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When our best sportswomen play for free, we need to close the pay gap

August 31 2018 By Patty Kinnersly, Our Watch CEO

The fight for equal pay for men and women has been waged over many years, going all the way back to suffragette times. There has been progress, but in 2018 that gap still sits at the disappointing figure of 14.6 per cent.

AFLW players Image

Over the years, people have come up with inventive ways to illustrate the unfairness of this situation. Some have charged men more than women for goods, based on the pay gap percentage, others have walked out of work before their male colleagues, again, based on the number of hours women are effectively working for nothing.  

Last week I came across a stark, real life example of the gender pay gap. At a Women in Leadership forum hosted by La Trobe University, the AFL confirmed that there is a combined salary cap of $3.7 million for the three local male footy leagues, while the netballers play for free. That’s not a 14.6 per cent pay gap: that’s 100 per cent.  

These sportswomen are highly skilled, passionate and committed. But in 2018 they are earning nothing while their male peers are paid generously for their time. 

Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins noted that pay and funding disparity were still huge issues for women’s sport. Currently, only nine per cent of corporate sponsorship dollars and 10 per cent of media coverage goes to women’s sport. 

So today, on Equal Pay Day, I urge everyone to take the time to reflect on the massive injustice of that 14.6 per cent difference. It is an inequality so blatant and yet it is in plain sight, every day. 

Here are some current examples of pay disparity across different industries:  

  • In financial and insurance services, 26.6 per cent. 
  • Health care and social assistance, 25 per cent. 
  • Rental, hiring and real estate services, 24 per cent. 
  • Professional, scientific and technical services, 22.3 per cent 
  • Arts and Recreation, 19.3 per cent 
 (source, Workforce Gender Equality Agency) 

I acknowledge that the pay gap between men and women is at its lowest level in 20 years, and congratulate all those who have worked so hard over many years toward this. 

Australian Bureau of Statistics data show that the national gender pay gap for full-time employees fell from 15.3 per cent to 14.6 per cent in the past 12 months, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.  

This is progress in the right direction, but 14.6 per cent is still 14.6 per cent. It means women must work 62 extra days a year to earn the same pay as their male colleagues.  

And troubling beliefs about women’s right to work and the value of the contribution that they make are still with us. Ask most women who work part-time or in other ways have adapted their work to balance family commitments and they will tell you that the so-called mummy track (discrimination against working mothers) is alive and well. 

Disturbingly, a recent study found parents often pay their daughters less pocket money than they do their sons. This sends the clear message both that girls’ work is worth less than boys’, and that girls need less money than boys. 

Equal pay will be achieved through a raft of measures; change is needed in legislation, in workplace pay reviews but also in cultural attitudes and understanding. 

But change definitely won’t be achieved by sticking with the status quo. That’s why this Equal Pay Day I call on all workplaces to put in place concrete action to close the gap between men’s and women’s pay. Actions such as offering flexible work practices to all employees, reviewing pay rates, supporting affordable childcare and addressing the superannuation gap between men and women.  

Like so many who have championed this cause before us, we have to work for change, it won’t be handed to us.