News that women AFL players will earn considerably less than male players comes just in time for Equal Pay Day on 8 September. This is just another example of Australia’s persistent gender pay gap. How can workplaces help fix gender inequality?
Excitement at the announcement that Australian Rules Footy is (finally!) getting a women’s league in 2017 was deflated somewhat once details of the players’ salaries were revealed. Most female players will earn considerably less than their male counterparts for the same amount of work. Does a gender pay gap like this sound familiar?
Australia dropped to 36th in the world on the gender pay gap scale, produced by the World Economic Forum in 2015. This puts us well behind countries as densely populated as the UK or as sparsely populated as Burundi, so perhaps it should not come as a big surprise. It didn’t stop the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s Director, Libby Lyons, from slamming the AFL’s salary offer to women players.
“By not paying male and female players equally, employers send the message to young girls and women that they are not as highly valued as men, even when they are top of their field,” she tells The New Daily.
Their announcement could not be more ill-timed, coming as it does shortly before Equal Pay Day on 8 September. The average woman now has to work an extra 69 days in 2016 to earn as much as the average man – a rise of four from last year.
Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data, the WGEA calculates the national gender pay gap at 16.2 per cent, or $261.10 less in the pay packets of women each week. The gender pay gap in the sports industry sits at 50 per cent. Other industries with large variances include financial and insurance services (30.2 per cent), real estate (24.6 per cent) and health care (23.7 per cent).
“The persistent gender pay gap is a symbol that women’s potential is not being fully realised or valued in the workplace,” says Lyons. “It’s beyond time to change that.”
It’s not for lack of trying, though. The theory that women get paid less than men because they are not ‘pushy’ in the workplace is not true, according to a new study. Researchers looked at data from 4400 Australian workers and found that when like-for-like male and female employees were compared, men were 25 per cent more likely to get the requested pay rise.
“Having seen these findings, I think we have to accept that there is some element of pure discrimination against women,” says Andrew Oswald, professor of economics and behavioural science at the University of Warwick and co-author of the study.
However, the study did find a silver lining. Dr Amanda Goodall from Cass Business School at the City, University of London campus, who also co-authored the study, says that women and men under the age of 40 both ask for and receive pay rises at the same rate – a sign that things might be changing.
Equal Pay Day aims to raise awareness about the persistent gender pay gap, but selfies and day-of activities will only take us so far. To help create a more permanent solution, start by conducting a pay analysis, as it will help you identify differences in remuneration and leadership within your organisation.
It’s also a great idea to speak directly with employees to learn about some ways that men and women experience gender inequality in the workplace. WGEA has some guidelines here for conducting a survey, but you should tailor it to your workforce and industry. The Fair Work Ombudsman also has a handy checklist for pay equity best practice.