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The great gender pay divide

Date

Jenna Price

There is still a culture of denial around the gender pay gap.

Women have every right to be paid fairly and stand up for themselves.

Women have every right to be paid fairly and stand up for themselves. Photo: Tamara Voninski

So, a little war broke out at the end of last week between those whose job it is to make sure we have equality in our workplaces and those who analyse what our university graduates do and how much they get paid.

Yes, Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) and Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) had a slight fracas about who gets paid what and when.

It began when the WGEA (new name of EOWA, just keep up, will you) sent out a press release which said that the gender pay gap had doubled in the last 12 months.

That was based on statistics supplied by GCA and then interpreted by WGEA . First news of the increasing gap emerged on Thursday afternoon and by Friday, it was everywhere.

Late that afternoon, Australian Associated Press released a story which said the GCA policy and strategy adviser Bruce Guthrie claimed the agency had read data from its annual Australian Graduate Survey in an ''overly simplistic'' way.

But when I look at the material supplied by the GCA itself, it says there is a 10 per cent gap in what men and women are paid when they go into graduate jobs.

Guthrie tells me that once you get rid of the engineers and others where men dominate, you get a different and not quite so frightening set of numbers.

I'll admit, I was horrified to read that the pay gap had doubled in a year - but no more horrified than I am at the gender pay gap which exists already and is not changing. Let's focus on fixing that before another generation of young women becomes dispirited at what is clearly discriminatory practice.

According to the tables based on figures from the GCA and interpreted by the WGEA, education, humanities, medicine, all have the pay gap sorted - they offer equal pay for equal qualifications and jobs - so why can't other professions catch up? In pharmacy, women graduates are now earning more than male graduates - and there is no question that pharmacy must have struggled to make a cultural change since that's a profession which was male-dominated for decades. Maybe it is something to do with the fact that the majority of pharmacy graduates are women - around two-thirds, says the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. It may also be because they dominate the top performers at graduation. It might also be difficult to pay more to people who do less well. I joke. Kind of.

Carla Harris, the research executive manager at WGEA, says: ''Every workplace culture is different and there is no one size-fits-all answer but all employers must start by taking this pay gap seriously - many employers don't take it seriously and don't realise it is bad for business.''

And she also said that there is still a culture of denial around the gender pay gap.

"We spend so much time denying it and pretending it is not there … we need to stop being in denial about it and take it very seriously."

Which is precisely what the people at the Pharmacy Guild of Australia did. David Quilty, the executive director for the PGA, says the organisation has done a lot of educational work with pharmacies all over Australia to emphasise the importance of employing women pharmacists.

He says that pharmacy as a career is in demand by women and that women are seen as important staff members by pharmacy employers.

"The pharmacist's role is very much about providing advice and nurturing support for patients," says Quilty, who believes that the majority of pharmacy customers are women and that it is mainly women who deal with the pharmaceutical needs of their families.

But he also says: "Sexism is bad for business - and it makes no sense in pharmacy, quite the opposite."

Which makes you wonder about all those companies, organisations, businesses which have not yet made the cultural leap. Do we have to change the way we teach our daughters to be in the workplace? Can we move from a nation which right now only pays women slightly more than 80 per cent of what men earn - and which still allows for a conversation which says: "Women earn less because they have children." Families have children.

As Harris says: "Women have every right to be paid fairly and stand up for themselves. The broader issue is that when women do stand up for themselves it is perceived quite negatively … a man is seen as being a leader and a woman is seen as being pushy."

So maybe what we really need to do is to teach our daughters and sisters to be pushy. And then to just push back when women are described as aggressive just for the reason of wanting to have what their husbands, fathers and brothers have always had.

>> Follow me on Twitter @jennaprice or email jenna_p@bigpond.net.au

4 comments

  • More claptrap for the feminists. It's illegal to pay women less.

    Commenter
    Brian
    Date and time
    January 08, 2013, 9:50AM
    • Can you find an outright example - just one - where an actual employer pays actual different amounts to a new male graduate and to a new female graduate ?

      It's pathetic that not one of the whiny woman has actually produced such a case.

      Carla Harris writes: "'Every workplace culture is different and there is no one size-fits-all answer but all employers must start by taking this pay gap seriously - many employers don't take it seriously and don't realise it is bad for business".

      Can she identify a single employer who does this ? No.

      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 joints, this will happen.

      Commenter
      enno
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      January 08, 2013, 10:11AM
      • "So maybe what we really need to do is to teach our daughters and sisters to be pushy."

        Perhaps you also need to teach all your daughters and sisters to pay for all their own drinks. And all their own restaurant meals. And buy their own flowers.

        Not just some of your daughters and sisters. All of them.

        Commenter
        enno
        Location
        sydney
        Date and time
        January 08, 2013, 10:17AM
        • "In pharmacy, women graduates are now earning more than male graduates"

          OK - so what is going to be done to close the gap and help male pharamcy graduates earn more? the biggest issue with the whole gender-gap divide is a that a nationa-wide snap shot doesn't help.

          The issue needs to be attacked at the smallest (practicable) level possible. I'd suggest industry by industry, and YES that means that in some sectors there needs to be a push to raise male wages and male participation (pharmacy for $$$, teaching for participation).

          Gender equality goes both ways and my personal opinion is that if there was a great push to remove inequality - regardless of it was male or female disadvantage - then society as a whole would be much more strongly behind it.

          Commenter
          John121
          Location
          Singapore
          Date and time
          January 08, 2013, 1:12PM
          • So women are earning more in pharmacy. We should set up a bureaucracy until this outrage is remedied.

            Commenter
            Ruddiger
            Date and time
            January 08, 2013, 1:49PM
            • Read the reports for yourself without the EOWA spin.

              Just for kicks let’s take a look at the reports mentioned for 2011-12.

              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.
              Guess where the males are employed and where the females are employed?

              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.

              “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.”

              So is it discrimination or just the fact that men are more likely to work full time in higher paying sectors for longer hours?

              Commenter
              Freddie14
              Date and time
              January 08, 2013, 2:04PM
              Comments are now closed
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