2022. A HISTORIC YEAR FOR AUSTRALIAN WOMEN. WEL welcomes the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs Better Pay) Act 2022. This addresses the gender pay gap by putting gender equity as an objective of the Act, with new expert panels addressing work value and pay equity in the Care and Community sector. Sexual harassment in the workplace is expressly forbidden and a breach of the prohibition can result in claims and civil penalties.
Studies show that women bear the burden of COVID-19 more than men and are more likely to be driven into poverty than men. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner reports that women carry two-thirds of domestic and caring load, still retiring with only half of retirement savings so the effect will be long-ranging in the future. Having children at home has meant that women will do most of the education. Women are casual workers and carry two-thirds of care in the community so are affected more, with the type of employment being less secure and high in casual and part-time work such as retail, hospitality, health and social support, the arts. She sees that recovery will take a long time and employment should not be gender segregated. To come back we need a full labour force with men and women equally employed and better child care. We need industries to ensure that both men and women are included. Then there will be a better economic recovery for everyone. Melbourne University and La Trobe University report that 58 percent of women and 11 percent of men lost their jobs during the pandemic. (ABC, The Drum, 25 May 2020).
Women in STEM. Another report by Misha Schubert, CEO of Science and Technology Australia shows how COVID-19 has affected the hard-won gains by women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). Women are only one-third of the workforce in science research but they have been hit harder than men with reduced pay, less jobs and working from home. There is a reduction in publication rates which are a key driver of awards and science research grants and a reduction in academic research published in journals, important when awarding research grants. In universities, there has been a large reduction in visits to campus, measured as 28 percent men, 16 percent women. The Drum, 22/5/2020. And Professor Tanya Monro, Chief Defence Scientist, told the National Press Club on 27/5/2020 that STEM is needed more than ever for women in COVID-19 times. Lisa Harvey-Smith, from Women in STEM, says that this is the fastest-growing occupation and women need to reskill to benefit. The Drum, 18/8/2020.
Gender Imbalance. Only 1 of 25 CEO’s appointed in 2019 was a woman! ABC News 17/9/2020. A good case for quotas in the boardroom.
WEL recognizes the importance for women of work and financial independence. The reduction of poverty for families and for women in retirement is often dependent on a woman’s opportunity to work. However a lack of family friendly work arrangements acts as a major disincentive which Governments and employers need to address. Another area is permanent part-time work. Mere casualisation can lead to income insecurity as penalty rates have been reduced in 2018 and some franchisees using casual workers have not adhered to fair pay for their staff.
A Step Ahead for Equal Opportunity. The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 was introduced to improve gender equality outcomes as well as to simplify reporting for businesses. To reflect its expanded scope, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 has been renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. CLICK to read the report by Elizabeth Broderick on this Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Act 2008. The Act stopped any more AWAs under the old WorkChoices Act 2005, which marginalised awards. These new “modern Awards” are to work with the proposed ten National Employment Standards.
CLICK for WEL submission to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) on Award Modernisation for the Aged Care industry.
CLICK to show how the pay gap between men and women has worsened due to the “two-speed” economy where male wages in industries such as the mining boom have sky-rocketed. The Australian. Even though the pay gap is reported in November 2018 to be down by 1.1 percent, men’s earnings are still $25,000 p.a. more than women’s.
For information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics CLICK to see how gender pay gap short changes women earning 17.4 percent less than their male colleagues – in a media release from the Director of the Australian Government’s Equal Opportunity for Women Agency. A woman has to work an extra 64 days per year to earn as much as male colleagues. CLICK for the report by the Australian Centre for Educational Research highlighting how female university graduates earn less than males on entry to the workforce.
Australian Women Short Changed. New government research provides new evidence on the gender pay gap and how it affects senior business women. Tania Plibersek MP, former Minister for Housing and Minister for Status of Women, has launched Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) Gender Income Distribution of Top Earners report in 2008. The report investigates pay disparity at senior levels in the top 200 companies on the Australian Stock Exchange. This research shows that pay inequity is far reaching and experienced by senior business women, including CEOs of large Australian companies. According to the report, female CEOs earn two thirds the median wage of male CEOs and female Chief Financial Officers and Chief Operating Officers earn just half the median wage of their male equivalents. Also, Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveal that a full-time working woman will earn, on average, 84 per cent of a full-time working man’s wage. This is further evidence that from the moment a woman enters the workforce she is likely to earn less than her male colleagues, regardless of her career, industry or level. WEL has been lobbying for workplace equality for nearly 50 years – when will it change?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures in 2010 that show, across Australia, women’s average full-time weekly earnings were 16.9 per cent less than men’s. When part-time and casual work is taken into consideration, the total earnings gap between men and women is 35.3 per cent. AMP NATSEM’s She Works Hard for the Money: Australian Women and the Gender Divide report quantified that the gender pay gap over a lifetime accumulates to an average earnings deficit of $1.5 million for all women; and $1.8 million for those with bachelor degrees or higher. Also women’s lives are poorer because they have less superannuation.
Iola Mathews tells us that the Gender Bay Gap for full-time adult workers is currently 14%, the ABS average across the whole workforce. The gap is much wider in higher-paid and senior jobs, and women are less likely to get over-award pay, bonuses and performance pay. The gap measures full-time work, but the gap in total earnings is 32%. That’s because women are more likely to work part-time and do less overtime because of their family responsibilities. “Bridging the Gender Pay Gap, one case at a time.” Iola Mathews, SMH, 26 April 2019 and her book “Winning for Women: A Personal Story“. Iola was a co-founder of WEL.
Discrimination is holding women back in the workforce. A report, commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, details how subliminal and intangible discrimination is holding women back in the workforce and helping to entrench the nation’s gender pay gap. The report urges companies to look ”below the surface” at ”irrational” bias against women, arguing not only that they are excluded from leadership roles but are also ”held to account for being women”. It finds that while some of the 17 percent earnings gap between men and women can be explained by different occupational choices and other factors, most of the wage difference was ”explained by being a woman or by being a man”. It warns that companies’ attempts to reform their workplaces can be undermined by bias, especially against women in roles of authority. The committee’s report comes amid intense debate about the lagging representation of women in senior roles. Quotas for female representation – staunchly opposed by many in corporate Australia including the Australian Institute of Company Directors – were still ”on the table” and could be introduced if things did not improve. ”We are saying very clearly to corporate Australia, we want to work in partnership with you to change this – and it’s an offer that I hope corporate Australia will take that up and we don’t have to take that conversation any further.” According to the government’s census of women in leadership, females made up just 8.4 percent of directors and 8 per cent of executive managers in ASX200 companies. The report calls for companies to adopt a range of reforms, including making their workplaces more flexible and setting targets for gender diversity.
Job Redesign. In a 2010 TV interview Elizabeth Broderick, former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, stated that only three percent of senior managers with profit and loss accountability are women. This comes off a base where Australia leads the world in women’s education. She asserts that the focus must be on men to allow them flexible work arrangements as well as women. Then companies can invest in job redesign rather than follow the existing model where a worker is always available with no caring responsibilities. Currently the need for caring is having a negative effect for women who take the maternal leave entitlement at a time in their careers when employees need to put in the long hours.
Men and Workplace Laws. Companies are to be forced to give fathers who request it flexible working hours so they can play a greater role at home and in child care. A major campaign is required to change workplace equality laws and social attitudes to enable more men to share the parenting responsibility. Men can also be discriminated against in the workplace when caring for children. Under proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act, companies will be forced to give working fathers more flexible hours so they can take greater responsibility for child care. Both men and women will now be formally protected from discrimination based on caring and family responsibilities.
Low Pay in the Community Services Industry. Professor Marian Sawer AO, Emeritus Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations, ANU, reports on equal pay for women. She says that “the community services industry, where the workers are over 80 percent female, has suffered from feminised rates of pay. The equal pay case, the first under the Fair Work regime, seeks to bring pay rates into line with those for work of comparable value in a male-dominated industry. Low pay is just one of the factors contributing to gender inequality and poverty in old age. The skewed distribution of paid and unpaid work is another, with women still far more likely to have interrupted careers in the paid workforce. Men are in the paid workforce for an average of 39 years, women only for 20 years”. Marian wrote the history of WEL Making Women Count.
CLICK for what long-time feminist Eva Cox has to say on the 2011 Equal Pay case for the Community Services sector. In 2011 former Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced funds for wage increases for community sector workers. This may close the 17 percent pay gap between men and women, although it will take years to be actioned.
The Sun Herald reported on Juggling Work and Families, stating that modern mums bear the brunt of work-life stress because men are still not pulling their weight with the housework. While mums increasingly juggle work and family, fathers are still not doing their fair share of household chores. The article, “Persistent work-family strain among Australian mothers”, said almost 30 per cent of working mums experienced “strong tension” between work and family responsibilities”. Australian mothers in recent decades have greatly increased participation in the labour market. Fathers have not increased their unpaid household work to a matching degree, it reported. “But without equal sharing … mothers will inevitably feel work-family tension more keenly.” A Melbourne University study found 66 percent of women believed they did more than half the housework.