Why we can do better – the gender pay gap

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Gender pay gaps have huge economic and social consequences for individuals, families and wider society. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the average full time working man earns 18.2%, or about $300 more each week, than the average full time working woman. If you take part-time and casual work into account, the gap jumps to a massive 37.3%.

In Queensland, the difference equals an average of $22 000 per year between men and women. Over a woman’s lifetime, this accumulates to a deficit of nearly $1 million and an even higher $1.5 million for those with university degrees.

From statistics, it is evident that women earn significantly less than men, and that this has a significant impact on their financial security over their lifetimes.

The female-dominated health care and social assistance sector has the highest gender pay gap at 30.7%, followed by financial and insurance services at 30% and rental, hiring and real estate services at 29%. The lowest pay gaps are found in public administration and safety (7.3%), accommodation and food services (8%), and retail trade (10%). A gender pay gap is found in all measured sectors.

Research makes reference to a range of aspects which attribute to the wage gap, including inflexible work arrangements, many women being employed in part-time and casual employment, and sectoral differences in pay.

On top of this, women’s work can be undervalued because of the absence of appropriate classification and pay structures, poor recognition of qualifications, unconscious gender biases and discrimination, and inadequate application of equal pay measures.

When all other commonly measured factors besides gender are accounted for, women are still persistently paid less.

This is not only unequitable and unfair, but it is damaging to individuals, families, the economy, and society as a whole. One Goldman Sachs’ report estimated that closing the gap between male and female employment would boost Australia’s GDP by 11%.

Another report indicates that closing the gap would be good for industry, encouraging greater competitiveness and economic output, reducing costs as a result of a happier workforce and lower staff turnover, and a greater retention of highly skilled and valuable staff.

Higher earning capacity also relates directly to an individual’s ability to provide for themselves and their family, their ability to be independent, and their levels of disposable income and therefore ability to stimulate the economy.

With equal pay measures first introduced in Australia in 1969, it has been well and truly long enough for us to have seen a shift to equal pay which has not yet happened. At the end of the day, we as a society can do so much better. We owe it to ourselves, our employees, and our families. If we can make a small step which brings pay into line, we will see huge societal benefits.

While it’s not something I grew up expecting to have to experience as a young woman on the cusp of entering the workforce, I also remain optimistic that we can do all we can to ensure women can gain equal pay for equal work. Maybe you can make just a small difference in your workplace – revise your pay structure and employee’s salaries, stick up for your colleagues, get educated on the topic – because I think we can make this issue history.

At the end of the day, this effects our mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives, daughters and friends. Therefore, it effects all of us. The onus is on us, as educated individuals, to start talking and changing, for our own sake and the sake of others.

This post written after I had the opportunity to comment on a series of editorial and news pieces released by APN Newsdesk for The Chronicle (Toowoomba), Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour), NewsMail (Bundaberg), the Fraser Coast Chronicle (Fraser Coast), and online news, as well as a radio interview done on the 26th May 2015 for radio station River 94.9 in Brisbane.

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