Great moments in gender pay gap denial

Sep 17
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Equal Pay Day is a big day for raising awareness of the gender pay gap: its size, its impact, its causes and most importantly, what to do about it.

It’s also a big day for gender pay gap deniers – a small but determined group, affronted that we continue to peddle such ‘rubbish’.

Equal Pay Day fell on 4 September this year, representing the additional time women have to work to earn the same as men the previous financial year, based on the national gender pay gap of 15.3%.

On cue, gender pay gap deniers came out of the woodwork, with a familiar mix of arguments and complaints. Here is a short field guide and 2017 highlights

  1. It’s not true, with variations a) there’s no evidence b) it has been disproven c) there are reasons and/or laws, therefore it’s not a thing …


or even,

Yes there are laws, but also plenty of evidence that unequal pay outcomes between women and men persist. Yes there are reasons for the gender pay gap, all the better for doing something about it! And data points, also well covered

2. It’s not a pay gap, it’s an earnings gap

Ah, we see what you did there. One small word, but suddenly it’s the women’s doing. It must be their choice!

3. Won’t somebody think of the male models?

Ok. So there’s not a gender pay gap in favour of men in every single occupation in Australia. Just very, very nearly every single one.

4. I’m not sexist but …

“I’d never employ a female in an automative/engineering or building/construction business. Not because I’m sexist, which I am not, but because I couldn’t put in the repetitive training needed to train a new person up with existing employees and their maternity leave issues… women are the ones that tend to get pregnant. Take that to the powers that be!!!” – Correspondence to WGEA

We do try to respond constructively to all correspondence, but sometimes it’s a challenge.

5. Men die more than women in workplace accidents

“When women call for equality their silence is DEAFENING regarding the fact that men die manifold more times than women” – Correspondence to WGEA

The rate of male workplace deaths is a staple in the gender pay gap sceptics’ handbook. It’s a non sequitur – of course we can be concerned about gender equality and workplace safety at the same time. Indeed, corporate Australia has a strong focus on workplace safety. Yet there is a point to be heard here too. Australia’s workforce is highly segregated, with men dominating in the most dangerous industries. And gender norms affect men too. Just as women are undervalued in the paid workforce, men face the expectation of working full-time for decades – sometimes with a heavy toll on their health. Gender equality should lead to better workplaces for everyone, and real choice for women and men about the jobs they do and how they balance work and life.

(It’s just a shame the people who dismiss the gender pay gap are often the first to criticise programs to encourage women into male-dominated jobs and industries.)

On the bright side, Equal Pay Day showed us that pay gap deniers are right on the fringe of the gender equality debate. It’s true the gender pay gap is an imperfect measure – no one number can capture the complexities of pay inequity.

But across business and the broader community there’s strong and growing acceptance that the gender pay gap and all it represents is bad news all round. Now we can get on with fixing it.

To find out more about this topic, attend our Public Sector Women in Leadership conference held on the 22nd & 23rd of November in Canberra.

Submitted by Jackie Woods

Jackie Woods

Jackie heads the team that is responsible for the public affairs, partnership and education functions of the Agency. Jackie was appointed to the role in March 2016. Prior to joining the Agency Jackie worked as a communications consultant, working with a wide range of organisations to engage audiences and influence public opinion.
Jackie began her career as a journalist, with a particular interest in Australia’s role in Asia and the changing world of work. She is passionate about the power of stories to create change. Jackie holds a BA (Comms), Journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney.

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