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Mind the gap: 9 out of 10 women call for gender wage gap reporting

This contribution has been submitted to Webdiary by a student in the Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at The University of Sydney as part of the unit's assessment. The topics covered in the pieces awaiting publication are interesting – and diverse. We hope that Webdiarists will enjoy reading them, as well as giving these aspiring journalists plenty of constructive commentary.

Mind the gap: 9 out of 10 women call for gender wage gap reporting
by Jaya Myler

I’ve been watching with great interest as debate has raged over the past few weeks about the ever-present gender wage gap. Survey results released today by The Heat Group, marketer to Australian women, show there’s been a huge groundswell of support for the demand issued by the ACTU for greater transparency by employers of gender pay data.

Nine out of 10 Australian women support the ACTU’s call for mandatory gender pay reporting, according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted by The Heat Group of over 1000 women, revealed Australian women feel they’re being paid less than men for equivalent work, they have fewer opportunities than men, and they’re demanding answers on wage discrimination.

77 per cent of respondents feel men have more opportunities than women in Australia, with only 22 per cent saying they felt we had reached gender equality, and 46 per cent believe their employer would pay a man more for their job.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for May 2008 shows women currently earn on average almost 16% less than men—around $186 per week.

The ACTU last month issued a call for mandatory annual reporting of gender pay data by all employers, prompted by the latest earnings reports. “Almost 40 years have passed since it became unlawful to pay women less than their male counterparts for work of equal value and yet the gender pay gap remains a yawning gulf in many Australian workplaces,” says ACTU President Sharan Burrow. The ACTU is appealing to employers to make salary information more transparent to allow for scrutiny, and help to close the gender wage gap.

Gillian Franklin, Managing Director of the Heat Group said when it comes to setting salary at the Heat Group, gender and age don’t come into the mix. “We offer salary based on experience, expertise and the role being filled—gender plays no role in determining our salary packages.” 

Anna McPhee, Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, said it’s not just money that’s the issue.  “Pay equity is not just about equal pay for equal work.  The 15.6% gender wage gap reveals the systemic discrimination in the under-valuation of women’s work”, she said.

While we’ve come a long way towards reaching gender equality since women won the right to equal pay for equal work in 1972, there’s still a fair way to go. 76 per cent of Heat Group survey respondents said there was still room for improvement, and only five per cent said they felt the gender wage gap was no longer an issue.


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What sort of work, Jaya?

Jaya, I have often read that there is still pay inequality in the workplace but not once has anyone given an example. Just stating that there is inequality does not without examples to back it up tell us much.

So in what sort of work are women paid less - there are male and female nurses - do they get the same pay as each other?

What about female mechanics? Teachers? Call centre staff? Gardeners such as women seen mowing public spaces - where exactly is the pay inequality?

In the public service you are pay by the Grade you are in, men and women the same rates.

There is talk now of women going more into the front line in war. I doubt they will be expected to take less pay if they do. I am sure you would find Defence personnel in support roles such as drivers, male and female get the same pay. Correct me if I am wrong.

Is it as big an issue as you and others claim? Giving some examples might support your piece. 

Fight for our right

Jaya, thank you for covering this important topic. I am appalled that women in democratic Australia are still having to deal with wage inequality at the workplace. Mind you, this is an issue in many democratic countries around the world.

I have been following a related topic: The Productivity Commission’s proposal for an 18 week, government-funded paid maternity leave scheme. I found a comment on this topic by Sharan Burrow also very fitting to your topic on the gender wage gap:

[An additional employer's "top up" of the maternity leave income] would also be an appropriate way of valuing the skills women bring to our workplaces. “Australia’s economic expansion in the last 15 years has been fuelled by record numbers of women entering the workforce." (ACTU Press Release)

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