Pay gap insights

Senior Vice President Joan Lemaire

Equal Pay Day fell on 4 September this year. According to the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the date marks “the additional time from the end of the previous year that women must work to earn the same as men”.

The agency calculated the current gender pay gap at 15.3 per cent, a decrease on last year. The full-time average weekly earnings of women in Australia is $1387.10, while men earn $1638.30, a deficit of $251.20 per week. For the past 20 years, the gap has fluctuated between 15 per cent and 19 per cent.

The gender pay gap was a focus of the address by Senior Vice President Joan Lemaire to Women’s Conference.

Ms Lemaire discussed the findings of the agency’s report, Gender Equity Insights 2017. It is clear that female-dominated organisations, such as health and care services, have lower average wages for both women and men than many of the male-dominated organisations. Historically, the work of women and their contribution to building our society, through paid and unpaid work, has been undervalued.

Increasing the representation of women in managerial roles tends to reduce the gender pay gap to a point. The report states: “The average gender pay gap declines as female representation increases. The managerial gender pay gap falls steadily from around 15 per cent when assessing total remuneration where one fifth of managers (20 per cent) are female, to 8 per cent where four fifths (80 per cent) are females.”

The most surprising finding was that, “companies classified as female-dominated record the highest gender pay gap among full-time managers — at 23 per cent and for part-time managers, this extends out to 35 per cent. This suggests that men working in management roles in heavily female-dominated organisations are highly valued and more likely to be fast tracked to senior positions and receive greater pay”.

Ms Lemaire called on Women’s Conference to consider this finding and question whether the support, encouragement and mentoring to take on leadership positions is being provided equitably to both men and women. She also noted that in the People Matter Survey 2016 only 41 per cent of respondents (both men and women) agreed that they were satisfied with their “ability to access and use flexible work arrangements” and only 43 per cent agreed that “my organisation offers practical employment arrangements and conditions to help employees achieve a work-life balance”.

The WGEA report also pointed to the value of “collective workplace agreements” particularly for part-time and casual workers.

Ms Lemaire noted that the most highly organised sector is the public sector, where the majority of workers are women. According to the Bureau of Statistics the average wage growth in the private sector is 1.8 per cent. Teachers, nurses and public servants had the highest wage increases on average, of 2.4 per cent.

She outlined Federation’s campaigns on school funding, workload, TAFE and Corrective Services and concluded by saying our gains have been achieved by collective strength in organising and campaigning.

“We draw power and inspiration from each other to contend with the challenges we face,” she said. “We know our work has great value. We build our society and are committed to making society more equal, fairer and socially just.

“Let’s continue to draw on our collective strength to promote our work and professionalism and let’s make sure that all public education settings have the necessary funding support to allow our students to achieve their best.”

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