Seven things Tony Abbott should fix now that he has joined HeforShe

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Foreign Affairs Minister ...

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Speaker Bronwyn Bishop at the UN Women breakfast at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 3 March 2015. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Prime Minister for Women, in his move towards good government for women and men, has signed the #HeForShe pledge at a breakfast in Canberra on Tuesday.

Emma Watson launched #HeForShe last year – it's a United Nations campaign for gender equality with the focus on getting men and boys to stand up for equal rights. And yesterday, the Minister for Women signed up to take action "against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls", and to acknowledge that "gender equality is not only a women's issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation".

So, he is finally – finally – on board with the 51 per cent. And with the 10,000 Australian men who think signing the pledge will actually help.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott met Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Statt-Despoja when he attended the UN Women ...

Prime Minister Tony Abbott met Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Statt-Despoja when he attended the UN Women International Women's Day breakfast at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 3 March 2015. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew Meares

Of course, equality activists understand that we need deeds not words on a pledge – but just in case the Prime Minister is actually serious about the commitment, I thought it would be good to ask people who've got a lot of experience on just this thing.


In fact, I'm giving the PM a helping hand and access to women who've been fighting the equality fight for years.

Ged Kearney, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has a few ideas about what the Prime Minister could do about employment which would make a big difference to women. You can imagine.

She says the idea that women should trade flexible working arrangements for pay and conditions will definitely broaden the gender pay gap.

"And he needs to ensure that penalty rates and the minimum wage are never eroded – women are over represented in casual work, part-time work and low-paid work so they need to be protected," she said.

"He seriously needs to increase funding and access to childcare."

Once that's sorted, he should then work on 26 weeks of paid parental leave with continuing superannuation.

And here's one the Prime Minister could achieve speedily – just in case he wants an early achievement.

Fiona McCormack, the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, wants family violence clauses enshrined in workplaces across Australia. "That would be fantastic .  . . it would reduce rates of poverty women can often fall into. So many women lose their jobs [as a result of family violence]."

And of course some women don't have access to jobs because they've never had the chance to have an education which might prepare them for the workforce.

Shirley Alexander, the deputy vice-chancellor (education and students) at the University of Technology and a member of the expert panel which provides advice on higher education to the Office for Learning and Teaching, became a single mother when she was widowed in her early 20s and says that commonwealth support for her education made all the difference. She suggests the government could focus on funding women of all age groups who have children and who don't have access to education.

"They may be trapped in a situation where they can't afford to study because they have to be a breadwinner or they are trapped by violence – the opportunity to be funded to get an education to improve their lives and the lives of their children is life-changing."

So we've sorted the jobs, the education and the protection from violence.

Marie Coleman, chair of the social policy committee of the National Foundation for Australian Women, wants to remind the PM that much depends on women having a roof over their heads.

Prime Minister, you can fix this!

Coleman says: "This government is evacuating – for the first time since Menzies – a Commonwealth role in housing . . . it's disgraceful. Women who leave men need safe and affordable housing."

And perhaps some advice from a fellow politician would be helpful.

Kelly Vincent, the Dignity for Disability MLC in South Australia, has a long list for the PM. And she's not afraid to use it.

She says parental rights are often denied – through forced sterilisation -  to women with a disability. No wonder, since many of those women have also been denied sex education. Hard to speak up, says Vincent, "when you don't know what's normal and healthy". More terrifying, Prime Minister, that absence of education means women with disabilities can't speak up about abuse.

Or what about advice from a senior medico, Sharon Tivey, the president of the Australian Federation of Medical Women and a staff anaesthetist at St George Hospital?

Tivey says the federation is very concerned about the impact of funding cuts on domestic violence services.

"We want to see that funding reinstated," she said.

And another thing: ensure that the medical curriculum across universities introduces gender aspects of disease and disease management, suggests Tivey.

We'd lose fewer women to ischaemic heart disease if more doctors knew that men might get those chest pains, but women are more likely to say they feel tired.

Perhaps you can pass that bit on to the Minister for Education, since he is so interested in universities.

And finally, everything comes down to money.

Julie Kun, the acting CEO of WIRE, a women's information service which has done lots of research on women and money, says the PM really needs to reduce that persistent gender wage gap, now blown out to 18.8 per cent.

"If women and men were paid the same, it would mean fewer women would say 'I gave up my work when I had a child because my husband earns much more than me'."

As Kun says, "Economics isn't the whole thing but it's something."

"If women had that 18.8 per cent in their paypacket, what an impact it would hve on their future."

There you go, Mr Abbott. #PMforShe. It has a nice ring to it. You should try it.

Follow Jenna on Twitter @jennaprice or email