“In nearly every industry, this gender pay gap begins at graduation”. Find out why Equal Pay Day is so important.

“In nearly every industry, this gender pay gap begins at graduation”. Find out why Equal Pay Day is so important.

MyLaTrobe spoke to Tasha Weir, Research Gender Equity Officer at La Trobe about the importance of Equal Pay Day on 28 August. Tasha is a gender equality and diversity expert and has a PhD focused in Gender and Women’s Studies from La Trobe University.

What is Equal Pay Day and why is it important?

This year it falls on Wednesday 28 August marking the additional 59 days women have to work from the end of the last financial year (30 June) to earn the same amount as men.

Equal Pay Day is a day to stop and reflect that despite years of activism and awareness raising a gender pay gap still exists and we are a long way off achieving true equality in the workplace.

It falls on a different date each year.  This year it falls on Wednesday 28 August marking the additional 59 days women have to work from the end of the last financial year (30 June) to earn the same amount as men.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is commonly misunderstood to be two people paid differently for the same work of the same value. This is equal pay, something that has been unlawful in Australia since 1972.

The gender pay gap is the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. It is a measure of women’s overall position in the paid workforce and does not compare like roles.

The gender pay gap is commonly misunderstood to be two people paid differently for the same work of the same value. This is equal pay, something that has been unlawful in Australia since 1972.

Currently the national pay gap is 14% (that is women, on average, earn 14% less per week than men). At May 2019, women’s average weekly ordinary full-time earnings across all industries and occupations was $1,484.80 compared to men’s average weekly ordinary full-time earnings of $1,726.30.

The pay gap differs across industries – it is the highest in the financial and insurance sector (24.4%) and the lowest in retail (6.3%). This is because of the method of pay setting. The gender pay gap is higher when set by individual arrangement, compared to when pay is set by award or collective agreement.

Tasha Weir is a gender equality and diversity expert and has a PhD focused in Gender and Women’s Studies from La Trobe University.

Why does it exist?

Men still dominate senior leadership roles: Only 17.1% of CEOs in Australia are women and only 30% of key management positions are held by women.

Industrial segregation: there has been a historic and systemic undervaluing of women’s work. We all know there’s no such thing as ‘girl jobs’ and ‘boy jobs’, but occupational segregation exists. Women dominate the caring industries (teaching, childcare, nursing, retail) which attracts lower wages and prestige. Men dominate STEM, mining and construction – jobs which typically attract more money.

Caring work: women continue to take on a disproportionate share of unpaid and domestic work – not just childbearing and childrearing, but also caring for the elderly and sick.

Part-time work: because they do the lion’s share of caring work, women spend a greater time out of the or working part-time.

Men still dominate senior leadership roles: Only 17.1% of CEOs in Australia are women and only 30% of key management positions are held by women. Even in female dominated industries, men are more likely to be in leadership positions.

There is also still active discrimination in hiring and pay decisions.

Why is it important for students to be aware of this before entering the workplace?

Women are more likely to spend their lives working and caring for the home and their families. They are more likely to retire in poverty

The gender pay gap does not just impact a woman once in her life. It has a compounding effect that results in a woman’s reduced earning capacity over her lifetime.

It is an issue that affects everyone from recent graduates to senior workers and retirees.

On average women are less likely to progress as far as men in their career and accumulate less money for retirement (the superannuation gap)

Women are more likely to spend their lives working and caring for the home and their families. They are more likely to retire in poverty.

What progress has been made to tackle the gender pay and what challenges still remain?

One of the greatest challenges is gender-based violence. One in three women globally will be subject to gender-based violence in her lifetime which impacts on women’s ability to participate not only in paid work, but also in political leadership.

Equal pay for work of equal value has been in place since 1972, and since then there has been much improvement, for instance, the introduction of Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave Scheme and the Fair Work Act in 2009, and the Workplace Gender Equality Act in 2012 (which made reporting on renumeration data compulsory in 2014).

One of the greatest challenges is gender-based violence. One in three women globally will be subject to gender-based violence in her lifetime which impacts on women’s ability to participate not only in paid work, but also in political leadership.

What can I do as a student to tackle this issue and protect myself when I enter the world of work?

There is a gender pay gap favouring men in every industry and occupational category in Australia. In nearly every industry, this gender pay gap begins at graduation.

Be aware! Check whether your employer or prospective employer has a gender quality strategy or policy. Find out what your flexible work and parental leave entitlements are

Negotiate on pay and know your value: There is a gender pay gap favouring men in every industry and occupational category in Australia. In nearly every industry, this gender pay gap begins at graduation. Even when pay is set by award or collective agreement, they way be some room to negotiate. Advocate for yourself and be clear about what you are asking for.

Share the care and domestic work: If you are starting a family talk to your partner about how to balance paid and unpaid work. Challenge stereotypes at work and at home – there is no such thing as ‘women’s work’ or ‘men’s work’. Consider the impact of decisions about caring work on your long term potential and superannuation balance

Participate in Equal Pay Day!

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