The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek MP spoke about gender pay equity in Australian workforces at the University of Sydney last night.
“Australian women effectively work the first two months of every year for free compared to their male colleagues,” Ms Plibersek explained.
“So many of the issues women face at work – discrimination, being shut out of leadership, lack of access to flexibility, the motherhood penalty, insecure work, even sexual harassment – are either drivers or outcomes of pay inequity.”
As the mining boom has eased off, so has the gender pay gap.
Hosted by the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, the lecture commemorates the contribution of the founding father of industrial relations at the University of Sydney and editor of the Journal of Industrial Relations, Kingsley Laffer.
Professor Marian Baird, Head of the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, welcomed Ms Plibersek, who is also the Shadow Minister for Education and Training, to campus.
“We are delighted to welcome the Shadow Minister for Women to give this year’s Kingsley Laffer lecture,” said Professor Baird, Co-Director of the University’s Women, Work & Leadership Research Group.
“There is considerable need to expand our knowledge and research expertise about women and work in Australia. This will mean the policy response to issues like the gender pay gap is evidence-informed and will lead to real change in narrowing the gap.”
Ms Plibersek stressed that Australian workplaces not only have a glass ceiling where women are underrepresented on boards and at the executive level, but also glass walls: gender segregation between different occupations and industries.
In industries with a largely female workforce, like early education and childcare, the pay is considerably lower than those with gender parity, she explained.
“We need to do more to encourage boys to work in education and care sectors. We need to do more to encourage girls to enter non-traditional trades and professions, including in STEM jobs.”
Ms Plibersek noted that many young female apprentices working in traditional male trades like metal work and electrical engineering were discouraged from entering their profession.
“Almost all of them tell me they’ve been discouraged from entering their profession – by either their teachers, their parents, guidance counsellors or friends. Yet they love what they do and they were determined to forge a career.”
Associate Dean and Co-Director of the Women, Work & Leadership Research Group, Professor Rae Cooper, said the University of Sydney Business School is developing graduates and curriculum focussed on “business not as usual”.
“We are pursuing research that has real-world impact, which can transform the working lives of women and men to address systemic and complex problems like the gender pay gap.”