due to parenting and lifestyle choices, the gap in super becomes more than simply a gap between men and women.

B: The gender gap needs to be the focus, but parenting is a huge part of this. Women who don’t have children or don’t take big career breaks tend to do better financially.

C: Gender is easy to calculate because the data exists, there is clarity. Age is an important part here, which is due to the changes in the Australian economic system in the past 50 years. Some women are slightly out of reach of some benefits that women months older than them  can access.

Race, too, is important. Australia has not always been a land of opportunity for new migrants who have often been relegated to less secure work.

Q4 Virgin Money: How do you see lifestyle choices impacting this gap?

K: Any time we choose to take time out of the workforce and not contribute to super will have an impact on the gap. The most common choice being parenting.

B: I don’t. It’s more about work and the family.

C: Lifestyle choices is a complex phrase, it assumes a failure on the individual. More women work in caring professions which are, typically, lower paid. Is that their fault? I don’t think it is.

Q5 Virgin Money: In Australia, the super gap (and pay gap) is expected to close in 50 years. Do you think this is realistic? Why?

K: Listening to my daughters, they have a different view on women, money, work and independence than I did at the same age, so yes, I think it is possible. The more we educate the next generation (and current ones) the smaller that gap gets.

B: I would hope that it would close much sooner. The more attention that is draw to these issues and the more push back from women, the faster change can be made.

C: Closing the superannuation gap may happen at the headline level, but women will be more susceptible than men to lower retirement incomes. For the superannuation gap to close we need to see men and women share care more evenly and for women to have the same workplace opportunities to men, that isn’t happening today and so closing the retirement gap is unlikely to occur in my lifetime.

Q6 Virgin Money: In your view, do you think today’s employers treat women and men fairly and equally?

K: We do much better than previous generations, however, in my experience, fair and equal varies depending on the company and employer.

B: No. For women, it’s more of a fight for better pay and too often questions are asked of women around their personal life, whereas for men, questions around family are often ignored – this is also a shame for men.

C: There is increasing effort by employers to give women a fair go. However, the legacy of managers past lingers, and blindspots persist. These are not always articulated well, so they are overlooked.

Q7 Virgin Money: Do you think a subconscious bias exists in the workforce, one that aligns men and women towards different roles, salaries, capabilities and expectations? Do you think this is changing?

K: Absolutely. It’s changing, but it is still definitely there. In my experience, I have often been dismissed because I am female until I speak up or people read about me or I get on stage at an event. Women are still seen to be suited more towards administration and nurturing roles, they often aren’t taught negotiating skills or we punish them for speaking out.

B: Yes, but we know this is changing as the Financy Women’s index shows.

C: Almost every example of unconscious bias I have seen has not been unconscious - biases are very clearly articulated, though they may be artfully covered. Sexists exist, and they happen to have great power over our workplaces.

Q8 Virgin Money: Do you think women are paid less than men for doing the same job? If so, why might this be?

K: Women typically don’t negotiate as hard as men. A woman standing up for herself is seen as being bossy vs a man being seen as management material. The lack of transparency around incomes, wages, jobs and expectations contributes to this issue. Lastly, the assumption all women want to have babies or will leave to have kids means they get offered lower salaries and are viewed as less reliable, albeit often subconsciously.

B: We know this is the case. 2017 blew the lid off this in many industries especially media and sport.

C: The data is clear: women are paid less than men for the same work. In my own work looking at gender pay gaps I constantly see women being paid less than men for the same work. Excuses abound, but it happens and it isn’t right. The way work is valued is flawed - outcomes are more important than length of service.

Q9 Virgin Money: Do you think maternity and paternity leave in Australia is reflective of today’s family units? On top of this, do you think employers are fair towards women who have children?

K: I think our leave is much better than it used to be and I know it is better than some other countries. This is something which will change as society changes more. As for employers being fair, it depends completely on the specific employer. I know of many who are amazing, then I know of quite a few employers who are not.

B: Most big employers are getting better but overall they could do better for women, and men.


C: Current leave structures in Australia are great, but application is flawed. Few men, less than 5%, take the primary caring responsibility in households. The burden of care falls to women.A lot of managers and employers don’t want to see women leave the workplace, but don’t articulate that and fail to work to bring them back in after childcare.

Q10 Virgin Money:Considering childcare can cost up to $40k per year, do you think employers offer enough viable solutions for men and women with children?

K: I don’t think employers offer enough. We could have more flexible work options, job share options, work from home situations or in some occupations, an employer providing reduce childcare options on site would enable many parents to work more.

B: No. There should be more at work childcare creches.

C: No. Childcare is often inaccessible because of where it is located - away from business districts.

Q11 Virgin Money: Do you think on some level, women feel they have more to prove than men in the workplace?

K: I don’t, but I have seen many women both starting out in their careers and those who are well established treat the workplace as somewhere to overpower men, to prove they are stronger and that they can be the boss. If a woman is confident in herself, her career and work, the need to prove herself doesn’t show up as much.

B: Yes, when it comes to pay and taking time off to have kids, we have to work harder to prove we are deserving of a pay rise in my experience.

C: Yes. Which doesn’t make sense, given there are so many mediocre men in senior roles and just as many exceptional women doing stellar work. They deserve recognition for their contributions.

Q12 Virgin Money: Do you think Women find it harder to negotiate salary increases than their male counterparts and colleagues?

K: Definitely. Women are conditioned to be nice, not to hurt other people’s feelings, to be pleasant and accepting. We aren’t taught negotiation tactics and instead, often women will feel uncomfortable asking for what they are worth.

B: Yes, in my experience but only once children came along.

C: Most people are terrible at pay negotiation, like really bad. My advice is for people to build a case on why they deserve a pay rise, show your contribution to your organisation and then value it fairly.

Q13 Virgin Money: Do you think women are less confident in the workplace?

K: I have found women to be less confident in general, which stems from how women are raised differently to men.

B: I wasn’t, but I suppose some might be.

C: I don’t want to answer this question, sorry. It’s too complex.

Virgin Money: Do you think men could do more to aid workplace gender equality?

K: There are great examples in recent media of men stepping up to demand equal pay for their female colleagues. Transparency in wages, open discussions about money in general (in society, not just at work or within our own homes), men being willing to engage in the conversations and everyone being open to discussing equality for all, then taking the action will help significantly.

B: Yes.

C: Yes, men need to do more to seek gender equality. That starts with caring responsibilities at home.

Q14 Virgin Money: Some say that workplace inequality is a myth in 2017/2018 and women earn enough for the jobs they choose to do at the salary they agree to work on?

K: Workplace inequality has come a long way from when I was born, but in many industries there is still a way to go.

B: NO, NO NO. It’s not a myth. It’s very real.

C: (Laughter) - the data fundamentally tells us that workplace inequality is pervasive and present today.

Q15 Virgin Money: What can women do in 2018 to help manage and build their super? What can couples do to help collectively growth their super?

K: Get proper financial advice based on your circumstances then plan accordingly. Look at when you want to retire, the lifestyle you want, how long you expect to live for and how much money you will need. Create a plan and carry it ou

If you are a couple, do it equally. Plan your retirement together, but have things in both names equally.

Everyone should be aiming for financial independence and to be able to retire early. This means, getting the right financial advice, planning well, doing what you can to be secure so you decide when you retire and the lifestyle you have instead of having to work until you are 70 then struggling to live.

B: Women need to start paying themselves super on maternity leave, and this might involve splitting super with a spouse. I have always done this.

C: If you can, contribute more than the legislated minimum to your superannuation. An extra $20 a week is an extra $1,000 a year.

Q16 Virgin Money: How do you think women can navigate the workplace in 2018?

K: Communicate with superiors, peers and anyone you work with. Learn about wages, workloads, what is required at different levels and decide on your career path then find the right mentors and follow your plan to make it happen. Ultimately, you get to decide how your life turns out, no matter what obstacles you face.

B: Be more demanding of better pay, and believe you deserve it.

C: See what is working in your workplace and industry that helps people be successful - a model always helps in career success.

Q17 Virgin Money: What government support is available for women and super?

K: There is the co-contribution for low income earners and lots of information online women can use to educate themselves.

B: None. There are some tax incentives to split super or add to super for low income earners.

Q18 Virgin Money: Are there any resources you would recommend women check out? What is your number 1 must read or piece of advice.

K: Know exactly what is happening with your money and create a plan for it. My recommendation is to do this 21 Day Money Challenge which covers every area of your budget, ways to make and save money but on the first day it covers consolidating and looking for lost money including superannuation.

B: Get financially engaged, read your statement. Check your fees. Calculate your balance and how to build it. Read more on women’s money matters and find the people that can help you get better educated.

C: Invest

Q19 Virgin Money: What part can men play in workplace gender equality, day to day?

K: Be aware and speak up. Instead of talking of women, listen to them, support them and give them credit for their work.

B: Take a stand for women today so that it makes life better for the girls (daughters and wives) of the future.

C: Actively work against sexism when you see it, encourage women alongside you, do not enter a meeting or sit on a table without women, and ask a simple question: why is this team not 50/50 men and women.

Q20 Virgin Money: What changes to childcare systems would benefit both men and women and help to shoulder the associated costs/time pressures of taking care of children?

K: Varying hours to assist shift workers and single households, along with affordability and in general, more availability of childcare.

B: Lower cost childcare, and enhanced government rebates.

C: Childcare costs are driven by accessibility - we don’t have enough and they are in the wrong places. We need more childcare places.

Q21 Virgin Money: What can employers do to help close the gap? (Everything from on-site creches to transparent equal opportunities etc)


Onsite childcare where practical. For businesses in building with multiple businesses, they could combine to provide onsite childcare for all employees thus reducing pressure and cost on one business providing it. Parliament House has childcare onsite, why can’t other occupations which are similar e.g. office work, do the same?

B: Incentives such as crèches are good, but better pay, especially on parental leave is important.


  • Invest in childcare
  • Close the gender pay gap
  • Promote women at the same rate as men

Q22 Virgin Money: In your opinion, what companies or institutions are leading the way towards workplace gender equality?

K: I haven’t personally experienced any that are truly leading the way. Many are great a PR but when you peek behind the curtains it is not as great as they imply.

B: Rice Warner and Westpac, and OneVue.

C: The Commonwealth Treasury took on gender equality energetically a few years ago with great success, they have documented their experience incredibly well.

Rather than big grand acts, it is the day to day actions that matter. Workplace fairness revolves around pay and power, getting that right is what sets organisations apart.

Q23 Virgin Money: How can today’s super providers help people invest the money they do have better?

K: Make the information interesting and easily accessible. Simplify the key points, educate with videos on super and connect with the general public. Stop using corporate speak, make it easy to understand and put the information where people are looking – on social.

B:  Set up funds that reward women with bonus interest for joining them. Reward women for depositing more while caring for their children and taking time out of full-time work. Reward also for going back to work full-time.

C: Invest in women. Gender equal organisations outperform the market, and it supports women at work.

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