On Thursday last week, I read with a certain amount of dismay and alarm the article written by Natalie Barr in the Telegraph. I don’t really have to rehash what she had to say, as the article has been discussed widely; but with respect, whilst I am happy for Ms Barr’s sake that she has never felt discriminated against in the workplace, that does not change some very basic facts about employment and gender issues in Australia and the wider international corporate world.
This is not about women being ‘angry’ at men, or feeling as though men are ‘to blame’ for working conditions. This is not about blame, or it shouldn’t be. It’s about the need to change, because as of October 2013, women in Australia working full-time earned, on average, 17.5 per cent less than men working full-time (not taking into account overtime). Part-time and casual? 37.3 percent.
These statistics do not lie. There is inequality in the workplace – it is as simple as that. And when it comes down to the crunch, those that control the corporate purse strings are, on the whole, men. Does this mean being angry at men? No. What it means is a wake up call for ALL those who want to see equality in the workplace, and that applies to both genders. One person’s experience does not add up to the reality that is pay inequity in Australia. Ms Barr’s pay rate as a cadet journalist may have been equal to a man’s, but I for one would be keen to know whether she receives the same salary as her male co-host on Sunrise.
Co-parenting is not valued in work terms here as it is in countries such as Sweden, where both parents are entitled to 480 days of parental leave when a child is born or adopted. This leave can be taken by the month, week, day or even by the hour. In terms of equality in the workplace, the positive story continues there – in 2012, the share of women heading companies – private and public sector combined – was 36 per cent compared with 29 per cent in 2006.
13 of the 24 government ministers are women.
In Australia, there is one female federal cabinet Minister. There are 5 female Ministers including Assistant Ministers.
There are 23 male Ministers.
Women are discriminated against in terms of everyday life. Again, this is not an opinion, or a rant, but a simple truth. One in four women in high income countries, which includes Australia, have suffered abuse at the hands of their partner, whether sexual, mental or physical – and apart from the emotional cost, domestic violence puts a dent in the Australian economy of $13.6 billion a year. Every day language still holds horrors.
I am not interested in expressing anger about the inherent wrongs we still face as a society. What I am interested in is making sure that we stay focused on what needs to change, and it is not about women working alone to make said changes. It is an impossibility – and what I think Ms Barr fails to recognise is that women and men of worth want to see the change by working collaboratively. To say that women ‘are angry at men’ for the inequality currently is not only unfair to her own sex, but unfair to those men who are fighting for better circumstances. It demeans all those, irrespective of gender, who want to see merit based pay rates and better conditions for ALL who are currently marginalised in some way in our society.
If a man gets a job ahead of a woman based on merit – so be it. That’s life, and it’s fair and equitable. But if a man and a woman are doing the same job, then they should be receiving the same pay. Women of worth are not ‘banging a drum’ blaming men for this situation.
They simply want to see it happen across the board. I know I do.