Women earn $100,000 a year less than men for doing the exact same job.

Sorry, WHAT? Women take home $100,000 less each year than men doing the same job???

One thing surprises me more than the fact that new research shows women in senior management in Australia are paid $100,000 less each year, on average, than their male peers in the same jobs.

Frankly, I’m more surprised that the survey took place in the first place. Not because this type research is not blindingly necessary: evidently it is.

I’m surprised because I wonder how many surveys and research projects of this nature will be undertaken before something actually changes?

The research is in. It’s been in for years. And while the minutia of the results varies, the overall picture doesn’t. Men earn more money than women.

organised-woman-working-laptop-post-its-notes
Working hard for her (significantly smaller) pay check. Image via iStock.

When using gross terms – full-time working men earn 18 per cent more than full-time working women. In certain industries, however, the difference in earnings is far more significant.

The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre recently analysed pay data that is reported to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. The data, which spans some 4 million employees and more than 12,000 employers, shows that among managers who report directly to the CEO, females take home $100,000 less than their male peers.

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As they climb the management ranks, this gap widens considerably.

A gender pay gap exists and persists in Australia across every industry and field. And as shocking at it might seem, it is not new, unexplained or unforeseen.

The discrepancy between what men and women earn begins at graduate level and continues to grow from there.

It is not explained because more women work part-time.

It is not explained because women choose to have families.

It is not explained because women don’t work as hard as men.

It is not explained because women aren’t as good at negotiating for more.

attends a special screening of "Joy" at the Ham Yard Hotel on December 17, 2015 in London, England.
Jennifer Lawrence has highlighted the problems with the gender pay gap in Hollywood. Image via Getty.

If it were explained by those things, that would be revealed in the data. It isn’t. The fact there is an evidenced gap between what male and female graduates take home proves it’s not that simple.

Even when comparing like for like – men and women in the same roles – men take home A LOT more money than women.

How can this be?

The overall pay gap represents all of the factors that contribute to inequality between men and women in the workforce. There is no single silver bullet: it represents indirect and direct discrimination.

It’s because women are over-represented in lower-paid roles and in lower-paid industries. It’s because women are under-represented in leadership positions. It’s because women’s skills are undervalued.

It’s because women are still financially penalised, directly and indirectly, for taking career breaks to have children.

Georgie Dent feat 2
Georgina Dent.

But it also exists for reasons that can’t be explicitly explained. The new research about women in senior roles falls into this camp.

There can be no logical basis for women being paid $100,000 less than their co-workers on the basis of gender. And before you cry “But maybe the men are better at their jobs”, consider this.

The $100,000 figure is an average across the board. It’s not simply drawn from two people where one man was being paid more than one woman. It’s drawn from thousands of men and women in senior management in various sectors and industries.

For it to be a case of performance, the explanation would have to be that in every single case male managers perform better than their female peers to the extent that they earn $100,000 more. Every single time? In every single field?

It ain’t plausible.

As uncomfortable as it is to contemplate, it’s evidence of bias. Of the fact employers are willing to spend more on men than women.

Presumably very few CEOs or business leaders actively set out to pay women less. Most would be horrified to consider themselves complicit in that process. Yet even without any mal-intent, the result is in most companies women are paid less.

And the test of any leader or employer’s mettle is whether they care enough to change that.

The good news is, it can be changed. The bad news is, thus far, there hasn’t exactly been a rush to do that.

Cropped shot of a handsome young man assisting a female colleague with something on her computer
Even without any mal-intent, the result is in most companies women are paid less. Image: iStock.

The only way that any CEO or employer can declare – without reservation – that there is no difference in the way they pay men and women is to undertake a pay audit, which the WGEA has made impossibly simple.

Five years ago, if you’d asked Henry Davis York’s Managing Partner, Michael Greene, whether there was any pay discrepancy between men and women in the law firm, he would have said no.

Why would such a gap exist? There would be no rational explanation for that.

Nowadays, however, he would answer the question differently. Last year, at a NEEOPA event hosted with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency at Network Ten in Sydney, Greene described how a pay audit revealed a 17 per cent pay gap across the organisation. It’s now been addressed.

Watch Georgina Dent interview the CEO of Pacific Cruises, Ann Sherry. Post continues below. 

Network Ten’s CEO Paul Anderson was similarly frank at the same event. The company had undertaken an audit which revealed a gap that is being rectified.

Without doing any analysis it’s tempting and easy to delude yourself that there is no problem. To assume that it must be other companies that contribute to this dastardly gap.

The fact is, until a company actually analyses exactly what it pays, it is in a state of denial.

The research I want undertaken now is a public analysis of which companies and leaders are bold enough to move from denial into the harsh light of reality, and undertake the research. That’s the type of information women need to have, so they can choose wisely.

A company that hasn’t had the sense to examine whether it pays women in senior management up to $100,000 less than her males peers is not worth her time.

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