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The Motherhood Penalty - the Widest Gender Pay Gap

2 September 2014 at 9:45 am
Lina Caneva
Women are being penalised for becoming mothers, leading to the largest national gender pay gap in 30 years, the Diversity Council Australia has claimed.

Lina Caneva | 2 September 2014 at 9:45 am


The Motherhood Penalty - the Widest Gender Pay Gap
2 September 2014 at 9:45 am

Women are being penalised for becoming mothers, leading to the largest national gender pay gap in 30 years, the Diversity Council Australia has claimed.

Chief Executive Officer of DCA Lisa Annese said recent ABS figures showed that working women were making 18.2 per cent less in wages than their male counterparts.

“The current gender pay gap means women are currently earning just under 82 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earn, down from an average of 85 cents, ten years ago,” Annese said.

“This is despite Australian tribunals handing down the first ever equal pay rise in 1975. How can we still be in this position in 2014?

“DCA has investigated local and international research which highlights a growing body of evidence about the ‘motherhood penalty’ – the impact that bearing and raising children has on women’s wages – that is both disturbing and compelling.”

Annese said key findings of her organisation’s investigation included:

* Raising children accounts for a 17 per cent loss in lifetime wages for women, with the kind of work many mothers undertake not only being lower-paid that the work they did prior to having children, but also frequently not reflecting their abilities, education levels or work experience.

* Each child a woman has lowers her wage, with estimates varying from four per cent for the first child to nine per cent for two or more children.

* The level of penalty is linked with the length of maternity leave taken.

* The effect begins when women are pregnant, with data from the Australian Human Rights Commission showing that half of all women have experienced discrimination at work during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work.

* Possible explanations for the pay gap included discrimination, a reduction in women’s skills after an absence from the workplace and many women moving into lower paid ‘mother-friendly’ occupations when they have children.

“In the lead up to Equal Pay Day on September 5, it is critical that we redouble our efforts to tackle this gross inequity,” Annese said.

“There are a lot of practical and relatively simple steps employers can take to address the problem and this must be given priority.”

Australian Greens spokesperson for women Senator Larissa Waters told Pro Bono Australia News that the gender pay gap in Australia should be a topic of debate at the upcoming G20 Summit.

“It’s a disgrace that the gender pay gap is increasing and points to the systemic discrimination women still face,” Senator Waters said.

“It’s not just that women are more likely to be paid less than men for doing exactly the same job, but also that male-dominated industries pay more on average.

“This is even though the industries women are more likely to work in, like health, education and the community sector, are just as important to our society and arguably more so.

“We’re calling on Tony Abbott to put the gender pay gap on the G20 agenda and to immediately rectify the backward steps on women’s financial inequality.”

Senator Waters said the Abbott Government was not doing enough to address the issue.

“The Abbott Government has delayed a scheduled improvement in workplace gender equality reporting, which would have required businesses to provide additional information about how many women they interview, appoint, promote and retain, compared to men,” she said.

“This leaves us with less comprehensive data on which to base efforts to close Australia’s shameful gender pay gap. We can’t  address the gender pay gap by hiding it.

“The Abbott Government’s university interest hikes unfairly impact women, who are more likely to take time off work to have children and to work in industries that are incredibly important but undervalued, such as the community sector.”

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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