Pay attention: Closing the wage gap

The gender pay gap has been in the news ever since Lisa Wilkinson left Channel Nine’s Today show. The story took an interesting turn when it was revealed Wilkinson would be paid in excess of $2 million at Channel 10, while her soon-to-be co-hosts on The Project Carrie Bickmore and Waleed Aly (both Gold Logie winners) are each rumoured to earn roughly $500,000 per year.

Friday is Equal Pay Day — a date marking the extra 62 days women have to work to earn the same amount as men by June 30 this year. Today also marks the closest we have been to closing the pay gap in 20 years, despite new figures suggesting the gender pay gap is still sitting between 14 and 19 per cent – and in a system where wages and super are linked, the gender pay gap feeds into the superannuation gap – which, at the moment, is around 40 per cent.

The concept of merit is often brought up around the gender pay dispute, namely that employees should be paid based on their experience and ability, rather than their sex. This is valid. But considering girls and young women outperform their male counterparts when it comes to educational attainment and women are still performing the bulk of unpaid domestic chores (more than 60 per cent of men report helping with less than five hours’ worth of housework per week) in a climate where men are working less, the discrepancy must be a bitter pill to swallow.

In 2010, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Gender Initiative identified three key areas — education, employment and entrepreneurship as critical to the development of the Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now campaign. Despite the time, money and resources dedicated to the cause, statistics indicate that the gender pay gap remains largely unchanged. New figures suggest Australia’s discrepancy sits at 14.6 per cent (a full-time female employee earns 87 cents for every dollar a male earns), more than double that of New Zealand (six per cent), a nation who has elected their third female Prime Minister. India has the highest gender pay gap at a whopping 56 per cent, while Belgium is the lowest at three per cent. Some demographics are worse off than others. The gender pay gap is particularly prevalent for high income workers, it increases with age, and it widens for parents — often referred to as the “motherhood penalty”.

According to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, male employment has declined by 18 per cent in the last 50 years, while female workers have increased by 22 per cent. According to The Good Universities Guide, female-dominated fields such as nursing, rehabilitation and teaching are on the rise, but the salaries are still middle-of-the-range in comparison to high paying, predominately male professions like engineering.

So, if the plight of women in the workforce is so transparent, what are we doing about it?

Challenging stereotypes

Reports of women taking leave after having a child and struggling to find employment later down the track are common, but there are advocates for a shift in mindset. In March, a cross party group of 44 MPs from the United Kingdom sent a letter outlining the need for “non-transferrable paid parental leave for fathers or second parents” to Equalities Secretary Justine Greening. The intention is to bring balance to parenting, considered “one of the most significant causes of the gender pay gap”, however, the transition may already be in motion. In September, it was revealed that, for the first time, women outnumber men in the dental industry — the highest paying profession straight out of university with an 82.6 per cent employment rate for undergraduates (The Good Universities Guide 2018).

Pushing STEM

The promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in female education, particularly from an early age, is a tactic aimed at reducing the pay gap. Toys like Goldieblox are designed for girls as young as four, with the intention of encouraging their interest in fields like engineering and architecture, while social enterprise Code Like A Girl provides workshops and coding camps that help build the skills to fill around 700,000 new jobs in the digital tech sphere by 2020. Elsewhere, No Gender December, built on the premise that a child’s gender shouldn’t determine the type of toys they play with, has also brought the gender equality discussion into the media spotlight.

Girledworld – which Good Education Group was a sponsor of and provided input into the organisation’s leadership and entrepreneurship curriculum, recently ran an event designed to upskill and empower secondary school girls with 21st century skills, a future of work mindset and access to strong female leaders and global STEM role models.

Fighting Violence Against Women (VAW)

Domestic violence is a huge problem around the world and Australia is no exception. Society is unlikely to get its head around fair treatment of women in the workforce while abuse and violence to women in their own homes is so prevalent. White Ribbon, Our Watch and Lifeline are all services committing to supporting and assisting the victims of family violence.

Where to next?

Every day we’re bombarded by statistics about how rapidly the world of work is changing and how important STEM, leadership and entrepreneurial skills are going to be to that new reality. The next generation of women will play an important part in shaping the future. But in order to achieve this, young girls must be supported and empowered to know they are capable of anything, have access to every opportunity in the world and most importantly, demand more for themselves.


Makayla Daglish is the Marketing Director for Good Education Group and brings to the sector nearly a decade of experience in strategic marketing and corporate affairs. Makayla is passionate about helping prepare and challenge young females to become the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders. Learn more about Makayla.

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