Jenna Price: Gender pay gap wide as ever

An older friend of mine asked me the other day what ''mansplaining'' means. It's a term I'm not all that crazy about because it stereotypes men. If I've spent my life trying to argue against stereotypes (although, whoops, it's true, I am a humourless feminist), then how is it equitable if I try to paint an idea of men with the same narrow view?

Mansplaining, for those of you who have not come across it, is the idea that men can explain the situation that women find themselves in better than women can explain it. At least that's my version.

The slightly grubby Urban Dictionary has a few definitions too.

This: ''To explain in a patronising manner, assuming total ignorance on the part of those listening. The mansplainer is often shocked and hurt when their mansplanation is not taken as absolute fact, criticised or even rejected altogether.''

Or this: ''To explain something in an unnecessarily long-winded way, so as to dominate the conversation, and to make statements that are not based on facts, assuming that people will believe and agree with him because he is male.''

All of which will resonate with any woman who has ever had a man speak over the top of her when he has no idea what he's talking about.


November is, in my mind, Mansplaining Month. That's the time the White Ribbon Day falls - and it's also the time of the year when men's rights activists will tell you once and for all that we must not forget about the men who are victims of domestic violence and that this concentration on women is unjustified.

Well, yes, we need to make sure any victim of violence is supported. But no, there is just no evidence to say men are as much victims as women in this area. Not one shred of evidence.

Despite the fact that I hate to use mansplaining as a reason for anything, I'm beginning to be very tempted.

That's because of figures released by the Australian Institute on the gender pay gap.

People, no matter what you say and how often you say it, the gender pay gap is real.

Men and women earn different pay for the same work; and the gap is not getting smaller or changing in any significant way.

The gender revolution has been tough for both sides, a lot of struggle for women and a lot of adaptation - and failure to adapt - for men

Researchers all over tell us that this is a fact. From the World Economic Forum to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the figures tell the same story.

No amount of mansplaining can cover this up. It's not because we take time off to have babies. It's not because we want to pick up the kids from school. It's not even because we don't want stress.

It's because men are valued differently to women by their employers. Even though we know this is true - because people who are paid to research fairly and thoroughly tell us - I will get men telling me time and time again that it's not. That I just don't understand the ''structural issues''.

The people at the Financial Services Institute of Australasia reported on this last year when they asked men in financial institutions whether women were well-represented at senior levels in their organisations. Two-thirds of men said yes and two-thirds of women said no. Workplace Gender Equality Agency figures reveal women make up fewer than 10 per cent of CEOs in financial institutions, yet men surveyed thought that was the definition of well represented. I suppose it's an improvement on having no women at senior levels, but it makes me wonder if they can see what we are seeing.

Now the lovely people at the Australian Institute have proved it for me. They asked Australians about pay equity. ''If a woman does get the job, do you think she would be likely paid: less than the man would have been offered, the same as the man or more than the man.''

Fortunately, for the sake of my mental health, only 2 per cent of men actually said they believed a woman would be paid more. Around one-third said, accurately, that the woman was likely to be paid less.

Just under 70 per cent believe in the fairytale of equal pay.

As I trawled through the figures, I kept shaking my head. Then I thought I might just ask a man to explain this to me. Because, bias. (I'm joking).

I've interviewed social commentator Hugh Mackay, most recently author of The Good Life, over 30 years, and he is as obsessed with finding out how Australians think as I am.

For him, the figures show men think the battle is over.

''Older men are naturally reluctant - power sharing means giving something up,'' he says.

''The gender revolution has been tough for both sides, a lot of struggle for women and a lot of adaptation - and failure to adapt - for men.''

Failure to adapt. Nice to know we have a name for it. At least it is less insulting than mansplaining.

Twitter @jennaprice or email


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