Women across Australia are standing to applaud former TODAY Show host Lisa Wilkinson right now.
The 57-year-old abruptly exited the Channel Nine breakfast show – the one she worked tirelessly on for over a decade – in resolute fashion on Monday evening. The response was swift; the murmurings deafening. Rumour had it that Wilkinson, a veteran journalist, was being paid half of what her co-host Karl Stefanovic was all these years, and she wasn’t going to put up with it anymore.
Of course some have argued that Stefanovic’s marginally heightened presence on the network – his appearances on A Current Affair and episodes as host of This Time Next Year – explain the ‘million dollar gap’. But, given that Stefanovic and Wilkinson front line TODAY for over 200 episodes annually, it’s hard to reconcile that rumoured difference in pay.
This story – one that feels like it belongs in 1967, not 2017 – has hit a nerve. Each major Australian publication has pored over every detail, running Wilkinson’s departure, new job, and the subsequent fallout as the biggest stories of the day. The commentary on social media is laced with intense anger, coupled with a saddening realisation that, yes, men and women with the same job still face disparate treatment and, no, we haven’t really reached gender equality in the workplace at all.
Thankfully, within an hour of announcing Monday morning’s show was her last, the ex-international editor in chief of Cleo Magazine had happier news: She’d been snapped up by Channel 10 for The Project. Industry experts predict her new salary doesn’t match what she was earning at Nine; it exceeds it, minting her the most lucratively-paid woman on Australian television.
But make no mistake: The Lisa/Karl differential is not limited to the TODAY Show.
Last year we learned that Channel Nine’s Erin Molan, the co-host of the NRL Footy Show since 2014, has been earning just a slice of her male counterparts’ salaries. While the seasoned journalist reportedly took home a fraction over $100,000 every year, it’s believed ex-athlete Beau Ryan pocketed a cool $800,000 for his panellist gig.
Until September 2016, Molan and fellow female sports presenter Yvonne Sampson were relegated to economy seats on airplanes while many of their male colleagues flew business class – something a Channel Nine spokesperson put down to “their contract, not their gender”.
Molan has since renegotiated her salary, and it would be interesting to know whether or not her “worth” is deemed by predominantly male television executives to be even half that of Ryan’s. It would be equally curious to see what the notorious Sam Newman rakes in for his sexist barbs on the AFL Footy Show compared to Quill award-winning co-host Rebecca Maddern.