Why are women still paid less?

Think women have reached financial equality with men? Think again. According to workforce diversity specialist Conrad Liveris, men are still being paid an average of 20 per cent more than women for the same jobs.

Far from showing signs of abating, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) research shows that the gender pay gap has, in fact, been steadily increasing over the last decade.

In March, the ACTU released a report, Gender Pay Gap – Over the Life Cycle, stating that “Australian women are financially disadvantaged at every key stage of their life”. This includes in childhood, the workplace, through pregnancy, motherhood, as a caregiver and in retirement.

The report found that despite women making up 42 per cent of the workforce, they currently earn 17.2 per cent less than men.

This is true of women performing the same jobs as men (even within the same companies). Top accounting firms including PriceWaterHouseCoopers, EY and Deloitte have been found to pay men and women differently for the same positions, with the pay gap ranging from one to five per cent.

“Even at their highest level, at the partnership level, they were finding about a 5 per cent gender pay gap in a like-for-like basis,” Mr Liveris said.

However, the problem is widespread across numerous industries.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows this equates to an average pay gap of almost $500 per week between men and women.

“In 2016, the findings in today’s report are just overwhelming,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney. “Young girls are still disadvantaged, women in the workplace are presented with constant barriers and older women face a poor retirement, possibly a retirement into poverty.”

Read more at abc.net.au.

Opinion: Equal pay starts at home

A US Pew Research Study published last Wednesday revealed that more than half of men believe gender discrimination has mostly been eliminated. However, the financial inequality of women, evident in the above data, is just one example of how this belief can be disproven.

Over the last decade, numbers from the ACTU show that the gender pay gap has grown from around 15 per cent in 2004 to a record high of 18.8 per cent in 2015 before dipping in 2016. Perhaps most surprisingly, Australia has dropped in the Global Gender Gap Index, from 15th place in 2006 to 36th place in 2015. This places us below some developing countries, such as Rwanda and Mozambique.

How can we tackle the financial inequality experienced by adult women when we are neglecting it in girls? In addition to the 17.2 per cent gap, the ACTU’s report shows the gender pay gap begins early in life, with girls receiving 11 per cent less pocket money than boys.

And despite the fact that girls consistently out-perform boys in many of the key achievement indicators at school, and that more girls than boys complete secondary school, less than one in 20 girls will consider a career in science, technology, engineering or maths. This may be due to pressure to engage in traditionally gendered interests.

Looking at the data, we can conclude that chief to the issue is that women’s work is less valued than men’s. One example is the lower rates of management positions given to women. According to Mr Liveris, sexual discrimination is still a concerning aspect in the workplace, with only about a 20 per cent of rate of women in management.

“If he (a male account manager) is taking bigger projects, for example, they’re viewed more favourably, but she might be doing smaller projects that amount to a really similar effort or financial return for the organisation; they’re just not valued equally,” Mr Liveris said.

The ACTU’s suggestions for tackling this rising pay gap include:

  • A government funded parental leave scheme of 26 weeks paid at no less than the national minimum wage plus superannuation;
  • Fifteen hours of free childcare for every child per week for all families;
  • A right to request flexible work arrangements that clearly set out an employer’s obligations to properly consider and make reasonable efforts to accommodate requests.

What do you think? Have you experienced the gender pay gap? What reasons can you suggest to explain the rising gap? Do you think pay inequality of girls starts from a young age?

Related articles:
Why do women retire in poverty?
Women’s super under review
Policy ban to help homeless women

Written by Amelia Theodorakis

A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.

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