How do you become young and filthy rich in Australia?
The short answer is: be a man.
Yes, be a tech whizz, a property tycoon, a retail visionary, a sports star, but most importantly, to steal a line from Canadian stand-up comedian Russell Peters, BE A MAN!
How do I know? The latest BRW Young Rich 2015, a compilation of the 100 richest Australians under 40, which came out in October, had just eight woman on it.
The all-male Top 10
Of those woman on the list, just four – singer Sia Furler, founder of financial counselling service My Budget, Tammy May, super model Miranda Kerr and golfing star Karrie Webb – have made their fortune entirely on their own.
The other women on the list have made their fortunes in partnerships with men: Erica Baxter through her marriage to billionaire James Packer, Erin Deering, through online bikini company Triangl founded with her husband Craig Ellis; Melanie Perkins, who set up online graphics software company Canva with Cliff Obrecht, and Michelle Strode, who co-founded technology company Invoice2go with her husband Chris.
So, making it on your own as a woman is even tougher. Having a bloke by your side helps.
I remarked about the lack of woman on the BRW list to a number of people and got pretty much the stock standard answer: woman don’t become ultra-wealthy because they are off having babies etc etc.
The truth is for all the talk in Australia about gender equality in the work place; not penalising women who want a career AND a family; lifting the proportion of women in senior position; and equal pay for men and women who do the same jobs – we still live in a very unequal business environment, where men earn the big dollars and women are expected to give it all up when they have children.
But, mostly there remains the old-world misogynist view of women not rising too high in society, displayed most strikingly and distastefully in the attacks on Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard called a ‘bitch’, and ‘witch’ by mostly middle-aged men in politics and the mainstream media. Julia Gillard was also judged by society – both men and women – for not having children, as if that was some kind of heinous crime, not merely a valid life choice for any woman.
This unequal belief system – that men should be the big earners, the stereotypical ‘providers’ – extends into all realms of Australian working life: I was flabbergasted to read recently that the basic contract for an Australian woman representing the national soccer team, the Matildas, is just $21,000 a year, two-thirds of the minimum wage.
This is a team, ranked 9th in the world, who beat Brazil at the World Cup this year and reached the knockout stages.
By contrast, regular members of the mens soccer team, the Socceroos, have each earn more than $200,000 so far this year, despite losing every game at the last World Cup and being ranked a lowly 65th in the world.
It’s does not surprise me at all that the Matildas have gone on strike, demanding fairer pay.
In the property industry, the sector I cover as a journalist, gender is a big, emotive issue.
Property has traditionally been a very blokey, boy’s club industry, though it’s true that efforts are being made to encourage more women into the industry, and also that there have been some notable successes in this endevour.
But still, the property industry remains dominated by outrageously wealthy men as can be seen by the number of young male property tycoons on the BRW Young Rich List (I counted five) and the complete absence of any women property tycoons.
The other point about the type of women who make it onto the BRW Young Rich List needs to be made delicately.
In short, looks definitely matter.
This to me, only reinforces the “Crocodile Dundee” image of Australia as the land of “Bruces” and “Sheilas”, that was circulated around the world in the 1980s and later reinforced by cringeworthy iconic Australians like the late animal entertainer Steve Irwin famous for jumping on to the backs of wild animals in true Aussie macho style
While it is true that there is much that is progressive, modern fresh and exciting about Australia, it still retains a distinct air of male chauvinism and a strong underlying current of conservatism (gay marriage is another area of distinct inequality).
Real wealth and power in this country, remains in the hands of blokes, now, and, given the make-up of latest BRW Young Rich List with its tiny female representation, will remain in their hands in the future too.