28 August 2020
Sadly, we continue to have no progress in 2020, with figures showing that the national gender pay gap has not improved since last year and remains at 14 per cent for full-time employees, a difference of $253.60 each week. And I fear that the progress we have made over the last few decades has a real potential of reversing as the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis continue to be felt.
Today is Equal Pay Day, marking the 59 additional days from the end of the last financial year that women must work, on average, to earn the same amount as men earnt in that year.
The gender pay gap is a measure of the barriers women face in the workforce. This discrimination harms women’s careers, their financial stability and their long-term financial sustainability.
There are many factors that contribute to the gender pay gap, including female-dominated industries often getting lower pay, a lack of workforce flexibility, gendered parental leave resulting in women taking longer out of the workforce than their partners, and ongoing discrimination in hiring, promotions and pay decisions.
As an employer in the early childhood education and care sector—a low-paid, women-dominated industry—I am continuing to fight for recognition of the professionalism of the sector and for better pay and conditions for the many educators who help children have the best start possible. Our Enterprise Agreement includes above-award rates for roles in early childhood to help address the gender pay gap and appropriately remunerate employees in this sector, a sector that the COVID crisis has been shown to be absolutely essential, yet was the first to have JobKeeper removed.
I also continue to call for more men to consider working in community services and the early childhood education and care sector. Diversity in a workplace is beneficial to all of us and can go a long way to reducing the gender pay gap.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, with labour force statistics showing that more women than men have dropped out of employment during the crisis. This will have long-term effects on women’s financial security.
Before the crisis, women were already responsible for the majority of unpaid labour, including unpaid care for children and other family members. Sadly, this disparity has only risen during the COVID-19 crisis. I fear that this will lead to the gender pay gap increasing as the COVID crisis continues and the recession deepens, with more women having to reduce their working hours to care for others.
And the situation has only been exacerbated by government stimulus measures that have disproportionately benefited men as a workforce. I call on all governments to consider the gendered impact of their economic stimulus measures.
In the October federal budget, we need a women’s budget. And I do not mean simply an outline of how women might benefit from generic policies, but analysis of how policies and spending decisions will impact women, who have been so hard hit by this crisis.
We know that getting women into work is good for the economy, and that gender equality is good for business. WGEA’s Gender Equity Insights Report 2020 provided definitive evidence that gender-balanced leadership in an organisation delivers better company performance, improved productivity and greater profitability.
Organisations must eliminate the gender pay gap, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is their fiduciary responsibility and an important aspect of rebuilding the Australian economy.
At YWCA Canberra, we are working to break barriers to women’s economic participation through programs like She Leads, our flagship leadership program for women and non-binary people. The goal of the program is to equip the next generation of women leaders, from all sectors and industries, with the skills and confidence they need to reach their leadership potential.
However, we can’t do this alone and need government and the business community to continue genuinely working toward gender equality.
Although this has been an extremely difficult year and we’re all exhausted, we need to keep minding the gap.