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Women work for free

16 November 2015

equal pay

If you’re a female working full time in the UK then from November 9 you effectively began working for free until the end of the year. If you’re female and working in Australia your paid work finished way before that because at 17.9% our gender pay gap is 3.7% greater than that of our UK sisters.

Add to this the percentage of unpaid home and caring duties left to most women to do and any notion of “equality” is risible.

Derisive snorts of agreement aside this sort of inequality is disturbing because it starts young, continues throughout our lives and poses significant problems for us and the economy.

Westpac research, carried out a few years ago now, and which has been backed up by others doing similar research found that boys were paid more pocket money for the jobs designated to them than girls. Mowing the lawn gets more pay than doing the laundry. Mowing the lawn is considered a boys’ job, and the laundry, a girls’ job.

Female graduates are routinely paid less than their male counterparts – same degree, usually better results, but it is gender that talks.

Women, who are routinely rubbished for not asking for what they are worth and rubbished again for not applying for promotion to higher roles because they worry they can’t do the job well enough, suffer in the take-home pay stakes. Pay rises are not performance based, just consider sports stars.

Unconscious bias plays a part in perpetuating the inequalities of the workplace - as do career gaps for having children or taking on caring duties. Divorce leaves women less well-off, and single motherhood is a hard slog in many ways, including financially.

And it affects both the women and their children.

What about when an industry or workplace becomes more female? You guessed it: jobs primarily associated with female labour are devalued, and that includes areas such as the law. The people at the top and being paid the most in professions that have been “feminised” are nearly all men.

Productivity remains under par in a workforce where the potential of the population is not being used to its fullest extent.

Finally, what happens when it comes to superannuation? An ageing population, and the fact women live longer than men, but are leaving the workforce with much less super will apply further pressure on the economy.

CEO Brian Hartzer has signed on as a CEO Pay Equity Ambassador, joining more than 70 business leaders who have declared their support for ensuring pay equity in their companies.

It's an initiative promoted by the Australian Government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WEGA) which is the statutory body for promoting and improving gender equality in Australian workplaces.

Westpac Group makes inclusion and diversity a strategic imperative as it contributes to our vision to be one of the world's great service companies. We report to WGEA on an annual basis on the gender equity progress we have made. This is a requirement of all non-public sector organisations with more than 100 employees, under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012

According to the WGEA:

The gender pay gap nationally, full-time average earning difference is $284.20 per week; 17.9%.

The gender pay gap is influenced by a number of interrelated work, family and societal factors, including stereotypes about the work women and men ‘should’ do, and the way women and men ‘should’ engage in the workforce. Other factors that contribute to the gender pay gap include:

Women and men working in different industries (industrial segregation) and different jobs (occupational segregation). Historically, female-dominated industries and jobs have attracted lower wages than male dominated industries and jobs.

A lack of women in senior positions, and a lack of part-time or flexible senior roles. Women are more likely than men to work part-time or flexibly because they still undertake most of society’s unpaid caring work and may find it difficult to access senior roles.

Women’s more precarious attachment to the workforce (largely due to their unpaid caring responsibilities).

Differences in education, work experience and seniority.

Discrimination, both direct and indirect.