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The baffling case of gender inequality

The baffling case of gender inequality

Baffling. It is simply baffling, that gender and wage inequality should be a subject talked about in 2015. In response to yesterday’s article in the Australian (about women in media earning less than men and a reference to Women in Media (WIM) looking to address this), there is only one question to be asked on this and it shouldn’t need an investigative reporter to get to the bottom of it.

The question is WHY? Just, WHY? Why in Australia are men paid more than women for the same work? It’s a complete mystery, and I guess it is because mostly women don’t know what others are being paid and rely on the integrity of employers and HR people to pay equally and fairly.

Perhaps if all people running organisations – including female CEOs – were put on the carpet and asked to clarify WHY this happens, they would squirm, others would call them to account, and things would change.

When I was in the US, where I lived and worked for sixteen years, one of my positions was as Communication Director with responsibility for HR and corporate communication for a company with a couple of hundred employers, many of them women who needed their jobs as part of the family income. A new and enlightened CEO was appointed to the company who was keen for me to carry out a full wage and salary review process as he felt there were wage and salary inequities. In doing this and measuring each job against a consistent set of criteria we found that many of the roles the women were in needed to be raised a few notches to reflect accountability, skills, experience, etc. with resultant pay increases allocated to the job, and therefore, to the person in the job.

Interestingly, many of those women were uncomfortable and concerned that the good relationship they were enjoying with their supervisor would change – and not for the better.

This was a reminder that when it comes to equality the things that contribute to gaining equality include transparency, honesty, integrity and courage on the part of employers; and knowledge, self-belief and an informed understanding of what is customary in the industry in terms of pay and benefit levels and HR policies and processes by the employee. I say include courage because that’s what it takes to be a leader with integrity. However, to get gender equity it should not need to start with those seeking equality. The responsibility is firmly on the employer to fairly and favourably run their organisation. Maybe WIM needs to push strongly for this – It is something that most fair minded people would expect to already be in place.

Marina Valmadre
WIM Member and Principal, Oakridge Communication Group
7 July 2015