As the gender pay gap grows, Equal Pay Day 2021 is not a day to celebrate

31 August 2021

Today is Equal Pay Day 2021. But it is not a time to celebrate: it is a day to remember that many women are working long hours with low remuneration in highly-feminised industries, such as early childhood education and care.

Equal Pay Day is on 31 August this year to mark the 61 additional days from the end of last financial year that women must work, on average, to earn the same amount as men earned in that year.

Unfortunately, as with many other gender-equality measures, progress to reduce the gender pay gap has reversed during the pandemic. Over the last year, the national pay gap has grown to 14.2 per cent for full-time employees, a difference of $261.50 each week.

The gender pay gap is a measure of the barriers women face in the workforce. This discrimination harms women’s careers, their immediate financial stability and their long-term financial sustainability.

The factors that contribute to the gender pay gap are well known and documented, including lower pay rates in women-dominated industries, a lack of workplace flexibility combined with women still being expected to take on more unpaid care duties, and discrimination and bias in hiring, pay decisions and promotions.

“These are factors we can address”, said YWCA Canberra CEO, Frances Crimmins.

“Too many people in leadership still deny the existence or significance of this gap, leading to a lack of action. For the gender pay gap to reduce, governments and the business community need to take active steps toward gender equality.”

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women and men in Australia tend to be segregated into different occupations and industries, with female-dominated occupations attracting lower pay than male-dominated ones.

“The caring and social services industries have significantly lower pay than occupations in the construction industry,” Ms Crimmins asked. “Remuneration is a reflection of the social and financial value we give to jobs, and this disparity is because traditionally ‘female’ jobs are considered less valuable. This needs to change.”

“As a WGEA Pay Equity Ambassador and 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,” Ms Crimmins said.

YWCA Canberra is proud to provide above-award wages for staff at all levels within our early childhood education and care services.

“But the award needs to increase,” Ms Crimmins said.

“It is currently barely above minimum wage. These are qualified staff subject to strict regulatory requirements, who constantly juggle priorities to provide for each child’s mental, physical and emotional development and wellbeing. They deserve better.”

Early childhood education is a cornerstone of our economy, allowing parents to work. This has been clearly demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with early childhood educators enabling essential workers to continue caring for our community.

“But sadly many skilled educators are faced with job insecurity and have to seriously decide whether it was worth staying in a sector that the government and public seem to give little regard or appreciation for,” Ms Crimmins said.

YWCA Canberra programs

YWCA Canberra is doing its part to reduce the gender pay gap by equipping women to take on leadership roles:

  • Our She Leads program continues to break down barriers to women’s economic participation by equipping the next generation of women leaders, from all sectors and industries, with the skills and confidence they need to reach their leadership potential.
  • We create a pipeline of skilled women leaders through our Board Traineeship program (which is currently open for nominations).
  • We have developed the Bringing on Board publication to help organisations develop and implement their own board traineeships programs to increase diversity.

More information:

 

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Media contact: Zoya Patel, 0455 655 330, zoya.patel@ywca-canberra.org.au

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