by GED KEARNEY
When anyone asked my daughters what they wanted to be when they grew up I would always tell them to answer by saying ‘to be paid the same as a man’.
Most people would in turn respond with a furrowed brow.
The gender pay gap was a rarely acknowledged problem 10 or 20 years ago and even now, while each year we have Equal Pay Day as a way to highlight the fact that the gap remains, not much has changed.
If it had, the day wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t be writing this.
The gap remains a persistently wide 17.5%, despite the publicity Equal Pay Day gets each year as it highlights the fact that women have to work an extra 64-odd days more than a man every single year to earn the same money.
Yes, that’s right – in 2012, women working full-time earn on average 17.5% less than men who also work full-time.
The figure has widened from the 17.2% it sat on the previous two years, then taking women an extra 63 days to earn what their male counterparts earned.
There’s a myriad of reasons explaining why the gap is getting worse, not better, and why women face restricted access to equal employment and career development opportunities in the workplace, leading to just 12.5% of Top 200 ASX companies with female directors, 3% with CEOs, and 2% with female chairs.
The top explanations include that women still tend to be the primary caregiver in the majority of families. When they take time out of the workforce, the reality is that by the time they return they have skipped a pay increase or two and their male colleagues (who haven’t had a break) have climbed the promotion ladder ahead of them.
Making it worse, women don’t automatically start playing catch up when they get back to work. We know that women balancing work and family are continually overlooked for leadership positions just because they may also dare ask for flexibility in their work day so that they can manage their family’s needs as well as do their job.
There are other reasons for the pay gap – like the fact that women often leave their full time secure jobs after having children so that they can get ‘flexible’ hours via casual work or a part-time job, in lieu of the pay and career paths their previous role offered.
But frankly none of these so-called reasons are good excuses. And focusing on them will not help solve the problem.
As long as we talk only about explanations for the gap, the furrowed brows of confused acceptance will continue and women – no matter how smart, educated, skilled or experienced they are – will continue to have to work an extra two months of the year to bring home the same money as men.
In fact, in some industries, like finance, female workers would have to work for about 16 months to earn what men can in one year.