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The biggest gender pay gap myths — debunked

Lisa Wilkinson has got us talking about this again.

By Shari Nementzik

In the wake of Lisa Wilkinson's epic decision to leave one of the most high-profile jobs in Australian television, because she couldn't negotiate the same salary as her male co-host, Karl Stefanovic, we're revisiting the conversation about the gender pay gap.

On Monday night, Lisa made the shock announcement that she was leaving The Today Show after 10 years of doing the early morning slog.

She shared the news with a tweet that contained Channel Nine's press release, which said, "Nine today confirmed we have been unable to meet the expectations of Lisa Wilkinson and her manager on a contract renewal for a further period… Nine will be going in another direction and will be considering our options in the coming weeks and months."

According to reports, Karl was pocketing $2 million a year, with a deal to potentially get $3 million if ratings targets were hit. Lisa's contract was reportedly $1.1 million a year — sources told The Daily Telegraph that Nine offered to bump Lisa up to $1.8 million, but it wasn't enough.

Lisa quickly announced that she's landed a new gig with Channel Ten, working across The Project, and her pay cheque for that is rumoured to be over $2 million (oof).

This is why it's important to talk about the gender pay gap — always, until it no longer exists.

If you ever get pushback from someone and don't know what to say, check out our expert-backed responses to the most common gender pay gap myths.

They say: Women aren’t as good at negotiating as men, that’s why they get paid less.

We say: Hey, if you think it's fair to pay people based on their salary negotiating skills, then that's totally fine. But if you think that people should be paid based solely on their skills, expertise and value to the company, then this is a total BS excuse!

And it turns out women are actually great at negotiating, we've just been taught our whole lives that it's not ladylike. "When women negotiate like men they're often viewed as too aggressive or pushy and they learn not to behave like that again," says Yolanda Beattie, the public affairs manager at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). Repeat after me: I'm not bossy, I'm a boss.

They say: Of course women are going to be paid less, they take years off to have babies

We say: Um, hell no! Studies show that most women end up having less than 12 months off when they have a baby, and that's not what affects their salary – it's when they come back to work that the pay gap begins to widen, because there are less opportunities available to people who aren't available 24/7. How about workplaces find a way to help support women with children so that they can come back and do a kickass job and continue to move up through the ranks, despite the fact that they're now a mother?

They say: Women could get paid more, but they don’t want to do the jobs that earn the most.

We say: First of all, do women really not want those jobs? Or have we just been brainwashed from birth to think that women should be caring and nurturing, and work in jobs that embrace those qualities?

And secondly, let's consider for a second WHY these jobs get paid less — take plumbers and nurses, for example. Both professions are crucial to society. Both involve manual labour, touching poo occasionally, crisis management and require technical qualifications. But plumbers have an average starting salary of $55,000, while registered nurses start on around $48,000.

So why the difference? "The reality is that in our society we will pay more for the things we value more. The pay gap is just another indicator of gender inequality in Australia," says Julie McKay Executive Director of UN Women Australia.

They say: More women work part time, that’s why the pay gap is so big.

We say: Nope, sorry guys. The gender pay gap is worked out by comparing the full-time earnings of men and women, and doesn't take into account people working part time.

They say: But I get paid more than my male colleagues, so obviously things must be getting better?

We say: You go girl, you're killing it. But unfortunately that doesn't mean there's not a problem with the way companies value women. Most companies don't intend to pay women 18% less, but unconscious bias creeps in, and the way things are set up mean that women are less likely to make it up to senior levels. That's why public reporting is so important, because it forces companies to admit there's a problem, and gives them a chance to fix things.

They say: Why does it matter if women get paid less if they have enough to survive?

We say: Because it's completely unfair and unethical! And it also means that women have less economic freedom than men. "If you have economic independence, you have a whole lot more choices in life," says Tanya Plibersek. "You can choose good relationships and more importantly you can choose to leave bad relationships. Violence against women and economic security are closely related. "