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Pay gap exists, but it's not just women losing out

The gender pay gap. <i>Illustration: </i> Matt Davidson

The gender pay gap. Illustration: Matt Davidson

How annoying. I must have made a terrible error. According to correspondence received in response to a column I wrote a couple of weeks' ago, there is no real gender pay gap.

And, if there is, it is the fault of women who only want to work part-time. And why should part-timers have access to any of the goodies?

Here's one email I loved from a dear reader: a bloke who thought feminists would fall silent on this issue when equality is reached. Well, yes.

And another: ''More claptrap for the feminists. It's illegal to pay women less.'' Well, not exactly.

But this is probably my favourite: ''As long as male graduates are prepared to go and work on oil rigs and female graduates prefer to remain close to their favourite 'cappuchino' [sic] joints, this will happen.''

As a long black drinker, I found this insulting. But one email really did frighten me. There I was, praising pharmacists for recognising the value of women as employees, when I was sent a Fair Work Ombudsman report from Queensland, which showed nearly half of Pharmacy Guild members didn't appropriately honour pay or other entitlements in a December 2010 audit.

Chris Walton, the chief executive officer of the association, which represents pharmacists, APESMA, says he thinks the underpayment may well be because the pharmacy profession runs at about 58 per cent women.

''It's that classic case of feminised industries being a lot lower paid and with lower union membership,'' he says.

Walton claims the culture of underpayment is so ingrained in small pharmacies that the Fair Work Ombudsman has been forced to step in to conduct a full audit of pharmacies over the next 12 months.

Now Pharmacy Guild spokesman, Greg Turnbull, has a different take on the audit. He says that the 2010 audit finding was mostly comprised of pharmacy employers not meeting their obligations at a low-level. While he acknowledges that every breach is important, he says some of those breaches included a lack of availability of the new award; or not paying what Turnbull described as a laundry allowance. Which made it sound fairly unimportant. And I'm sure that some of those cases did in fact breach low-level obligations.

The audit looked at wages, meal breaks, record-keeping and payslip obligations. Of the 575 businesses that the Fair Work Ombudsman assessed, it found that 255 (44 per cent) had not met one or more of their obligations. The program recovered $194,905 for 1334 underpaid employees. Hmmm. That seems like more than a small breach, at nearly $150 an employee.

This new audit and educational campaign must have been motivated by the number of complaints the FWO received over two years - nearly 200 from employees in the chemist and pharmacy industry and the significant issue was underpayment of wages. Not a missing copy of an award. Not laundry allowances.

The FWO says this about complaints after the audit: ''During July 2010 and September 2012 we received 192 complaints from employees in the chemist and pharmacy industry. We found that 51 per cent of the employers involved hadn't met their obligations. The most common issues were underpaying wages.''

So while women earn more than men at a graduate level in this particular profession, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago, it's worth bearing in mind that thousands of Australians, men and women, are being unlawfully underpaid. Many pharmacists who are members of APESMA (who represents employee pharmacists) would point out that it's a case of both genders being equally underpaid - hardly a praiseworthy situation.

The good news, for men and women, is that the federal government has decided that before it weighs into the gender equity discussion, it wants to know what we think about our pay and conditions. It understands that we need to improve gender equality at work (I'm guessing that if male kindergarten teachers were paid less than their female counterparts, this would be on the home page of every media outlet).

The government also wants to know how to measure it.

The government has a discussion paper on this exact topic out at the moment. We all know employers with more than 100 employees will need to report on the number of men and women in their workplaces but for the first time these reports will contain pay data - who is getting paid what, according to their gender.

Now, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is doing a shout-out. It is looking for specifics on what else should be measured: full-time, part-time? Do part-time workers get promoted? I'm guessing they would also be very keen to know if men who take parental leave get discriminated against (I know of at least one young man who was mocked for wanting to go part-time so he could share the parenting load with his wife. Let's see what happens to him when he goes for a promotion).

Go to the FAHCSIA home page - you've got a week to let them know what's wrong with work.

We can't know what to fix until we've measured it. And the government won't know what to measure until you've told them.


  • Cappuchino ? It's cappuccino. Hah !

    Date and time
    January 22, 2013, 12:16PM
    • I'm sure there's something newsworthy in this article, but I am unable to find it.

      Date and time
      January 22, 2013, 12:52PM
      • We will never be satisfied until the average wage for all women is greater than the average of all men. That is equality.

        Date and time
        January 22, 2013, 1:12PM
        • There is some merit in women being paid less for work that is physically demanding and the stronger sex are simply more productive as a result, however, where men and women can be equally productive in a particular role and the tasks at hand don't require physical strength, then they should be paid equally. Some industries simply pay less than others. Women who want to work part-time due to family committments or those with health or disability issues, will probably lose out because there are simply fewer part-time jobs available and MOST advertised are full-time. You'd only need to do an audit of the workplace to find out the percentage working full-time and the percentage working part-time and weigh that up against job seekers seeking either full-time or part time work for various reasons. I have no doubt that you'd find the latter would be struggling to find part-time jobs due to scarce availability. I don't see why mothers should be given preference over those with disabilities or health issues such that prevent them from being able to work full-time. That is not a "gender" issue and simply one of personal circumstances.

          Date and time
          January 22, 2013, 1:20PM
          • Jenna,

            Just for kicks let’s take a look at the reports mentioned for 2011-12 that your last article was about.

            Male grads earned $55K compared to $50K for female grads in their first year.

            Yes but,
            66% of male grads were available for full time work compared to 61% of females.
            Of these, nearly 76% of both male and females were employed full time.

            ie. Males were more likely to be employed full time than women.

            When comparing the top five ranked professions by starting wage we have
            28.5% of male graduates compared to 7.6% of female graduates.

            ie. Males are doing degrees that result in higher paying jobs.

            But dentistry right? Females getting $14.5K less ZOMG SEXISMMMM!!!

            Lets look at dentistry by sector.

            Public sector dentists (governement funded) average starting wage $70-75K
            Private sector Dentists average starting wage $97K.

            I’ll let you guess where the males are employed and where the females are employed.

            But there must be sexism right, we’re told constantly about the gender pay gap?

            Hmmm, let’s look at hours worked.

            “Of the 23 fields of education examined in this report, statistically significant sex differences in average working hours were observed in 8 of them.”

            Law, Architecture and buiding - Males worked 2.6 hours per week more.
            Earth Sciences - Males worked 2.1 hours per week more.
            Economic and Business - Males worked 1.8 hours per week more.
            Phychology - Males worked 1.7 hours per week more.

            “There were even fewer statistically significant sex differences for graduates hourly rates of pay with evidence for such a difference existing for three fields of education. None of these were of note, however with the largest difference an average of $1.1/hr for males in Economics and business.”

            It's not sexism it's choice.

            Freddie Frog
            Date and time
            January 22, 2013, 1:28PM
            • Freddie, take your male colored glasses off. This is a feminist opinion piece. You have no right to produce a fact based response. Get emotional man, they are paid less than men for women's sake.

              Date and time
              January 22, 2013, 7:10PM
          • the gender pay gap is much like which came first the chicken or the egg?

            if you understand labor economics, you will know that when it comes to women and the salary. If you are an employer, do you provide the same training to someone who is going to be working less hours than someone who is not (cost/benefit analysis would indicate choose the person more likely to bring about the most beenfit for the cost of training)

            women are known for having kids and bringing them up to be healthy consituents of society and therefore work less hours than men, therefore emplyers are less likely to employ women in higher roles, as they have not aquired as many skills than men due to the lack of hours worked, women who do not have children are loose the motivation to try and learn new skills as they feel the employer will not choose them as they are female.

            basically it because the female body produces children, that this cycle has continued, it it not direct sexism, it is more what will be best for my companty as an employer , its not sexism, its capitalism and the need to suceed.

            we look down at drug addcist and low-lifes that are addicted, yet there are CEO's who are addicted to money, and will do anything to gain profits, and are rewarded with golden handshakes.

            Date and time
            January 22, 2013, 1:31PM
            • “Women know that they currently aren’t earning as much as men so they enter the workforce with that expectation. Because they don’t expect to earn as much, they likely aren’t as aggressive when it comes to negotiating salaries or pay raises and will accept lower-paying jobs than men, which perpetuates the existing inequalities.”

              Date and time
              January 22, 2013, 1:37PM
          • There is a difference between paying less in occupations that are highly feminised (but paying consistently across all workers in that occupation) and paying different amounts to men and women performing the same job.

            The second is a valid complaint.

            The first may have originated as sexism (pay nurses less than mechanics because nurses are women and mechanics have a family to support). But nowdays its a free choice - no one stops a women becoming a mechanic or choosing to be a nurse, and knowing the difference in pay and conditions before making that choice.

            Unless you are saying that women are inherently going to pick certain occupations because they are 'different' to men, therefore we should make sure all occupations are paid 'comparably' (even ignoring how you compare what amounts to comparale occupations)?

            Date and time
            January 22, 2013, 2:20PM
            • Maybe women should just work as hard as their male colleagues!

              Date and time
              January 22, 2013, 2:53PM

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