How To Have An Informed Conversation About The Gender Pay Gap

Do you know how much your co-workers earn? 
While the thought of asking something so personal may feel uncomfortable, after wage stagnation, inflation and the pandemic creating even more unpaid labour for women, we can’t afford not to talk about money in the workplace. This is especially true if you’re a woman or gender-diverse person. 
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the gender pay gap in Australia widened from 13.4% to 14.2% in 2021. As of August 2021, there is a difference of $261.40 between the average full-time weekly pay received by women and men. And if your take-home pay is lower, this impacts your superannuation, too. At retirement, women in Australia have an average of 52.8% less in their super than their male counterparts. In fact, Australia recently ranked last in a gender pay gap report evaluating six countries. 
So if you suspect pay discrimination based on your gender identity, here are some tools to help bring it up.

Start Conversations About Money 

Engaging in conversations about salaries, buying property, investing and saving strategies has never been more important. By speaking about money, you can break down outdated taboos and get some valuable tips along the way.
Once you normalise chatting about salaries over dinner, the confidence to discuss your wage and pay gaps with your employer may come more naturally. Talking about money with different genders can give you some idea of what other people earn, and even how they negotiated a pay rise.

Do Your Research

If you suspect the gender pay gap may be at play in your workplace, it's a good idea to start by looking at your contract. Does it mention that you’re technically not allowed to discuss salary with other employees?
Commonly known as “pay secrecy”, this practice is usually found in industries where bonuses and incentives are given, such as the financial sector. 
Australian employers are able to include "gag clauses" in contracts where workers can be punished or even fired for talking about their pay. Unsurprisingly, in industries where pay secrecy is rife, the gender pay gap is wider. 
After checking your contract, look at websites like Glassdoor and Payscale to get an indication of the salary range for your profession. Arm yourself with an understanding of the laws around gender pay equity (available on the Fair Work Ombudsman website) so you have knowledge of both industry and legal expectations. 
For example, the Workplace Gender Equality Act of 2012 states that large employers (non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees) as well as registered higher education providers have to report to the WGEA annually on a set of gender equality indicators. If not, your workplace could be in some trouble. 
Knowledge is power and knowing the rules for your industry, the ins and outs of your contract and the law will help you create a good case if you suspect gender pay discrimination. 

Negotiate Your Salary 

While it can be daunting to bring up, you’re not spending eight hours a day at your desk out of the goodness of your heart. You’re providing a service and a skill, and you deserve to be compensated for it. When negotiating starting salaries or yearly pay increases, keep in mind and account for the gender pay gap. After you’ve done your research and spoken to people in the same industry, you may feel more armed to negotiate your own salary.

Communication Is Key

If you have reason to believe that your employer is contributing to the growing gender pay gap, ask your manager or HR person if your organisation has conducted a pay gap audit. With the research you have under your belt, you can show that you know what employees of all genders deserve from their employers. 
Don’t forget that organisations are required by law to pay employees (who are providing equal values of work) the same amount. While it may feel uncomfortable, speaking up about the gender pay gap is a brave act that only benefits other women and gender-diverse people that come after you.
Please note that this information is general in nature and shouldn't be construed as financial advice.

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