With International Women’s Day earlier this month the gender pay gap was once again a topic of discussion.
It has been big news recently, around the world both women and men have been standing up and voicing their objection. If you are a bit perplexed as to what the pay gap actually is, quite simply put it is the difference between the average men’s and women’s earnings expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings.
Currently the pay gap sits at 15.3% but it fluctuates between 15% – 19% and is calculated from data collected from non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees, covering about 4 million employees in Australia. The government body responsible for analysing the gender pay gap is the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and you can find out more about them here.
You will find discussion on the gender pay gap across a range of current media. You may have read about Lisa Wilkinson who in 2017 was receiving a substantially smaller salary than her co-host Karl Stefanovic. This inequality led to Lisa resigning from her role and making national news.
You may have also seen BBC former China editor Carrie Gracie resigned recently, saying there had been “unlawful pay discrimination”. You can see an interview with Carrie here where she addresses the real issues facing BBC.
Earlier this year, news came out that actor Mark Wahlberg had announced he would donate his sizeable profits to a legal fund in Michelle William’s name after it was revealed Mark was paid 1500 times what Michelle was.
These are all amazing examples of high profile individuals who have tried to raise awareness and encourage our society to create more financial equality but there is another side to this.
It’s all well and good for celebrities and high paid corporate women to make a stand but let’s look at the real picture for many working class women. Lisa Wilkinson’s salary was reportedly half what Karl was receiving, however her salary was still in excess of $1 million per year. That kind of income comes with privilege attached to it, Lisa was able to leave her role and you can be assured she wasn’t going to struggle with the grocery bill upon doing so.
Now, I am not having a go at these men and women, I think it’s a fantastic thing that they have raised the issue in the public domain but I think we can do more.
Firstly my concern is, why should women feel like having to resign is the best option? How has it become acceptable in our society that there is such a giant pay gap or one at all? The fact that this issue has now become something we have to actively campaign and raise awareness about seems a problem in itself.
But let’s look at a hypothetical situation…
Jane is working for a manufacturing company, she is one of the sales staff and as part of her role she receives a retainer as well as a commission. Jane has 3 kids and is working full time due to her husband’s long term illness.
Jane’s salary is their family’s entire wage. She is great at what she does, she has a sales background and relevant qualifications. However she is paid 15% less than her male counterparts. Due to this gap her family struggles to pay their weekly bills and there is never anything left over for extras.
Jane does not have the option of resigning in protest, she needs to feed her family. Even if she did resign you can bet it wouldn’t be featuring heavily on social media or in the papers. Discussion on pay gap and the news surrounding the celebrities above are just that in Jane’s world – discussion and news, it has no tangible effect on her situation.
So, what can you do to make a difference, other than resigning your job:
- Communicate with your boss – make it clear that you are aware of the pay gap and it is not ok with you. Sometimes all it takes it bringing the issue out into the open. No matter what role you are in you have the right to raise the issue.
- Connect with your colleagues – who else in your organisation or industry could help you address this inequality? Resigning as one person may not make a difference but imagine if the whole HR department of an organisation like Rio Tinto walked off the job, now that would be powerful.
- Use your profile – if you are a high profile individual (whether you are male or female) then use that to continue to raise awareness about the pay gap. Share articles like this one or put your opinion forward in discussions.
- Be visible – show the world this issue matters to you by doing something out of the ordinary like the Golden Globes stand against sexual harassment by wearing black. You don’t have to be at a worldwide event but maybe you wear a shirt that raises awareness or organise a fundraiser where funds go to helping women affected by the pay gap.
On the 1st of Jan 2018, Iceland made it illegal to pay women less than men. If legislation is what it takes for there to be equality then, I’m all for it.
There are lots of ways we can work towards a world that doesn’t have a gender pay gap but we all need to stand up in our little way and say that it’s not ok and we are willing to do our part to make a difference.