Shannon Fentiman, QLD Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety and Minister for Multicultural Affairs has announced today that she supports ‘positive discrimination’ to close the gender pay gap. Ms. Fentiman said this is ‘definitely something we should have a conversation about. This has struck up a fair bit of conversation across social media. There are a lot of people who are genuinely concerned that this will cause undue discrimination for men; and that there is not really a gender pay gap to consider. Life does seem pretty fair at times, right?
I have detailed at the end of this blog post some information regarding discrimination against women in the workforce. The information below was previously sent in a letter to the Prime Minister and Minister for Women, in 2013, but it appears he has made no progress on this matter and to my knowledge has not even attempted to start a conversation about this type of disparity women face.
I know there are a lot of jokes out there on social media about Abbott being the Minister for Women. It would be great if we can just stop laughing about it now; because it isn’t funny when he is stifling progress.
I have a few concerns with how we approach this issue of gender disparity in pay and the workplace:
The first issue is that it was very evident when I completed this research for the initial blog post; that Indigenous women experience more disparity than non-Indigenous women. I feel that this needs to have a specific focus from the Government.
The second issue is the high unemployment rate for Youth. Particularly in regional Queensland areas. For example, there are very limited administration opportunities in regional communities. The public sector, since the cuts from the Newman Government has seen a sharp decline in any recruitment for administration in the public sector in regional communities; particularly entry level administration. Small business has struggled since the GFC, with some improvements being noted in recent times; but small business needs a hand up to give young people employment opportunities as well. Not enabling our youth to access employment now, will increase the existing disparity for women; but also increase generational disparity for both genders in years to come.
The third issue I have is how we approach positive discrimination so that it does not enable disadvantage for men. When we view inequality, we need to view every step of the process and not just the end process of the ‘job interview’ or selection process. We need to view every step towards securing employment, rather than believing everyone is equal at every point of the process. For some who experience other social marginalization, the disparity inequity widens. This is where I feel the argument of “the best person for the job” does fall down.
In communities where there is little administration recruitment occurring and a lot of mining or laboring recruitment, it does create disparity for what women can apply for from the outset. Many women are not suited to the types of laboring or trades jobs advertised in regional QLD communities, but some women most certainly are suited. Where women are the primary care givers, it creates further hindrances to securing employment in a traditional male field. I acknowledge that there are many traditional male jobs and industries not suited to all men, and I also acknowledge that disparity exists for some men to enter into traditional female fields of employment. I also acknowledge that social disadvantages affect both genders.
Therefore, a holistic approach needs to be used to ensure that ‘equal footing’ at the point of application is achieved. This includes identifying hindrances to women and men in individual communities and tailoring Govt assistance to business, encouraging investment or examining the capital city focus of the Public Sector. In addition, the community sector lost a lot of funding in regional communities and this also needs to be looked at, to bring funding back to small local organisations, rather than granting of tender funding to larger national organisations, where most of the senior management, human resource management, accounting, administration or clerical work is done in their head office. Education and training opportunities from high school, vocational and university level also need to be scrutinized as contributors to hindrance.
The fourth issue I have is the differences between metropolitan, regional and rural communities. The Government needs to focus on individual communities, rather than Queensland as a whole to address the issues individual areas face. This goes back to my point that there are simply not the same administration and management opportunities for women in regional areas in the Public Sector as there are for women living in a capital city. No woman who wants to progress in the QLD Public Sector should have to consider moving to Brisbane to do so. This is inequity in itself.
The fifth issue I have is that we need urgent Industrial Relations reform to review the award wages attached to jobs identified as traditional women’s jobs; whilst not impacting adversely on these industries. However, this will be a challenge with a Federal Liberal Government at the helm and the length of time that these wages and industries have been seen as lesser value. This will require not only an Industrial relations change, but a cultural/societal change. This will not be an easy fix nor a quick fix.
I look forward to suggestions from readers on how we can address this issue in a positive and progressive manner.
For those who doubt that women experience discrimination within the workplace a pay; please view the information below:
Discrimination against women arising from casualisation in the workforce and high numbers working in insecure employment and
Discrimination against women through the continuation of lower wages in ‘traditional women’s industries’, and the general availability of fewer opportunities of penalties and overtime. Please note that in 2011, the gender pay gap was 17.2% for full-time workers and
Discrimination against women in the workforce, or who are job seeking who either cannot access or cannot afford childcare
- More women than men in Australia continue to work in jobs that provide less security and stability
- Some of the lowest paid industries in Australia such as Accommodation and Food Services, Arts and Recreation Services and Retail trade tend to employ the highest proportion of female employees without paid leave entitlements (61 per cent, 48 per cent and 34 per cent respectively
- 30 per cent of female employees who are lone parents with dependent children, are casual employees without paid leave entitlements
- In 2012, the total cash weekly earnings by gender were $1189.00 (Men) $852.00 (Women) (Source Australian Bureau of Statistics)
Discrimination against women in achieving leadership and management roles and
Discrimination by default, due to under-representation in management and board positions in Australia
- In virtually all sectors of the paid workforce, women are underrepresented in leadership roles.
- Women account for over half of academic staff, however only 27% of women are Senior Lecturer or above.
- 64% of law graduates are women, however only 22% of women hold senior positions in law firms. Only 16% of women are on the bench in the Federal Court of Australia.
- Women chair only two per cent of ASX200 companies (four boards), hold only 8.3% of Board Directorships, hold only four CEO positions and make up only 10.7% of executive management positions
- In 2008, women held 5.9% of line executive management positions in ASX 200 companies; a decrease from 7.5% in 2006. Line executive management experience is considered essential for progressing to top corporate positions.
- Women make up a third of members on Australian Government Boards and Committees.
- Despite comprising more than half of all Commonwealth public servants, women make up only 37% of the Senior Executive Service. (Source Australian Human Rights Commission)
Discrimination by default suffered by women who, as primary parental care givers, end up with reduced superannuation earnings in retirement and
Discrimination by default suffered by women, will receive less superannuation over time, through the continuation of lower wages in ‘traditional women’s industries’
- Only 60% of Indigenous women have superannuation coverage compared to 80% of women in the general population.
- Many women work more than one casual job across different employers and do not receive super from any individual employer, due to earning less than $450 per month.
- The mean super balance of men earning under $5400 per year is just almost double the amount for women in the same group. (Source ASFA)
- Women have significantly less money saved for their retirement – half of all women aged 45 to 59 have $8,000 or less in their superannuation funds, compared to $31,000 for men.
- Currently, the average superannuation payout for women is a third of the payout for men – $37,000 compared with $110, 000.
- In Australia, women working full-time today earn 16 per cent less than men.
- Women also receive less super across the board, due to the gender pay gap of 17.2% (Source Australian Human Rights Commission)
The under-representation of women in parliament, amounting, in the absence of any system to redress the imbalance, to discrimination
It is concerning that not only are women under-represented in Australian politics, but Australia is ranked number 43/142 countries for women in national parliaments.
The Australian Government Office for Women, which is part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; aims to ensure a whole-of-government approach to providing better economic and social outcomes for women. However, the analysis by Waring et. al. of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of women in politics; would indicate the Australian Government Office for Women is not well placed to achieve these aims, due to under-representation of women in Parliament, and an absence of a system to redress the imbalance.
I have outlined the reasons below:
- If women are not present at policy and decision-making levels, there is a democratic deficit. Decisions taken without women’s perspective lack credibility in a democratic context
- The participation of women leads to a new perspective and a diversity of contributions to policy-making and to priorities of development, and it gives the female population a role in deciding the future of their country and the rights and opportunities for their gender.
- A democracy which excludes women, or in which women are represented only marginally, is not a real democracy. Women’s participation in policymaking is a question of justice and equality
- Women’s greater participation would impact upon the traditional values held by men. Sharing of power and responsibilities would become reality. Political meetings and programmes would be scheduled to take into account domestic responsibilities of both men and women.
In the current Government we are now faced with very little representation of women in Government. Margaret Fitzherbert’s lecture (APH, 2012) outlines many reasons why the Liberal party lags behind in representation. The main reasons are:
- No persistent pressure to pre-select women
- Liberal party culture – a culture which largely tolerates branch members asking women candidates for preselection questions about their parental and marital status.
Margaret Fitzherbert sums up with, “It’s time for the Liberals to take a lesson from the past – acknowledge the problem, and stop relying on a blind faith in ‘merit’ to somehow provide a sudden increase in numbers of female MPs.”
I would like to end this post to give thanks to the Queensland Labor Party for making history for succeeding in appointing more female Ministers than men in a Queensland Government and the first female, indigenous woman MP and Minister in a QLD Government.