Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Women gaining parity, largest pay gap reduction in years.

Did this headline make your heart skip a beat?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this headline was accurate? The sad reality is that it isn’t one I believe I will see in my lifetime.  
The research on the gender pay gap released in Nov shows working women earning $27K less than men and, as women climb the corporate ladder, the pay gap can be as wide as $100K.
There has been a 1.6 percent improvement, I am not celebrating this or seeing it as a positive, I see it as leaders ignoring the issue. Companies may have polices in place but are they taking action, because if they were would we not see a higher improvement?
Those few companies that are proactive on this issue, let’s hear from their leaders on the positive impact this is having on their organisation and workforce.
If you google this issue you will find the same numbers, stats, articles, comments, research over the last four years. This is not just an issue in Australia, it’s an issue globally.
Women are told to ask for what you want, lean in, understand your value and what you bring to the table, get better at negotiating, find an organisation that will pay you what you are worth.
Frankly I am tired of hearing this. Here is the stark reality:
Women are getting better at asking for what they want, in fact, the next generation will perhaps nail this. It is the leaders who are not listening or taking action!
The fact that leaders have not collectively addressed this issue and worked collaboratively to make the changes tells me that they are not listening, that they do not understand the impact the pay gap has on women and that we have gone from a conscious boys club to an unconscious one.
I am often surprised by the number of women who do not understand this issue, they remain silent or they simplify the issue. This disrespects women, who are brave enough to voice an opinion. Women often are our own worst enemies on this issue.
So where do we go to next? Targets and quotas do not address the pay gap and this issue is more important than targets and quotas as it addresses the financial independence of women that impacts their buying power, their investment capabilities and their retirement fund.
  • Would men work for $27,000 less than their female counterparts?
  • What would happen if 1 in 3 men retired on no superannuation?
  • What would happen if 40% of single men retired into poverty?
  • Would a bank tell a man that he is high risk for a loan because he is single?
  • Would men entering the work force today want to work 4 more years than women before they retire?
Would male graduates today be tolerant of the fact that their financial disadvantage starts now and will be with them at every single stage of their career?
I would suggest that the answer would be no to all the above, so why the hell should women accept this?
For those women out there who think this is not a problem, I urge you to do your research, talk to other women and understand the issue so you may add your voice to it.
Over the next few weeks, more and more will be written about this research, we will hear about it in conferences, yet the reality is that none of this has made a difference to date.
Maybe we need to take action that will create headlines, do we work less hours until we get parity? Do we walk the streets with banners until we are heard? After all we have burned bra’s before….

Friday, November 4, 2016

Closing the pay gap is more important than meeting targets and quotas

Why, you ask? The answer is simple. 

Housing affordability for single women is a key reason why the government and business leaders need to take affirmative action on the issue of Australia’s pay gap. 

The ultimate dream for many Australian families is still to own a one-acre block of land. To accommodate this, we have witnessed rapid urban sprawl around many capital cities. 

However, there are more of us who are choosing to be single or divorced and are therefore downsizing from dual income to single income households. Women are impacted more significantly when making this choice than men.
The pay gap in Australia sits at just under 19% and there are number of reasons why it exists. 

Women are more likely to work in industries that pay less such as healthcare, education, human resources, administration, food services, retail and hotels . More women also choose to work part time, job share or take long career breaks to be carers of their children. Let’s not forget to mention those awesome women who choose to stay at home full time and are responsible for the “unpaid” work of raising a family and running a household. 

However, there are many organisations who will pay women less than men with no explainable reason other than the fact they are women. 

Have you considered the impact you are having when you pay equally skilled and experienced women less than the male counterparts you employ?
Over the last 10 years, every single market in Australia has seen significant property price increases impacting the lowest income earners, in particular women.  

The Council of Homeless Persons has done a study using DHS and ABS data on this issue of affordability for single women in Melbourne. 

Out of Melbourne’s 106 suburbs, a single woman can only afford to rent one bedroom flats in just over a quarter of the city. 

In March 2000, 72 suburbs were deemed affordable for women meaning we have witnessed a substantial reduction in choice over 16 years.
This is partially due to median rent for a one bedroom flat increasing from $129 dollars to $295 per week. 

At $295 a week, many women will be experiencing rental stress, an anxiety caused when spending over 30% of wages on housing.  

A single man on an average wage of $1305 a week, can afford to rent in 95 of the 106 suburbs. 

There is significant disparity in these numbers. 
Affordable suburbs for women include Bayswater, Frankston and Cranbourne. 

The majority of the suburbs listed are not inner city suburbs worsening expenses for transport and fuel. 

So not only are you being pushed to the fringes of Melbourne to live as a single woman, you are having to perhaps make further choices on where you work and the types of jobs that are available to you.

Given the rate of divorce in Australia, there are increasingly more women who head up single parent families. These women are not only getting paid less but may be in part time employment. Their lack of earning capacity means they too are getting priced out of the rental market. 

Public housing is not the answer, with over 200,000 on waiting lists across the country. 

The 2011 census indicates that there are over 600,000 single women over the age of 45 on medium to low incomes who do not own their own homes. There are half the men in the same situation. As these women retire they will struggle to pay rent as the cost of living and utilities continues to rise.
So by 2020 we will potentially see:

  • Increases in the gap between the supply of affordable housing relative to income
  • A rise in the over-representation of women with children and elderly women who are homeless
  • Increased stress on public housing
The issue of the gender pay gap has reverberating consequences.

I am a woman born in 1966 and fortunately, retirement for me does not look like living off a government pension. 

However, I am a single parent and I constantly am seeking ways to secure long term financial security that my male counterparts don’t seem to understand.
Housing affordability is an issue when I have commitments to my children’s education and well being.

My teenage daughter who will graduate with honours next year will face the prospect of her employer paying her 9.3% less simply because she is female. This will impact where she chooses to live, transport and general living costs.
The issue of affordability for single women in our communities will only get worse unless addressed. 

Government and businesses are discussing the need for quotas and targets to ensure equal representation. However, what is the point of equal representation at board and director level if the majority of women in the workplace cannot afford housing?

The ongoing economic impact on single women demands that we prioritise closing the pay gap to ensure we do not continue to marginalise their children, well being or lifestyle. And not only that, but to ensure single women, in particular, have the option to enjoy the same quality of life as their male counterparts.