Gender pay gap does damage beyond just the financial

Imagine standing your son and your daughter next to each other and having to tell your daughter that when she grows up, she will earn, on average, 20 per cent less than her brother.

Imagine standing your son and your daughter next to each other and having to tell your daughter that when she grows up, she will earn, on average, 20 per cent less than her brother.

Imagine telling her that if she wants to work in the financial and insurance services industry along with her brother, he would earn, on average, 30.6 per cent more than she would, just because he is a man.

It’s a scenario that is so absurd it would be laughable, if it wasn’t deeply concerning and the fact that at present, this shocking gender pay disparity is a reality.Today, in Australia is Equal Pay Day, a day that marks the period of extra days in the current financial year that a woman would need to work to achieve the same wages as a man.

This year, the figure sits at 65 extra days.It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about pay inequity.And inequitable it is.

The Australian Bureau of statistics figures released last month show the pay gap at 20.8 per cent nationally for total weekly earnings.While no industry is immune, the figures clearly outline that some industries are significantly poorer performers than others with a 30.6% gap in financial and insurance services, 29.6% in healthcare and social assistance, 27.4% in renting, hiring and real estate and 25.6% in construction.

The pay gap has a significant impact on superannuation too. Reduced wages mean a reduced retirement fund for women.

A recent report from the Institute of Actuaries of Australia found that women were more likely to experience the worst outcome in retirement compared to couples and single men, with many women “unable to achieve a comfortable standard of living”.

These figures send the wrong message to women.

It tells them that they are not valued in the workplace and that their labour is worth less simply because they have a different set of chromosomesFurthermore, the figures also send the wrong message to other employees and to society as a whole.Paying women less, just for being a woman, further embeds negative gender attitudes that have been linked to family violence and violence against women.

The makeup of the boardroom or the dollars in a pay packet at the end of the week may seem far away from the pursuit to achieve a culture of non-violence but they are intrinsically linked.

One in two women report experiencing workplace discrimination as a result of their pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work.Countries that have greater equality through their institutions, parliaments and workplaces experience less violence against women.

Tackling the pay gap between men and women is not only an argument of equality, but also an argument for Australia’s economic prosperity.

The 2015 Intergenerational Report signposted a need for greater participation of women and older Australians in the workforce.Australian think tank, the Grattan Institute, has previously reported that a six per cent rise in the participation of women in the workforce would increase the size of the Australian economy by about $25 billion annually.

The pay gap isn’t just hurting gender stereotypes and the fight for equality, it’s hurting our hip pocket too.

Earlier this year my colleague, Minister for Industrial Relations Natalie Hutchins, lodged a submission to the Productivity Commission’s Workplace Relations Framework review, which described the pay gap as being at a 20 year high, and called on the Abbott Government to ensure gender equality as a focus of the review.Promoting gender equality and eroding negative gender stereotypes is no doubt a whole of society issue; however, the Commonwealth has significant levers that impact women’s ability to work, including childcare, industrial relations and income support.

It’s vital that progressive mechanisms are put in place to enhance gender equality and promote better outcomes for women and the economy.The Abbott Government has the power to establish national avenues of reform to address the growing barriers to pay equity that women face and should do so as a matter of priority.We must ensure that our daughters have the same opportunities as our sons.

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