The gender pay gap just got bigger in Australia – how to support ‘Equal Pay Day 2021’

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$261.50 per week. Roughly $13,598 per year. That’s now the gender pay gap between men and women in Australia. Aka, how much less Australian women are earning, on average, when compared to their male counterparts. 

These gut-wrenching figures were released earlier this month in a new report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). WGEA used data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to calculate the national gender pay gap. When comparing full-time wages for Australian men and women in the last six months, they identified an 0.8% increase. Meaning the national gender pay gap is now 14.2%.

Sigh. 

As if the increased gender pay gap wasn’t enough to make you yell ‘WHAT’ and ‘WHY’, the new figures cover the same period – the June 2021 quarter – in which, overall, average Australian wages have risen by 0.4%. Men’s wages have made the larger contribution to the overall growth – up by 1.8% for men, and 0.9% for women. 

Why does it feel like we’re moving backward?

We know that women are more vulnerable to the economic effects of COVID-19. Early evidence from the beginning of the pandemic showed that women were facing increased economic insecurity. This is largely because women occupy the industries worst hit by the pandemic, including retail and care. Plus, households with children have been forced to either work from home, change or reduce their working hours. Others have had to take leave when those options weren’t available. 

As well as the negative impact on industries dominated by women; many industries dominated by men, like construction, have been the recipients of increased government subsidies. In the original data, the ABS highlighted: “the high average earnings growth in the construction industry, which has a high proportion of men”.

It’s worth noting that current research into Australia’s gender pay gap doesn’t include data on BIPOC women or the many hours of unpaid labour undertaken by mothers. 

What can companies do to close the gender pay gap in Australia?

Interestingly, 2021 Gender Equity Insights Report from BCEC and WGE shows that companies who regularly complete gender pay audits are faster at closing the gender pay gap. While companies who stopped doing pay audits saw their managerial pay gaps increase.

This is a big driver behind Equal Pay Day‘ – a national day to remind all employers that the gender pay gap requires urgent action.

Get behind Equal Pay Day 2021 and #WhatsYourPayGap

This year, Equal Pay Day 2021 falls on 31 August 2021. Marking the 61 extra days (from the end of the previous financial year) that women, on average, must work to earn the same annual pay as men. 

Here are a few ways to add your voice to the conversation:

  • Ask your employer if they’re completing the gender pay audits and if not, why not? Visit wgea.gov.au for employer resources. 
  • Start the conversation with your partner, friends, and family. Chances are, a large portion of your nearest and dearest don’t understand the urgency of the situation. Share your research with them and see how you can all benefit from meaningful chats.
  • End the stigma around asking ‘what are you being paid?’ It can be awkward but being able to share your salary with friends and colleagues shouldn’t be a no-go. You could start by asking a close friend what they make and work out those conversational kinks with someone you trust. 
  • Investigate investing in line with your values with companies that take proactive action to close the pay gap. For example, at Verve we’ve created a Gender Equality Index to prioritise investing in companies that perform better on standard gender criteria set by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. This means we’re taking proactive action  to tackle gender inequality. 
  • Use the hashtag – help to make sure #WhatsYourPayGap does the rounds on social media. Check the hashtag for images you can repost or visit @wgeagency

If things continue as they are, WGEA predicts it will take 26 years to close the gender pay gap. That’s not good enough. 

Given the climate crisis also at play, and the proof that financial equality for women leads to a better world for all, it’s vital that we keep putting pressure on employers and the government to create a fairer working world for women.

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