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Just pay me Ladybucks

05 September 2014

Exciting times abound for it is Equal Pay Day! And finally we have something to celebrate.  After almost 50 years of equal opportunity campaigning, finally women and men are being paid the same wage to do the same job.  It’s about damn time as well, given that gender is as much of a predictor of intelligence, capability and potential as is eye colour.  And we don’t discriminate against brown eyed people, do we?

I’m kidding.

And not about the eye colour thing, unfortunately.  On this glorious Equal Pay Day I’m really disheartened to report that females still earn just 81.8 cents for every dollar that a man earns (Wilson, 2014).  To make matters worse, the gender pay gap has actually increased (since 1994, the first year that data was captured), and experts predict that it will take at least 75 years for equality to be reached (Wilson, 2014).  So by the time I’m 105 I could be writing this article with a more positive slant.   

Women are now better educated than men, and in fact have been so since the 1990s. The current ratio of male to female university graduates is 93 males for every 100 females (Chamie, 2014). There is also evidence women do not only graduate in higher numbers, but also outperform their male colleagues in every aspect of tertiary education (Garner, 2009).  What there is also evidence of, unfortunately, is that females tend to choose degrees that lead to lower paid professions, such as humanities and education, whereas males are more likely to enrol in STEM based education, which is generously remunerated in the labour market.  But why is that?

Why gender discrimination

The ‘why is that’ question can be looked at in two ways – why do women choose to study degrees which lead to lower paying professions, or why do these professions attract lower pay?  The answer to the former question deserves a thesis length explanation, but essentially boils down to the societal expectation that females possess more ‘communal’ type qualities, ie. being helpful, caring and kind, which translate into professional success in ‘caring’ type professions – such a nursing and teaching (Eagly & Carli, 2007).  Therefore, it could be safely concluded that it is less about females ‘choosing’ lower paid professions and more about society’s expectation of what females can and should excel at.

But why do these professions attract lower pay? Although some economists argue that wages levels are merely a result of free market forces, sociologists have found evidence of the cultural devaluation of female work – ie. a profession may attract lower wages on account of being dominated by females (England, 1992).  Therefore, females could be unconsciously channelled into lower paid professions, and professions could be attracting lower pay on account of there being a majority of females – a confusing and contradictory double bind.

However, even if you completely ignore the wage differential between typical ‘female’ and ‘male’ professions, a significant ‘within occupation’ wage gap continues to exist.  Multiple studies, spanning many decades, thousands of people and almost all occupations, have found that males continue to earn more than females when performing the same roles (Eagly & Carli, 2007). These studies control for all variables that one would expect to influence wages, for example, education, work experience and overall job performance.  Furthermore, assumptions that men are more ambitious than women, work harder (ie. work or want to work longer hours), and have a greater preference for achievement and challenge within their roles has also been found to be untrue (Eagly & Carli, 2007). Therefore, the only remaining explanation is:

‘…Simply being a woman is the greatest major contributing factor to the wage gap in Australia.’ (NATSEM, 2009, p. v)

I no longer trust economics, policy, organisations or government to fix this blatant discrimination, so I’m going to have to take matters into my own hands.  I hereby propose a new currency: Ladybucks.

Imagine it.  Since males get paid more than females just for being males, let’s legitimize the divide by creating a new currency: Ladybucks. Ladybucks will naturally only be paid to women, and will be pegged at 1:1 to the AUD, but will come with one caveat: the current wage differential will be translated into additional annual leave.  So, given that males currently earn 20 percent more - merely based on their gender - females will receive 20 percent or approximately 64 days additional annual leave, merely based on their gender.

Does that sound unfair?

So does unequal pay.

Teigan Margetts is an avid reader, writer and blogger on all things diversity and inclusion. She can be contacted on teigankatemargetts@gmail.com for questions, comments or collaboration opportunities.

REFERENCES

Chemie, J. (2014) Women are More Educated than Men but Still Paid Less. Yale Global. http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/women-more-educated-men-still-paid-less-men. Accessed: 5 September 2014

England, P. (1992) Comparable Worth: Theories and Evidence. New York: Adline De Gruyer.

Eagly, A. & Carli, L. (2007) Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders. Boston: Harvard University Press.

Garner, R. (2009) It’s Academic: University Women are Beating Men at Almost Everything. The Independent.  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/its-academic-university-women-are-beating-men-at-almost-everything-1693493.html.  Accessed: 5 September 2014

NATSEM: National Centre for Social and Economic Wellbeing. The impact of a sustained gender wage gap in the economy. Report to the Office for Women,Department of Families, Community Services, Housing and Indigenous Affairs, 2009. P. v-vi.

Wilson, L. (2014) Women Earn Less than Men as Gender Gap Grows. News.com.auhttp://www.news.com.au/finance/women-earn-less-than-men-as-gender-gap-grows/story-e6frfm1i-1227024676703. Accessed: 5 September 2014

Wilson, L. (2014) Equal Pay for Women will not be achieved for 75 years Oxfam Report Reveals. News.com.au http://www.news.com.au/national/equal-pay-for-women-will-not-be-achieved-for-75-years-oxfam-report-reveals/story-fncynjr2-1226987544704. Accessed: 5 September 2014 

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