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The pay gap: what’s the issue?

In Australia, we consider ourselves to be living in a progressive country, with women’s rights at the forefront of social agendas. However, as of September 2013, the pay gap between men and women in Australia has risen to a shocking 17.1%. Even more unbelievable is the fact that the pay gap between men and women has steadily risen in Australia since 2004, and is higher than it was 20 years ago.

The rising pay gap between men and women in Australia has been in the headlines for some time now, but what exactly does it mean? Why is there a growing difference in pay between men and women? Is there anything that can be done?

Council of Small Business Chair, Amanda Lynch, says that the issue often lies in the fact that many employer’s aren’t aware that they are facilitating the pay gap. Studies show that it is becoming increasingly difficult for female graduates to get jobs, causing many women to take whatever jobs they can get, regardless of pay. As such, many workplaces  become unaware that they are in effect paying their staff different wages.

From this year, businesses are required to publish reports indicating employees’ wages, according to their gender. It is hoped that this imposed transparency will not only provide businesses with an indication of their own standards of pay equality, but that it will force all businesses to be held accountable for the wages they provide staff.

However, it has been argued by some academics that the gap in pay is not necessarily indicative of gender discrimination. A number of factors affect the overall salary of an employee, including the number of overtime hours, the industry, the position and the number of career interruptions. As such, many women who take time off to have children will lose opportunities to earn promotions. Particular industries will to some extent always be inclined towards particular genders, simply because of the nature of the work. Furthermore, where women take responsibility for caring for their children, overtime hours are not easily achievable for women. In addition, there is an over representation of women in part time and casual positions compared with full time positions; also indicative of child rearing.

Interestingly, the reasons for lowering the gap gap between men and women don’t just concern ending discrimination. According to the Goldman Sachs JB Were’s report, “Australia’s Hidden Resource: The Economic Case for Increasing Female Participation”, Australia’s GDP would increase by 11% where the pay gap is decreased. The issue affects our whole nation.

Despite this, 52.5% of workplaces have never conducted a gender pay gap enquiry. Whilst the issues behind the pay gap in Australia between men and women is caused by a number of complicated issues, transparency and mandatory monitoring of salaries is the first step towards recognition, understanding and eventually; action.

Transparency is essential so that females are entitled to know what their male counterparts are earning. The key to the gender pay gap appears to be understanding industry specific and role specific reasons for why this is so. When workplaces are obliged to acknowledge their role within the pay gap issue, solutions are more achievable. Naturally, this process is not a simple or quick one.

PropellHer understand that gender pay gaps cause a lot of insecurity and fear for women seeking to achieve their job aspirations. Therefore, we are dedicated to providing mentoring programs to ensure that women in all circumstances have the support they need to achieve their goals.


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