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Gender pay gap is the elephant in the room



Image: Pussy Riot

Editor's blog | Featured

By Stephanie Zillman

Quite frequently I notice a single theme seems to dominate the week. This week – undoubtedly – it’s feminism.

Male readers: don’t retreat in fear. This is not a call to arms. Read on sirs!

On Monday I happened to catch an interview on ABC’s 7:30 with Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk protesters behind a series of anti-authoritarian demonstrations, which landed them in jail for two years. The harsh penalties they face for demonstrating their beliefs make their sacrifice all the more admirable, and indeed amazing.

Shortly thereafter, Australian social commentator, writer and lecturer Jane Caro was on Q&A, and a storm of controversy ensued following some of her, well, more provocative points of view. An all-women panel discussing their ‘Dangerous Ideas’ off the back of the festival by the same name held in Sydney at the weekend – it was always going to attract controversy.

This preceded a throwaway remark from a male friend about the gender pay gap in Australia, but his comment had a sting in its tail. The latest ABS data released in August shows that the pay gap is now at a record high since recording started in 1994: 18.2 per cent.

In real dollar terms – this means women are currently earning just 81.8 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earn, down from an average of 85.1 cents ten years ago.

Politics aside, the pay gap is nothing short of an elephant in the room.

Yolanda Beattie from the The Workplace Gender Equality Agency said the pay gap crossing the 18 per cent threshold, is an indication that Australia’s economic structure and workplace structure is failing women.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick went one step further – that the data was “alarming and depressing” and declaring that “bold measures” were now needed to be taken to begin to close the gap.

What are those ‘bold measures’ though?

To me, it boils down to one thing. Business owners know intimately and precisely what they are paying staff.

It’s time to pay it equally. And there’s nothing controversial about that.

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