Opinion by Tayla Larsen
Each year we decide to leave things in the past: relationships, questionable fashion trends or terrible eating habits. We’re constantly trying to evolve to keep up with the changing world and better ourselves. However, there is something still stuck in the past which keeps following us into the future: the gender wage gap.
Over the past decade there has been innovative progress in Australia from National Sorry Day to legalising same sex marriage, so I don’t understand why in 2018 I am still writing about the financial inequality happening in workplaces all around the country.
Currently the national gender pay gap is 15.3 per cent, yet some would say that’s relatively low considering it has been stuck between 15 and 19 per cent for the past 20 years. Yes, 20 years. To put that into perspective, that is my entire life and I have been hearing about how this figure is going to drop for as long as I can remember. I thought surely by the time I was ready to enter the workforce this wouldn’t be an issue any more. How many other little girls are we going to disappoint? Hopefully none.
It’s now at the point where women are making discrimination claims against their employer and rightfully so. Dr Skye Saunders has filed a sex discrimination complaint against the Australian National University due to her low pay compared to her male colleagues. As Australia’s leading expert in the area of sexual harassment in rural communities, I am sure Dr Saunders is more financially stable than most of us, so why does she still consider herself not equal to men after nine years of intensive study? It seems these days publishing your own book, several articles in national and international journals as well as being a law director at a national university doesn’t mean much if you have a vagina.
The same applies to the average Australian woman who would have to work an extra 56 days a year just to earn the same as her male counterpart who annually earns roughly $26,000 more. I can understand there are some extra government schemes women receive such as paid maternity leave. However, we cannot regard this as “free money”; it’s caring for a newborn, recovering from birth and living on no sleep. I’m sure a lot of people would rather be working at times. Also, a woman’s career progression and opportunities are limited during maternity leave, meaning promotions are harder to secure if you want to have a family.
It’s not all bad news though, there are more women now than ever on the boards of ASX-listed businesses such as banks and energy companies thanks to a diversity plan introduced in 2010. While this is great news, I think it’s more of a distraction from the real issue. I highly doubt these women are earning as much as the men they work with and have most likely been employed or promoted in order to reach an organisation’s quota.
We don’t want this.
We want to be given a position because we truly earned it, not because someone took pity on us. We want to earn the same as men in our field because it’s only right. We want to bring women’s pay into the future and leave the discriminatory wage gap in the past.