The gender pay gap is still very real, here's why


My Pham

Marketing & Communication Executive

In this article...

    This year alone the gap has increased by 0.3 per cent.

    The discrepancy in pay is still significant, and the gap isn't closing any time soon.

    The gender pay gap may not be as large as it was two decades ago, but women’s salaries are still trailing behind men’s at a significant rate.

    So who’s to blame?

    And what’s the hold-up on closing the gap? Here, we investigate what’s behind pay inequality – and if there’s anything we can do to stop it.

    Why is everyone talking about the gender pay gap again? Haven’t we made good progress towards closing it?
    New figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) reveal that the gender pay gap has actually increased to 14.1 per cent from 13.8 per cent in February this year.

    This means that, while a man who works full-time will receive an average weekly pay of $1872.90, a full-time female employee will only earn $1609. There are significant gender pay gaps in every industry, but the biggest is in the professional, scientific and technical services category, with a 25.3 per cent difference in earnings.

    Why are women still getting paid less than men?
    “Women don’t simply choose to earn less relative to men,” Dr Janin Bredehoeft, WGEA research and analytics executive manager, tells Body+Soul. “A highly gender-segregated workforce, conscious and unconscious bias in recruitment and pay decisions, or a lack of workplace flexibility, particularly at upper leadership levels, all contribute.”

    There is also a need for better paid parental leave and childcare options, so women can overcome barriers to full-time employment.

    How can women get paid what they are worth?
    While the gender pay gap has declined somewhat overall, we must speed up the rate of change, says Bredehoeft. And cultural attitudes must change. Employers must take direct action including conducting pay-gap audits, setting targets on women’s participation and normalising flexible work.

    Shivani Gopal, CEO of coaching and mentoring service Elladex, says that you can also take individual steps to get paid like a man. “As a former financial advisor, I constantly saw women doing the same role as men [and] earning up to $100,000 a year less,” she tells Body+Soul.

    If you believe you deserve more money, and you have been with the company at least a year, Gopal suggests you book a meeting with your boss to discuss your pay.

    “Doing some internet research into pay grades for your role is helpful, but don’t undervalue yourself,” she advises. Be ready to present evidence of things you have done to either increase company profits or save the company money – from bringing in new clients to redesigning a website that may have been otherwise outsourced.

    “Importantly, get in first with the figure you want, as this has a strong psychological impact,” Gopal stresses.

    Dr Edwin Trevor-Roberts, CEO of career-management firm Trevor-Roberts, believes some women may be reluctant to negotiate, in part because it goes against an outdated feminine stereotype.

    “To counteract this, it’s about showing concern for the relationship and acknowledging that you don’t want to damage the relationship by having this conversation,” he says.

    You can then proceed to demonstrate your impressive, take-no-prisoners negotiating skills.

    Why should we want to change the gender pay gap?
    “We should care because it’s wrong,” says Bredehoeft. “While women earn less, they’re still paying the same as men for food, fuel, rent and daily household needs. It’s also an inefficient use of our workforce. If organisations want the best people working for them, they have to create the structures that make workplaces attractive for everyone.”

    Women on lower wages also have substantially less money to fund their futures. In fact, according to a recent Monash University report commissioned by AustralianSuper, the average superannuation payout for women is a whopping 42 per cent less than men’s.

    The one word to avoid when asking for a pay rise
    You’ve set up the meeting and named the figure you want. Now, don’t go backwards, says finance expert Shivani Gopal.

    “Never negotiate against yourself by saying things like‘I know it’s been a hard time for the company, but...’” According to Gopal, you should remove the word “but” from your vocabulary. And if you need a pre-negotiation confidence boost, she suggests you tap into your support network.