8 Mar 2011

Equal Pay Shouldn't Be Such A Drag

By New Matilda
Women don't get paid as much as men. What will it take to advance real equality around women, work and family? Equal pay ads currently screening on TV suggest that fake moustaches might help...
In the lead up to International Women's Day, the women's network Economic Security for Women tried something new: a funny advertisement. As we all know, feminists aren't supposed to have a sense of humour and the gender pay gap is nothing to laugh about. A "man-over" kit is pitched to young women with the question, "Are you ready to earn what you're really worth?" Donning a fake moustache works wonders for the women in the ad: "That's right, Amanda, now I'm just one of the boys. And it's all thanks to this little guy!" (If you haven't seen the ad you can watch it here.)

The parody is interrupted by a voiceover: "Stop, is this really necessary? Equal pay is just commonsense."

Young women are often accused of dropping the ball on feminism, and plenty of young women disavow feminism on the grounds that they've got all the choices they need. Not all the choices that Gen Y women make are enthusiastically received by older feminists. And when you're being scolded for vajazzling, feminism can sound very serious indeed.

So how do you get young women to think about boring issues like pay equality?

Fake moustaches, of course. For anyone who hasn't been to an under-30s party recently, these babies are big. Over the top man-drag is so hot right now. The ladies love them. So to turn this cultural phenomenon into a serious message about gender inequality is clever.

But will it work? Beyond jokes about "man-overs" lie complex issues of entrenched inequality. We can crunch the numbers on equal pay — and when we do, we find that women get paid less than men, however you slice it. But such measures don't reflect the complexity of the choices that Australian women have to make around work and families. And these choices aren't always as available as those who would argue that we're living in equal times would have you believe.

Today is the centenary of International Womens' Day, an opportunity to celebrate the many steps that have been taken toward gender equality around the world. It's a global event and an opportunity too to reflect on how the fight for womens' rights changes depending on where you come from, on how much you earn, on who you love. When we're talking about the limits to the choices Australian women can make, we are talking about first world problems.

A hundred years ago women were campaigning for equal pay for equal work. What this meant then was getting paid the same rate per hour as men did for the same work. In 1911 in Australia, women had the vote but they weren't being paid at the same rate as men and there were no female representatives in state or federal parliament. It was only in 1969 that the idea of equal pay really caught on in Australia. That's when female rates of pay (that is, lower rates of pay) were abolished for the same job. Pay parity — at least on the books — was eventually achieved in 1972.

But the gender pay gap currently stands at 18 per cent — and it's worsening.

Why is this so? The very concept of equal pay in 2011 might require some calibration. One of the challenges to formulating arguments around equal pay for equal work is that the participation of so many women in the workforce differs from that of men. Why is that? Because women bear children and perform the bulk of care duties in families. Women and men don't always do the same work.

FAHCSIA commissioned research on the gender pay gap which was published in 2009. The study found there were many drivers to the gender pay gap, including children. No surprises — tiny feet don't just pitter patter, they trample wages. Women with children participate less in the labour market than women without children or men. Women with children earn less over their lifetimes.

There's no need to tell older women that this problem exists. Anyone with children or considering having a family has struggled with the conflict between having kids and a working life. Women ask themselves not only questions such as, "do I want to put my career on hold to have kids?", but also, "can I afford to have children?" Framing the decisions that women make around work and having children as a simple and selfish desire to have it all is missing the point: it's about economic security.

And what's wrong with having it all anyway? Men with children don't make the same career sacrifices as women: by and large, they stay at work. Given our great prosperity, why can't we offer young women like those targeted in the "man-over" ad the prospect of real choice in the workforce? Paid maternity leave will make it easier for many women to take time off to have kids. If women need more help to stay in the workforce once they've had them, they should be given it.

We need to keep campaigning for equal pay, and if obvious parody is what it takes to convince a new generation of women to start asking for real equality around work and family, then we're right behind it.

Happy International Women's Day!


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David Grayling
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 13:29

I watched Gail Kelly last night on Q&A and it was revealed she is paid around 10 million dollars per year.

Blimey, what is this article about then? Gail doesn't wear a false moustache either!

Well, she might but she wasn't wearing it last night.

Ten million. Struth. She could afford a few facials and a hair tint with that I reckon! Perhaps even a castle in Spain.


Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 14:14

@David Grayling

Unfortunately a casual observation of the earnings of an individual does not have any value in assessing the validity of the argument made in this article.


"In 1911 in Australia, women had the vote"

This is not entirely correct. Some woman had the vote by that stage, but others, notably indigenous women, did not.

Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 14:44

Ok I'll be the bunny who bites.
I suspect the author is out of touch with the reality of men's options.
The reality is that most men who enter the slippery management pole meet a glass ceiling too....i.e. gender isn't the only or major impediment to the keys to the executive wash room.

Clearly the figures available are deceptive and misleading. There are more suitably qualified men who try and are blocked for 'political' reasons than suitably qualified women. Actual participation numbers are unknown. Raw data of the number of women in executive positions is at best incomplete.

Likewise the assumptions in the article that men simply continue their careers et sec implying they have choices is also misleading. At least the management level most have NO CHOICE as to the hours of actual work. This often exceed the 40 hrs by a significant margin. Their choice is either put in the hours sacrificing ( family) or be excluded from advancing (more money etc for the family demands) or sacked. I would suggest that the amount of expected O/t paid and unpaid is beyond the control of the average worker too. See the latest comparison between hours work in Aust and overseas. It is a giant leap in logic to assume that men today favour their careers over family by choice.

My complaint is with Feminism is that it entrenches the different attitudes adding to the problem.
Women being paid less FOR THE SAME WORK is unacceptable but is a Human rights problem and needs to be dealt with accordingly. After all women are human , or so I'm reliably informed by the family Coven (joke) that out number the male bastards in the family.

I find this article is being framed in past situations.

David Grayling
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 15:23

KristianX, mine was not a casual observation. I was all agog!

And why isn't Gail's income of any relevance? She is a woman as far as I could tell.

Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 16:08

@David Grayling

The article is arguing not "There are no wealthy women" but that women on average earn less than men - for the same work/role. Pointing out that a single woman has a multi-million dollar salary does not rebut the issue at hand.

For example;

The average of the series; 3,5,7,20 is 8.75
Subsequently claiming that the highest figure is 20 doesn't actually tell you anything about that 8.75 average. Indeed, that claim is already included in the original observation.

In much the same way, if most people wear white socks most of the time, seeing someone wearing blue socks doesn't mean the initial claim was wrong. What you need to do to show your point is demonstrate how one person wearing blue socks demonstrates most people aren't wearing white socks.


Your reply seems to be based on asserations that the article contains empirically demonstrable errors. To take your reply as anything as more than an kneejerk ill-informed rant you'll need to provide some specific data that refutes the claims made in the article and indeed the data which the article links to.

That said there are a couple of specific issues to be addressed.

<b>gender isn’t the only or major impediment to the keys to the executive wash room.</b>

On this we can agree. Indeed, reading through feminist research and writing you'll see many of these other issues addressed, in varying degrees. If you are interested I can provide a number of texts you could begin with.

Feminists don't claim that all men have unimpeded access to the "executive wash room" but rather that being male is a condition of that access. In other words, womens access is disproportionally lower <i>because of their gender</i>.

<b>My complaint is with Feminism is that it entrenches the different attitudes adding to the problem.</b>

Which specific attitudes does feminism entrench and how do these add to the problem? Which feminist texts do you feel entrench these attitudes? Do some entrench these attitudes more than others?

Women being paid less FOR THE SAME WORK is unacceptable but is a Human rights problem and needs to be dealt with accordingly.</b>

You are quite correct that the problem women are being paid less for work <i>because they are women</i> is a human rights problem. It is also a problem specifically for women. This seems to be an issue that a political/social movement would seek to address. That social movement is called feminism.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. marnic
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 16:13

Hi kristianx, thanks for pointing that out. Of course you are right that Indigenous women had to wait a lot longer than the rest of us for the right to vote. Apologies for that oversight. Marni (Ed)

David Grayling
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 20:02

KristianX, thanks for lesson on averages. It was unnecessary.

You seem to ignore the fact that Gail Kelley (who heads Westpac) has smashed her way through the glass ceiling and earns 10 million dollars per year. If she can achieve this, why can't other women?

Quoting averages is also misleading as you well know.

Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 20:23


So far you have been insulting to two people simply because they have a different perspectives to you.
I simply questioned the basis for author's 'assumptions' and the currency of them. I did not impugn the person or women.
If you want a discussion I'm all eyes and prepared to discuss and learn. You on the other hand appear to be on some crusade. If you want a brawl thank you for your thoughts and good night.

BTW I'm well aware of ideological arguments I simply favour whole of society approaches to human rights.
Perhaps you should read a bit about human behaviour and the primary aim of all "organisation" and its logical extensions.
Over to you.

Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 11:15

@David Grayling

That is an interesting question, one which a lot of feminist scholars (among others) ask and research.

As far as I can tell you either head in the direction of an explanation by way of something like "there is systemic sexism that favours men over women" which is a statement that can accomodate the presence of a woman (or indeed several) in senior/executive roles.

Or you can begin questioning whether this is a natural state of being, women are generally less able to perform these tasks and this is reflected in their underrepresentation in senior positions.

For example; Prof Martha Lauzen of the San Diego State University has collected data on womens employment in Hollywood as directors, producers and so on. She has found that over the last 20 years women account for fewer than 10% of all directors. Source: http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/research.html These results have been confirmed by the work of Assoc. Prof. Stacy Smith of USC Annenberg and others.

One explanation for this could be that women are not able to make successful films and are therefore not as likely to be hired. This suggestion though is doubtful considering further research which shows that the gender of the director is not a predictor for the financial success of a film, which is to say, films directed by women are just as likely to be as successful as those by men (it is budget, particularly the marketing budget, that most reliably predicts success).

<blockquote> Overall, when women and men filmmakers have similar budgets for their films, the resulting box office grosses are also similar. In other
words, the sex of filmmakers does not determine box office grosses.
(Lauzen, 2008)</blockquote>

You can follow up on further research at the website above.

The reasons why Gail Kelly made it while others didn't are probably many. Maybe she is spectacularly talented, maybe she works for an organisation that takes equal opportunity seriously. The point being that her success does not in and of itself invalidate any claim about trends within the economy. You'd want to be arguing WHY a single case proves the trend is incorrectly interpreted.

Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 11:32


I'm glad you're happy to discuss the issues you raised. I'm not sure how I've insulted anyway but apologise if that is the case.

In my first reply to you I noted three claims you've made and called them to account. If you are indeed willing to have a discussion, by which I mean, present an argument with reference to any existing research or scholarly work, then perhaps these three points would make a good launching point.

<b>Perhaps you should read a bit about human behaviour and the primary aim of all “organisation” and its logical extensions.</b>

I'm not entirely sure what you are suggesting here. Could you elaborate?

<b>I’m well aware of ideological arguments I simply favour whole of society approaches to human rights.</b>

What does a whole of society approach entail? Again, I'm not entirely sure what you are suggesting. Is your claim that feminists don't think that the whole of society needs to be considered when addressing problems of gender inequality?

Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 14:17

While my personal experience (working in the public service, where the male/female executive split is pretty much 50/50) is different to that in other sectors, there are factors which go towards explaining the pay inequity. Women have babies! And usually, take the majority of time off to raise said offspring - with the consequent impacts this will have on future earning capacity etc. Women are also more likely to work part time, take time off for sick children etc etc. Has this been taken into consideration? As more men take up roles as equal carers, the pay gender gap will decrease. We too will be passed over for promotion, or not be able to make that important meeting because we have a sick child, or have to pick them up at school.

Women in the public service generally get better access (than their sisters in the private sector) to carers leave, part time conditions and child care - so perhaps the 50/50 spread in executives and managers represents that?

Until society changes - i.e. recognises that reproduction is a part of the life (rather than something you do in your spare time), and men take more responsibility - the gender pay imbalance will remain. Clever campaigns with moustaches will only get you so far - and makes light of the deep sociological, societal and structural problems which the pay inequity represent.

Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 14:59


<b>Women have babies!... Has this been taken into consideration?</b>

Yes. This is considered in the research linked to in the very article we are commenting on.

David Grayling
Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 16:03

Kristen, Cadwallon has made some good points.

If women decided to remain childless and they competed with men on an equal footing, then the glass ceiling smashers might increase significantly (though Gail has children and 10 million dollars per year).

But many women want to have it all, kids, careers, the whole lot. Few in this world have it all and kids of career-minded couples surely suffer most but they have no voice!

Women can speak out, can force changes. Kids can't!

Olivier A
Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 17:45

Where are these claims substantiated?
All my (past and present) colleagues seemed to receive exactly the same pay
for every position (in Cleaning, Hospitality, and Sales).
I reckon that the 2 main differences in the sum total of female to male earnings are:
1) The woman's choices to have a child (6 months off work at least),
and to be the main parent (maybe 6 years minimum off work full-time-equivalent?).
2) Various non-gender-based factors, including:
who takes their annual leave (less income), and who cashes it out instead (more$).
who takes more unpaid leave (<$), and who less unpaid leave (>$).
who does more paid Overtime/ After Hours/ Public Holidays/ Weekends shifts (>$).
who gets the unpaid perks (like free rentals and bills) (<$), and who the cash (>$).
who gets the massive tax breaks/write-offs (<$), and who gets extra gross income (>$).
not to mention who gets more undeclared income, goods, and services (>$).

Or maybe more women admire 'Dolce far niente' than the ways of Marcus Crassus ;-)

Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 19:37

kristianx It would appear that you missed my cue to context in my original post. When I said [Perhaps you should read a bit about human behaviour and the primary aim of all “organisation” and its logical extensions.]

HUMAN BEHAVIOUR - Tries gain dominance over others by what ever means available in their climbing of Maslow's hierarchy. In context of the article gender is often the last factor involved. By your reasoning males get the job over females BECAUSE they are males. In today's market I doubt that is significantly the case to warrant the generalisation. I'm not suggesting it doesn't happen just that it no longer predominates.
Today's market place is about 'feral' capitalism (ignore morality) simply hire the cheapest employees that can be gotten away with, thus reducing the overheads increasing the profit. The key factor is not gender it is greed. Human Greed (both male and female investors) keeps the unequal pay structures.

ORGANISATIONAL PRIME aim- Their own continuance! in the case of societal groups this means, dogma and maintaining/increasing organisational/personal power structures and personal prestige. in order to do this there must be a common goal which ignores variations or exclusions.
Case : Our household functionally dominant with me joined a predominantly (8-1) women of the local P&C only to find that despite our superior qualifications/skills /background. The ruling clique dominated ignored our input and their kitchen cabinet ran the fete to a loss. This illustrated human nature and the organisational prime aim.

[I’m well aware of ideological arguments ( of feminism)]. I am comfortable in saying that I have probably better read on the underpinning philosophy and stats, than most rank and file feminists. The story is long boring and irrelevant here.
[I simply favour whole of society approaches to human rights.]
IMO the problem with feminism is that is based on a generality and therefore uses a generality as it's target villain. It in effect want to 'take' something from some other group. Look at it like this the aboriginals don't want to take from white men only be included .
In the context of the article I found the ad offensive in that it strove to portray the guilty party as men rather than human nature (therefore a human rights issue), it is the latter that needs change. Hence a whole of society inclusive approach.
I hope this spells it out a bit. Clearly there is a lot more to say but it's wandering off the topic at hand.

Posted Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 14:31

To all the Feminists out there, who wish to "have their cake and eat it too", please note, that if they truly wish to be equal to men, they should start building their own "empires", like men have been doing since time immemorial. Then, they can choose to give their gender more jobs above that "glass ceiling", they keep harping about. Can they truly quote a 50 percent of f.e. Nobel Prize winners in engineering, physics, medicine, literature and all those great inventions, that has brought us all the standard of living that we now enjoy?
My wife and I who have just celebrated our 55th anniversary, have to shake our heads in disbelief, when f.e. a young lady, who works in a hair-dressing salon, complained on t.v., that it was unfair, that car-mechanics earned more, than she did! It would have been very simple for her just to apply for a job in a garage, but we were sure, that she would not like to have her manicured nails covered in grease, or get the stuff on her pretty hair and face. I have always been the sole bread-winner in our house, while my wife looked after our 2 sons and we never demanded tax-payers' contributions to pay for child-care and we fully agree, that couples without children or single workers, should not have to pay for those, whose choice it was to have children and a career at the same time. No government should have the right to order tax-payers to order the community to fund or assist the feminist movement. If a woman has the talent and the inventiveness of f.e. a Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and thousands of other male ground-breakers, then they will be able to break through that "glass ceiling", but those hard working people, who started from scratch to build those huge business-empires, had to do it without demanding places on the boards of directors.
So, why should feminists have the right to do so and why do they need the assistance of a government, that already has put so many impositions on the hard working public?. Please grow up Ladies and stop whingeying! Also, please do not quote "great examples" of women who broke through that "ceiling" like our female Governor General (the job is just for figure-heads and costly to the community) and Ms. Gillard and Anna Bligh have not done too well in their jobs of Prime Minister and Premier so far! Prove that you can build your own company apart from female fashion-houses or magazines, that cater for your tastes, but real job-creating ones and then everybody will applaud you for that.

Posted Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 16:43

how about we use this article for the reason it is - to tell us that women get less money than men - this has been found through research undertaken by the australian bureau of stats.

yes women do have babies and miss out on many ocassions for those promotions that men get while they are on maternity leave.

i personally don't agreed with the governrment's paid maternity leave or baby bonus payments - you want kids you pay for them and look after them yourselves. my grandmover who passed away in january at 108 years old worked on a farm in roma and had to care for her two kids (my father and my aunt). no help for them in the 1930's - in fact is was the depression. no help either for my parents when they had their kids in the 1960's. in fact my mother had to resign when she got married in the 50's and then tried to find work but it was impossible for her to work around the kids school hours, or even anything full time because she was the child carer and part time work didn't exist much then.

my experience has been with the public service and it started off with different superannuation contributions and then finally the same super contributions and same wages and the other advantages that have finally come into the public service - paid maternity/paternity leave, part time work, telecommuting, holiday loading.

that is another thing that i think we should take away from all employees paid maternity leave. it is something that is now not needed as it was when it was introduced by the whitlam governments.

gail kelly and i am guessing here as no one has said who her employer is but i think she is the ceo for st george. she won't be earning the same amounts as the top 4 ceo's. she has done well to get to the ceo of a bank and compete with the other ceo's to keep the bank in close competition with the top 4.

good on the theme of iwd and a century of it. women have come along way in that one hundred years but they are still not equal standings with men. glass ceiling is a huge issue for women to get into the higher levels of management - ceo's, managing directors, etc. i don't really know of the men's glass ceiling existing in the workplace. the one thing that i have noticed as a hrm practioner is that men get promoted into higher positions faster than women, earn much more than women and australian companies seem to prefer to higher overseas ceo's to do major changes to organisations and then when there is trouble, the ceo is then paid out as quickly as possible for the work they have done and someone in australia has to sort out the mess - telstra, amp.

one day women might be earning the equal monies as men but with abs returns there are many women earning less, not working full time, caring for kids, telecommuting.

hope you all had a great iwd.

Anonymous (not verified)
Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 01:03

This equal pay argument, that women don't get paid as much as men, is a complete fallacy...

For example, I would not pay a male prostitute a cent. However a nice woman with pert bits and an accommodating attitude towards the use of small animals would be worth her weight in gold (although hopefully not too much weight, less is more as they say)

Paul N