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Tackling gender pay gap - and violence against women

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by Dr Cher McGillivray

The  release of the latest gender pay gap report last week may have prompted many working women to least contemplate mustering the courage to ask for that long-awaited promotion.

Good luck: for every 100 men promoted to a manager role in 2022, only 87 women also got the nod, according to a US workplace report.

That strike rate may be at least partially reflected in the new Australian pay gap report which reveals that of all the private companies that provided data this year, the median pay gap between men and women was 14.5 percent. When things such as overtime and bonuses were considered, the figure jumped to 19 per cent. 

To be clear, these pay disparities do not mean men and women are being paid differently for carrying out the same work, something that has been illegal since 1969. Rather it is a reflection of men occupying more higher-paying roles. 

So for instance, by Qantas and Virgin’s own admission, there are more men in higher-paying pilot and engineering roles than women, who occupy lower-paying jobs such as cabin crew. 

The gender pay gap report was enlightening, particularly as it showed for the first time how women and men fare financially at individual Australian companies. However it should not be viewed in isolation.

Last year a global study ranking gender equality, The Global Gender Gap Index, placed Australia in 26th position.

That’s a big improvement from our previous 43rd place, but still well behind New Zealand (4th) and the UK (15th).

Couple these reports with the recent controversy over the wearing of G-string bikini bottoms – a Gold Coast story that went global – and a stark reality is laid bare: While this country enjoys a reputation for being laid-back and egalitarian, we might not be as supportive of gender equality and a fair go as we think. 

Of course, we’re not alone. Worldwide, the UN says there is an epidemic in which one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. Conflict-related sexual violence is again being reported in countries such as Ukraine, Sudan and Israel. 

And this is where we circle back to the gender pay gap. 

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health is a long-running study that looks at how the health of 57,000 women changes over time.

It shows that sexual violence in particular is consistently associated with high financial stress.

Many women move away from home when their relationship with a violent partner ends, leaving behind property or assets.

Others feel they must stay because they can’t cover the estimated $18,000 cost to start their lives - and often their children’s - over.

In these circumstances, a secure, well-paid job can be the lifeline women need to escape, especially when coupled with the 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave introduced by the federal government this year. 

Addressing these issues requires not only corporate accountability but a commitment to creating safer, more equitable environments where women have the resources and support needed to thrive beyond financial constraints.

A pay rise is always nice. It could mean an overseas holiday or a new car. 

But on a grander scale, reducing the gender pay gap could be a crucial step in the ongoing battle to liberate women everywhere from physical and sexual violence.

Dr Cher McGillivray is an Assistant Professor at Bond University and a clinical psychologist who researches complex trauma, childhood sexual abuse, mindfulness, and resilience in children and families.

 

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