The Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW) commends the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations for its Report, Making it Fair, released on 23 November 2009. The Inquiry which began in June 2008 has resulted in an in-depth Report that acknowledges pay equity as a “basic human right” and the entrenched systemic, economic, industrial, organizational, educational, social and legislative factors that have established and perpetuated its profound and extensive devaluing of women over many decades in Australia.
“Righting this historic wrong” is being urged at a time when Australia’s labour force participation increased to 58%, but its Gender Pay Gap rose in comparison to OECD countries to a gender earnings gap of 17% in 2008. Through the establishment of a Pay Equity Unit supported by separate pay equity legislation and the enhanced role and positioning of the Office for Women in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, this positive move forward will reflect the significance, urgency and whole government approach that is needed to address the complexity and pervasiveness of the factors contributing to pay inequity.
A micro and macro analysis of industry and occupational trends in key areas which impact on equity for women, such as wage setting mechanisms, policies, organizational cultures, leadership, flexibility schemes for work-life balance, tenure, training, job evaluation and satisfaction and career pathways is necessary to provide input for industry and occupational specific structural change.
Giving women the opportunity to present their case of pay inequity through amending the Fair Work Act 2009 will empower them legislatively. Educating young girls and women about gender equity is a much needed direction that will have positive benefits in breaking down stereotypes and promoting respect and equity for women, thus shaping social perceptions and attitudes towards women.
Will the Committee's recommendations be the catalyst for change in Australia’s business community as concerns of profit margins drive the economic value of performance, or rather ‘gendered’ performance, valuing men. Businesses need to recognise the proposed pay equity framework is about the proper valuing of work free from gender bias. It requires the dismantling of intrinsic systemic impediments that have ensured that women do not receive the same pay, benefits and conditions for work of equal or comparable value.
The hope for Australia to lead this timely and much-needed change for women lies in the leadership of the Australian Government to commence this reform which has been signaled with much fervour in the community and responded to in an unprecedented way by the House of Representatives Committee.
The House of Representatives Committee Report is at http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/ewr/payequity/report.htm
It is Time to Right a Historic Wrong - Pay Equity (25 November 2009) By Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey