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To your friendly gender pay gap denier

Ever wondered what to say to that friend / relative / co-worker who tells you repeatedly that the earnings gap between men and women is BS because ‘they’ve never seen it’? All the rebuttals at your fingertips. Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! 

I know it’s International Women’s Day because there was a free morning tea at work. By the time I got there the ladies had already scoffed the best muffins, with no thought to me or their waistlines. I left when they started banging on about the Pay Gap …

Don’t you mean the ‘so-called’ pay gap?

Yes! It’s a myth just like the three-breasted woman.

Totally! Unless of course you believe “The Government” whose Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) puts the difference different between men and women’s average full-time weekly earnings at 17.7%.

Yeah right. Show me a single job that has different rates for men and women.

The biggest pay gap is at the managerial level, where women are paid 26.5% (on average, it’s a whopping $93,000) less than men.

Right now, there are also more men named John, Peter or David running ASX 200 companies than the total number of women. And at that chief executive level those women are earning almost $1 million less on average.

But because discrimination is technically illegal, it’s not usually as covert as an HR directive to pay Steve more than Sandra. During salary negotiations, for example, women are routinely offered a lower base rate salary than men, and then penalised when they try to negotiate – so their male counterparts end up getting more.

Women are ‘offered less’ and ‘punished for negotiating’? Sounds like a feminist conspiracy theory. Where’s the research?

Glad you asked! Researchers at Harvard found that when women attempted to negotiate salary and conditions, they were not only shut down sooner (who needs their greedy yapping?), but viewed during the crucial hiring process as ‘not team players’.

The researcher participants viewed the men who negotiated, however, as ‘bold leaders’ and they were rewarded as such.

Closer to home, Australian researchers recently found that women are routinely given the conflicting advice to ‘be more confident’ but not ‘too assertive’.

On some level most women know this already, and are statistically less likely to try to negotiate. For example the Sony email hack revealed how much less Hollywood actresses get paid than their co-stars, because, as Jennifer Lawrence put it, they don’t want to be seen as ‘difficult’.

They should just get over it and grow a pair.

And risk being seen as un-hireable or having their job offer withdrawn? That’s if they even make it to the interview stage.

What do you mean? I’ve interviewed women! I even lost a job once to a woman!

Ouch! That’s gotta hurt. Seriously, though, studies show that when employers are given identical resumes (except some have a female name, some don’t) the ‘male’ candidates were scrutinised less closely. ‘Female’ resumes were annotated with comments like ‘I’d want proof that she actually got this grant’ and ‘did she do this on her own?’

‘Male’ applicants were eventually much more likely to be offered an interview.

But a huge contributor to the pay gap is the fact that we put a lesser dollar value on professions seen as ‘women’s work’ (eg. childcare and social work) compared to male-dominated industries.

(Oh, did I mention that older women are also more likely to retire in poverty and are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia?)

So? If women want more money they should do jobs that society values more.

Funny you should say that. In terms of what professions actually contribute most to a healthy society, and also economically in terms of flow-on benefits, ‘childcare’ came out number one. (Unfortunately two-year-olds don’t tend to be profitable. Unless they turn into stockbrokers, at which point they’re unlikely to trace their childhood carers and give them a tip.)

In contrast, certain jobs in the male dominated finance industry actually took money from society. Global financial crisis, anyone?

Ok, that aside, CHOICES. Why don’t women just choose higher paying industries?

First up, they do, but for reasons outlined before they’re often kept from entering senior levels.

Also, companies frequently screen out women ‘of childbearing age’ (because who needs ’em?) (Not only male-dominated industries. A friend of mine was asked during an interview at a fabric store if she had any kids ‘because the last thing we need is employees taking time off work when little Johnny gets sick’. Yes, that’s illegal. And yes, it happens anyway.)

Perhaps another reason that ‘women just choose higher paying industries’ is because they are conditioned from a young age to see themselves as less capable. Researchers at New York University found that that girls as young as six already see themselves as less intelligent than boys. Not surprising when toy laptops marketed to girls were found to have fewer capabilities than otherwise identical versions marketed to boys. Did they think girls would be so blinded by the pink packaging they wouldn’t notice their toy pretty much sucked?

Whatever, they’re kids. Anyway, I work long hours – why shouldn’t I be paid more? Every woman I know leaves right on 5.

Three words: unpaid domestic labour. The World Economic Forum estimates that women do on average three hours and 17 minutes more unpaid work each day than men. So while you’re slogging away after five, so are the women who had to ‘clock off’ – the difference is you’re the one getting paid.

Ok, maybe there are a couple of legitimate reasons women get paid less, but–

Woops! I almost forgot the ‘pink tax’, where businesses routinely charge women more for identical products and services, just because! Cars. Razors. Dry-cleaning. Identical haircuts. Deodorant. Even pens, for crying out loud. Target even used to charge girls $49.99 for scooters identical in all but colour to ‘boy’ scooters ($24.99).

Lemme get this straight: women have a harder time getting job interviews, then when they do get hired they’re penalised for negotiating. They’re promoted less frequently, especially if  they have a child who might one day get sick (even though  good parenting has exponential benefits to society). They come home and do the lion’s share of housework and child-rearing, then at the end of the day they pay more for a haircut, and retire in poverty? That’s crazy. Why aren’t they rioting in the streets?

They are, sweetie.

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