An Australian Man’s Perspective on Pay Inequality

In the 21st century, ‘equality’ is a key word: race equality, gender equality, marriage equality. But as some areas make progression, bit by bit, there are others that drag along under the weight of decades gone by. When it comes to pay, it is still referred to as an inequality.

As a male, should I be pleased with my gender earning more in the workforce? Of course not, because I believe a person should be paid on their merits, irrespective of age, gender, race and background. If you’re better qualified and more competent than the next person, you should be recognized for your outstanding achievements through greater pay.

But that’s my view, not the view of the industry.

In a 2016 research study, the payment gaps between genders in Australia were assessed. As I am from Australia, these are the statistics that I base my arguments on. The full-time average earnings for women per week stands at $1325.10 compared to the full-time average earnings for men at $1602.80; that’s a differential of $277.70 (or 17.3%) each week. Now, nobody expects exact equality to the dollar, but a gap of nearly $300 per week is alarming.

As we are in the industry of business, it is even more concerning: financial and insurance services have the largest gap (a 30% difference). When you compare this to the fact that women aged 45-54 are the most disadvantaged in the spectrum, there is something wrong. By the age of 45, a woman has had the experience, the education and the time to be deserving of an equal share.

Businesses know this is an issue; it has news coverage, there are female celebrities calling for equality and it is a talking point in politics, but 73.3% of organizations in Australia did not conduct a gender pay gap analysis in 2015…73.3%.

Either they’re certain they’re paying everyone to their merits, or they don’t want to change their methods.

These gaps in Australia don’t match with the equalities in all other aspects of life. Each capital city is a multicultural hub. Gay rights continue to progress. The education sector doesn’t discriminate between genders. But the workforce, the final frontier, can’t join the 21st century…why?

Yes, the UK and the United States have larger gaps. But that is not the point. When figures such as 17.3% difference and 73.3% ignorance are highlighted, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Chief economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain states that it is the sorting of men and women into particular industries that is the issue, not pay gaps as such…but that is blaming women for their choices, and that is a deflection of the problem.

Female managers are paid $100,000 (on average) less than their male counterparts; if a male and a female move up the corporate ladder at the same pace, a man can expect to earn $600,000 more after 10 years…and that study was conducted in 2016. Surely, when faced with such statistics, a change is necessary.

The study also revealed that men will gain more bonuses beyond their salary during their climb, highlighting the fact of their value. If it angers a male, I can only imagine how women in these managerial roles must feel: sure, they are getting paid almost $250,000 a year, but the men doing the same job are earning $344,000. This isn’t a gap that a manager can negotiate in their next appraisal meeting.

There will be those that rubbish these claims, these statistics and these views by saying that in some industries women earn more than men. That, in itself, is also unfair. But when the gap stands at such a level, it must be labelled as inequality.

There are more female students enrolled in tertiary education than males, and the female population is greater than the male population. As men, we must accept this. But accepting the glass ceiling where women can only climb to a certain level in business isn’t acceptable.

So, how is this issue fixed?

It is easy to make a ruling whereby a person is judged on their merits and paid based on their education, skill and service, but this is a pipe-dream. Discrimination will always exist in the workforce. Women, as can be expected, will fight back and start doing the same to men when the opportunity arises…and it creates a system where genders clash and everyone fights for the highest pay. Business is a dog eat dog world, but I’ll ask you a question:

You are the manager of a financial company, and you have two workers vying for the sole position beneath you. One is male, one is female. This business has been in your family for decades, and when you take holidays or sick days or are busy with other duties, this person will assume your mantle and takes charge. You know about pay inequality. You are aware that promoting the female means you can probably lower the wage…based on industry standards. Despite this, the female is the more outstanding candidate: longer service, impeccable record, loyal. Many are expecting the male to be elevated, since he is a natural leader, and he would come at a greater cost if analyzing the pay gaps. Now, do you let industry standards dictate your choice, or do you decide on a dollar figure for the winning candidate and give each employee a month to audition for the role?

If the latter became a norm, this issue wouldn’t exist in Australia. Because when it comes down to the bottom line, it is the top tier managerial positions that are truly impacting the final statistics in these research papers. I would choose a figure, let each employee audition for the role and promote the more deserving person. Remove gender, remove outer judgement and remove discrimination.

But judgement is a part of humanity. We want to be a progressive nation that leads the way in equality, but old habits die hard. We watch a TV show like Mad Men and shake our heads at the way men have meetings and treat the women sharing the office as decorations…yet is the 21st century really so different?

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