Pay gaps and life hacks

The story of Amelia and William is fictional but it is based on data.

The data shows that we still have a long way to go before we achieve gender equality in the Australian workplace.

It is difficult to identify discrimination or disadvantage at work. Often, it is only when the facts and figures are added up that it becomes obvious that gender can have a big impact on a career. 

This is why gender equality is everyone’s business.

Here are some actions you can take to make gender equality your business:

Gender equality in the workplace is achieved when all employees are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are a woman or a man.

The WGEA calculates that national gender pay gap is 14.1%. Gender pay gaps vary across industries and even across organisations but they are almost always in favour of men.

Making sure your employer or potential employer is committed to gender equality can help to ensure you face fewer barriers in the workplace.

Actions:

  • Look at your organisation’s WGEA report 
  • Check whether your employer has a gender equality strategy or policy
  • Ask whether your employer has ever done a gender pay analysis
  • Find out what your flexible work and parental leave entitlements are

There is a gender pay gap favouring men in every industry and occupational category in Australia. In nearly every industry, this gender pay gap begins at graduation.

Close to 40% of Australians’ pay is set by negotiation between individuals and their employer. Data shows gender pay gaps are wider when employee pay is set by an individual agreement.

Even when pay is set by award or collective agreement, there may be some room to negotiate starting level or work conditions.

Therefore, it is very important that employees know their value and make gender equality their business from day one.

Actions:

  • Check the Higher Education Enrolments and Graduate Labour Market Statistics fact sheet to see graduate gender pay gaps in your field
  • Know your worth: benchmark your salary expectations against your peers and not against your salary history
  • Advocate for yourself and be clear about what you are asking for
  • Consider non-financial conditions in your negotiation, such as flexible working arrangements
  • Participate in negotiation training.

Starting a family can be an exciting time. However, it can also be a period of change that impacts your lifelong economic security.

In Australia, women frequently take extended parental leave. Men often do not have access or support to take time off, even if they want to.

Many employers offer paid parental leave for primary or secondary carers in addition to the government’s paid parental leave scheme, however it is not a legal requirement for them to do so.  

Actions:

  • Check your employer’s parental leave policy and entitlements – and ask your partner to do the same
  • Understand how leave will affect your superannuation
  • Find out what support your employer offers for returning to work from parental leave
  • Be proactive about asking for flexible work arrangements
  • Be supportive of women and men in your workplace who work flexibly.

When employees take time off paid work to care for children, the sick or elderly, this also has a large impact on their careers and earnings. Women are more likely to take time off work or to work reduced hours to balance unpaid care work. 

The responsibility is not equally distributed and directly contributes to the gender and superannuation pay gaps. Sharing the care is key to improving gender equality.

Actions:

  • Talk to your partner about how to balance paid and unpaid work in your family
  • Challenge stereotypes at work and at home about what kinds of work women and men ‘should’ do
  • Consider the impact of decisions around paid and unpaid work on your longer-term earning potential and superannuation balance
  • Consider whether working flexibly can support you and your family to manage work responsibilities.

Australia’s superannuation system relies on employees maintaining a steady and secure income over the course of their lifetime. On average, women are retiring with roughly half of the superannuation of men due largely to more fragmented work histories and lower paid work. Retired women are also more likely to live in poverty than men.

For many of us, economic security in our old age still seems like a distant concern. However, the cumulative nature of the Australian retirement system means that the decisions you make now have an impact later down the road. It is important to be vigilant and track your superannuation gap.

Actions:

  • Check your superannuation balance
  • Consolidate your accounts
  • Build your financial literacy
  • Check whether your employer pays superannuation during absences like parental leave.