My first reaction to the words “gender pay gap” was, admittedly, laughter. Curious laughter mind you, but laughter all the same. Laughter, borne by a disbelief of the concept. How can we, in the 21st century, with our iPhones, instagramed porridge and CAT scans, be talking about this? 

More to the point, why would anyone be doing this deliberately? Maybe it’s naivety, maybe it’s the fact that I’m a young male, yet to seriously climb any form of the corporate ladder, but my female friends are all being paid the same as their equally talented male counterparts. Fortunately for them, although unfortunate for this article; I simply haven’t seen it in action. I didn’t believe it existed. 

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, I wasn’t right about this. They did a bit of digging, and found that on average, women are earning $26,527 a year less than a man.

That statistic shocked me. It’s not something an office worker surrounded by women like myself has ever seen. It also turns out the gender pay gap isn’t that much of a secret, and it certainly isn’t something limited to vocations needing a bit of muscle. 

Take the popular Radio Duo Hughesy and Kate. These are two of Australia’s most well-known radio comics, and their recent move into the coveted “Hamish and Andy” spot on the Hit Network garnered much media attention. But equally, the headlines relating to Hughesy cutting his own pay to make sure that Kate got paid the same amount after she raised the alarm. If two successful media personalities couldn’t achieve parity without one of the parties “being generous” or raising the alarm, then there’s something going on. 

Not even Australia’s sweetheart, Lisa Wilkinson, is immune from the controversy. Her shock departure from Channel 9’s Today Show surprised everyone, not least her longtime friend and Co-Host Karl. The reasons why she left aren’t cut and dry; if you ask Channel 9, negotiations “broke down”, and Karl is “simply worth more to the network”. On the other hand, if you ask Lisa, she’d say the network was refusing her requests to close the gender pay gap – and she went to a network who would.

And yes, while you could argue that this, and many more sinister facets of inequity are unique to the entertainment industry, it’s become apparent that it’s not. The “pay gap” is based on worth. In some industries, it seems it’s easier to just stay quiet and keep your job, rather than speaking up. The Australian Medical Association reported that Female GPs were earning less than their male counterparts for exactly the same job, and had to work more hours to make the same money. The Compassion, dedication and years of study needed to become a doctor has very little to do with gender – yet gender continually influences and shapes how doctors are valued.

Things are undoubtedly on the way up for Australian Pay Equality. Employees are speaking up. Employers are acting. Last year more managers put equal pay and equal representation on the agenda, with 71.5% now having some form of gender equality. But this is still not enough. People are still, like I was, seeing the gender pay gap and larger facets of inequality as something that only exists in high profile jobs.

Awareness, and speaking up, will be how the road to equality is paved. Now more than ever, more men in power need to be Hughesy, and more women Kate.

Author: Sam Lieberman
Categories: Articles

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