Equal work for equal pay

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Words by Ellen Kirkpatrick

It may be the 21st century, yet women are still earning less than their male counterparts.

Alexandra Hansen, in an article for The Conversation, reported on the results of a study conducted by Graduate Careers Australia. The study found that currently, an average gap of 9.4% exists between male and female graduates. Whilst this is decreased to 4.4% when allowances were made for controls such as courses studied, it means that almost 5% of wage differences cannot be explained by controlled studies. Clearly, there are still major inequalities between males and females in the Australian workforce.

2013 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures also show that women working full time earned, on average, 17.5% less than men. If part time work is accounted for, this gap widened to 37.3%. This is unsurprising when considering that some of the lowest paid industries in Australia, such as healthcare, education and human resources are dominated by women. On the other hand, the highest paid industries, such as engineering, mining and finance, are typically male dominated.

However, recent reports have found that differences in income do not only occur between occupations, suggesting that the traditional view that a woman’s work is not of the same value as a man’s still exists. In April this year, NY Times journalist Claire Clain Miller reported that the “differences exist within occupations, not between them.” Miller found that some of the widest gender pay gaps occurred in industries where both males and females worked. The most significant differences exist in the occupations of financial specialists, surgeons and pilots, with women earning less than 75% of the male pay rate.

The hard truth of these findings is that businesses and industries reward those who are willing to work disproportionately longer hours. Often women, who are pregnant or looking after young children and families, cannot take on these extra hours. As a result they are paid significantly less.

But this significant pay gap is just one of many inequalities that exist in the Australian labour force, and addressing this unfairness will require new understanding of the value of work of both men and women. Calls for more encouragement and training to be provided for all individuals seeking a new job, regardless of their gender, are being made. It is time for these single-gender industries to disappear and be replaced with more balanced and supportive workplaces