Today is Equal Pay Day in Australia, and while the notion sounds like one we should be celebrating, in the 51st year since the Equal Pay Act was signed, our country still has a long way to go.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has released its yearly report, revealing Australia’s pay disparity still stands at 14 percent, and as a result [Un] Equal Pay Day is today – August 28 – marking the 59 additional days from the end of the financial year that we, as women, must work to earn the same annual salary as our male colleagues. AGAIN.
In numbers, that means that women get paid a weekly average of $253.60 less than men.
Libby Lyons, Director of the WGEA, says while the global pandemic has meant added pressures for employers, they still had an important role to play in paving the way forward. “I know many organisations are going through tough times because of the COVID-19 crisis, but Australian employers still have a really important role to play in closing the pay gap. We know from the data we have collected over the last six years that the actions of employers have led to material improvements in gender equality outcomes in our workplaces and the subsequent drop in the gender pay gap.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has disproportionately disadvantaged women when it comes to the workforce: in April their working hours were cut back by 11.5 per cent versus 7.5 per cent for men. Female-dominated industries such as retail and hospitality were particularly affected, with many casual workers excluded from the JobKeeper scheme.
Women’s unpaid labour surged during lockdown, with 56 percent (compared to a men’s 38 percent) working from home, often taking on childcare responsibilities, too. “This is bad not only for women, but the whole economy,” Ebony Bennett, deputy director of The Australia Institute, previously told marie claire.
Luckily, it’s not all bad news. There are plenty of companies that are taking the pay gap seriously. At the 2019 inaugural marie claire Glass Ceiling Awards, Software giant Salesforce was honoured for their public stance on pay equity. Through an investment of over $9 million, the company ensured equal pay for equal work for its 4000 employees.
Here’s hoping that more companies will follow their lead and that after half a century of fighting for pay equality, [Un] Equal Pay Day will be celebrated much earlier. And eventually, not at all.