What Women Really Want

The results of the “What Women Want” survey are in, and there’s a long way to go

Ten years ago, we asked 5000 women what mattered most to them. A decade later, has anything changed? To find out, we conducted another survey and then hit the streets to find out more.

A lot has happened since 2009: Instagram was created, the #MeToo movement exploded and reverberated around the globe and the former host of Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump, became the leader of the free world (despite the #MeToo movement). But how has all this affected the women of Australia? A decade after our first “What Women Want” survey, we’ve partnered with software giant Salesforce to take the pulse of Australia’s working women once again. Our survey of thousands of women found several significant shifts in attitudes on everything from parental leave and sexual harassment to the pay gap, mental health, career and kids. The biggest shift? Women today are overwhelmingly more satisfied and empowered in the workplace. Wanting to know more, we took to the streets to ask the big questions.

51% OF WOMEN say they are more likely than five years ago to speak out about sexual harassment


“When I was in my early 20s, an older male colleague followed me into the women’s bathroom at work and exposed himself. I was disgusted, but at the time I shrugged it off as it was done in jest – he was trying to get a reaction out of me. It never crossed my mind to report it to HR – in those days, lots of women put up with inappropriate behaviour, and men knew they’d get away with it. It’s only been since the emergence of #MeToo that women have finally been able to say, ‘No, that’s not OK.’ It’s long overdue, but the impact has been immediate and hopefully everlasting.”

39% OF WOMEN think Carrie Bickmore personifies the ideal Australian woman, followed by Lisa Wilkinson, Cate Blanchett and Julie Bishop (all 26%)


“In my opinion, [TV host] Carrie Bickmore really does embody the ideal Australian woman because she’s compassionate, confident and brutally honest in everything she does. She also possesses the best traits of a typical Australian woman, which are a sense of humour, independence and confidence [according to marie claire’s survey]. These are all qualities I aspire to have. I feel like I’m a strong, independent woman in the making.”

64% OF WOMEN say the parental leave policy for dads needs improving


“When my daughter Luna was born [in 2016], my husband only requested four days off work because he’d just started a new job. At the time I thought, ‘I’ve got this.’ By day four I was crying and begging him to stay. Luckily, he was able to take another week off. As well as improving our parental leave policy for dads, we also need a cultural shift for dads to be equal partners. I’m starting to think about going back to work and I’ve been surprised at how hard it is to find the balance.”

70% OF WOMEN have sought help from professionals to deal with stress


“I am one of many women in Australia who have sought professional help to deal with mental health issues. I see mental health as a spectrum; we all have our problems and we’re all susceptible to experiencing some kind of anxiety. Talking to someone is important – so is knowing you’re not alone. It doesn’t surprise me that 87 per cent of women say they feel stressed at some stage during their work day. Most of my stress comes from feeling I need to be everything to everyone at work, home and in life. When I’m feeling anxious, I tell myself to relax and give myself a break, because life is short.”

60% OF WOMEN say domestic violence is one of Australia’s biggest problems


“You only need to watch the news to realise domestic violence is a huge issue in Australia. I have three close friends who have left abusive relationships, and I have seen them go from being shadows of themselves to coming out the other side, rediscovering themselves and thriving.”

2009 VS 2019

THEN: 69% of women were unhappy with their chosen career path

NOW: 82% of women are confident in their chosen career path 


“I’ve always loved fashion, but it wasn’t until I took a textile class in high school that I knew I wanted to make a career out of it. I’m definitely one of the 82 per cent of women in Australia who are satisfied in their current job. Some days I really feel like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada – living the dream.”

THEN: The top three goals were: lose weight, get a qualification, get promoted

NOW: The top three goals are: save money, travel the world, lose weight



“I love to travel – like the 63 per cent of women who say travel is one of their greatest passions … You learn so much from it – not only about the world but yourself – by meeting different people and experiencing other cultures. We are better for travelling. Next on my bucket list is Scotland.”

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