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The gender pay gap. Has anything really changed?
Part I

Wendy Lundgaard
Friday, February 16, 2018
Lisa Wilkinson

Only a few months ago Lisa Wilkinson’s pay packet drew national attention. Our gender pay gap (GPG) in Australia was front page news (literally). Even though this gap has sat around 15 – 19% for over a decade, this was an ‘in your face’ example that brought the issue front and centre. Channel Nine promptly deflected by arguing that the pay packets in question should not be compared as Karl Stefanovic’s ancillary responsibilities were ‘significantly more’. End of story! Did that pass the ‘pub test’?

What played out so publicly is a rare reality check on what is occurring in the opaque world of salaries across the country. International Women’s Day will soon be upon us (What? It’s here again? Quick, can you run our numbers! Have we improved?) There will be predicable responses, gnashing of teeth about this wicked problem despite rebadging our efforts with a cool, 2018 edginess of #pressforchange.

If we aren’t getting to the deeper systems and culture level how can we expect real change?

Frustratingly, the gender pay gap (GPG) remains stuck at around 15% (see WGEA data).   However there is some good news. The GPG for graduates is at the lowest levels in 40 years, down to 1.9% from 6.4% in 2016. Hooray for new starters in the workforce!

With a pay gap so ‘modest’ new grad recruit Helen will barely notice the difference in pay compared to Uni buddy Hugh who also got a placement. However over Friday night drinks during the on-boarding program the topic of salaries came up (as it would – this is their first ‘real’ salary compared to casual, cash in the hand wages at the local café during Uni). After comparing notes Hugh realised he was earning more than Helen and put this down to his Engineering qualifications vs Helen’s Commerce degree. “Everyone knows Engineers are smarter” he sheepishly chimed.

Later that night Helen started to wonder whether HR had made a typo in her contract. Soon after, Helen contacted her HR consultant who clarified there had been no mistake regarding her salary. The HR person was SO helpful drawing attention to the firm’s commitment to career opportunities and restating the principle of merit (code for work hard and you’ll get ahead). HR closed out the conversation with a caution for Helen to review her contract clause on salary confidentiality! Hmmmm.

Fast forward a decade or two.
How similar will pay be for our two grads, based on today’s reality?

Both Helen and Hugh are equally ambitious and look to future promotion opportunities, ultimately to key management roles. Both Helen and Hugh are shocked to learn that the current GPG for this level of responsibility is $93,800 per year (total package). Is this a typo? Nope. In percentage terms this is a difference of 26.8%. Helen’s commercial skills start calculating what the gap would look like over a full career with its implications for mortgages, lifestyle choices, disposable income and the significant ‘hit’ to potential superannuation savings.

Oh, and just one more thing…….

Helen checks the report (she is really skilled at interpreting graphs) and discovers that Hugh has three (3) times the chance of securing that key management role based on gender data. Hugh tried to make Helen feel better despite some misplaced humour (he sometimes can be a bit blunt): “Well it looks like you will be spared the pay gap indignity given so few women actually make it!” (insert suitable emoji for irony).

Coming soon “Why such pay disparity? Putting merit under the spotlight” and more adventures of Helen and Hugh as they explore the world of work today. Or visit our website win-winws.com.au

Wendy LundgaardWendy Lundgaard provides leadership education and workplace training on challenging unconscious bias, inclusive leadership and respectful workplace behaviour. Wendy established her consulting practice in 2006 to assist organisations reap the benefits of high performance through a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.

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