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Chloe and Jake just finished their degrees. They both accepted jobs at the same company. They’re working in the same field, in the same job, for exactly the same hours every week. So why is Jake earning $55,000 a year, while Chloe is only pocketing $50,000?
The example above is simplistic, but in far too many cases it rings true. The sad, shocking truth is that in 2014, in Australia, female university graduates can expect to earn on average $5000 less than their male counterparts*. If that made your mind boggle, then consider this: when the stats are broken down by industry, it’s even more depressing. Male dentistry graduates earned $14,000 more than females, while architecture and building grads took home $9000 more if they had a penis. Plus, while the median male graduate salary increased by $3000 between 2011 and 2012, the median salary for women remained the same. What the hell is going on?
Separate, but not equal
At times, the wage gap between men and women can actually be explained, reveals Bruce Guthrie from Graduate Careers Australia, who compiled the survey and its findings.
“When you take into account all of the mitigating factors (such as the type, size and location of different employers, which can affect job title, salary, and work performed), the difference between men and women’s average starting salaries is only 1.5 to 2 per cent,” he says.
One of the biggest reasons men will likely be paid more is that they are overrepresented in higher-paying fields, while women are in jobs that typically pay less, like education. But it’s not as simple as saying, “Oh, that’s OK, as women want to be teachers and men want to be bankers,” says Yolanda Beattie, from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
“These choices are drummed into us from a very young age. The pay gap highlights gender stereotypes that still exist.”
For example, in 2009, 21.6 per cent of male graduates surveyed by the GCA had studied engineering, compared to 2.3 per cent of women. It is a field that pays higher than, say, education, from which 14.3 per cent of all women graduated that year (and 5.7 per cent of all men). Then there is the fact that, even within some industries, women are more likely to hold lower-paid positions.
As Marian Baird, director of the Women and Work Research Group at the University of Sydney, points out, female lawyers often work in areas of law that pay less, such as social work. There’s nothing wrong with studying teaching or taking a job in social work, but these “choices” are subtly reinforced to women all the time. That means we begin on the back foot – and once we have kids and possibly work part-time, the gap widens.
“It’s discriminatory that we value ‘female’ work less,” says federal sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.
“A mechanic and a childcare worker do similar amounts of training to get their qualifications. Why is one paid significantly more than the other?”
Even if we take into account these mitigating factors, and the problem of women being in lower-paid industries, the fact remains there’s a gap. Which is simply not fair.
“Women being clustered into lower-paid jobs is a problem, but it doesn’t explain the totality of the issue,” says Broderick.
“There’s still a gap that can’t be explained by anything but discrimination.”
What you can do
Part of the problem is that pay isn’t very transparent, so it can be hard to know if you are being short-changed as typically we don’t compare salaries. Cosmo is committed to helping you gain equal pay and treatment. Look at the stats – find out what the average wage of a man doing your job is, and if your salary isn’t the same, demand a raise. Have a look at the WGEA website – it lists companies that have won the Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation.
“Google the CEO,” urges Broderick.
“Has he/she spoken out about workplace gender equality? Do they have any women on their board?” As she says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Without more women in leadership roles, and without more men committed to change, we will continue to be paid unfairly. Like Beyoncé (yep, Beyoncé!) said, “Unless men and women both say this is unacceptable, things won’t change.” So, look for the men and women who do – and work for them.
Give us five!
To show your support for closing the $5000 pay gap, we want you to get creative. Snap a pic of five mates, your five-a-day, 5pm on the clock (home time!), five… anything, and upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #gimme5cosmo.
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