Australia: Forget Equal Pay - truth instead women pocket significantly less money in today's economy
Friday June 9, 2016
Australia's top 10 jobs with the biggest gender pay gap revealedBy Jessica Irvine
Video: 'I'm really happy to put career first'
Account director Betsy Oyler would like to see more young women fight for better pay and the jobs they want.
Everyone knows the gender pay gap is just a myth, right? Once you control for experience, seniority, hours worked and the industries they work in, women receive equal pay for equal work. So what are we ladies yapping about?
Dismissing the gender pay gap has become fashionable of late.
It's true there are a lot of measurement issues when it comes to calculating the true size of the pay gap between men and women for work of equal value.
: Female barristers face the biggest hurdle in gaining equal pay. (Jessica Shapiro)
But what remains overwhelmingly true is that women pocket significantly less money in today's economy.
And a new analysis reveals where the biggest pay gaps are.
Previous studies have drawn on earnings data from a variety of sources, including the Bureau of Statistics' earnings surveys, Census data and workplace data collected by the Workplace Gender Equity Agency.
But one of the best untapped sources is what Aussies tell the taxman.
When men and women come to confess their income to the tax man each year, they are sorted into 350 different occupational titles. According to an analysis of 2013-14 raw figures by Ben Phillips, a principal research fellow at the Australian National University's Centre for Social Research and Methods, men out-earn women in all but 14 occupations. Interestingly, females earn more than men working as bookkeepers, library assistants, kitchenhands, receptionists, dental assistants and housekeepers – occupations which bring in a whopping annual taxable income of about $30,000.
Across all those reporting income to the ATO, the average taxable income – after deductions - for men is $75,500 and for women it's $48,900, giving a raw gap of 38 per cent. Of course, we know that many women work part-time. Adjusting for the hours gap, using Census data, reduces the raw wage gap down to 19 per cent.
The point here is not that a woman doing the same job earns 19 per cent less. It's that money is power, and women have exactly 19 per cent less power in the economy. A woman may share in her husband's income, but her personal earning capacity is less.
These raw figures are also affected by the different occupations and industries women work in and their level of experience. Men tend to work in higher paid industries and jobs. Looking at the occupation level, the adjusted for hours pay gap shrinks again to about 11.5 per cent.
However, "there are some occupations with significantly larger gaps than typical, such as finance, medical and legal professions," observes Phillips.
It would surprise absolutely no one on Phillip Street to learn that barristers exhibit the biggest gender pay gap on these figures.
The average male barrister who does his taxes declares a taxable annual income of $169,000 and the average female barrister just $60,000 – a gender pay gap of a whopping 184 per cent. Take a male barrister's taxable income, then halve it, then almost halve it again. Adjusting for the fact that male barristers work on average 44 hours a week, compared to 37 hours for female barristers, the pay gap shrinks to 141 per cent, but remains the biggest of all occupations.
In second place, on the hours adjusted pay gap, come stockbrokers and futures traders and other "financial dealers". You can take a male stockbroker's annual taxable income of $254,000 and halve it to get the average female's $125,000.
Surgeons have the fourth biggest pay gap, with an average taxable income of $405,000 for men – the fattest pay cheque of any occupation - and $215,000 for women.
Rounding out the top 10 most sexist jobs are sportspeople, pilots, obstetricians, electrical trades workers, finance and insurance brokers, crane operators and metal machinists.
Again, the figures don't distinguish between seniority in those jobs or experience.
: Female athletes such as cricketer Ellyse Perry also face a big gender pay gap. (Paul Kane)
For barristers, the most senior in the profession become "senior counsel" or "silks", dramatically increasing their earning power. Nine in 10 silks are men.
But accepting the reductionist arguments about whether women get equal pay for work of equal value involves ignoring a host of other important questions, like: Why aren't women in more senior roles? Why do they lack as much experience? Why do they work fewer hours? Why do they cluster in low-paid industries?
If men and women are truly equal, if they desire success, wealth and power in equal measure, if they have equal capabilities to perform both caring and paid work, why do women consistently take home less pay?
And must ask more difficult questions still. Do we, as a society, still not trust women to wear the wig and gown, to wield the scalpel, to gamble our money on the stockmarket or to deliver our babies?
Or, is it that the men in those professions, and the networks they have developed, are so strong, they actively resist women?
Certainly, we're talking about some of the most demanding jobs in the economy, with the longest and least predictable working hours, volatile income and high upfront costs to rent chambers or suites.
The demands of these jobs make them better suited to a primary income earner, with a partner at home to take care of the domestic side. No doubt female professionals find it harder to find a potential partner to fill that role than their male counterparts do.
And it's true that, from a business case point of view, sometimes a professional's ability to their job is influenced by the prevailing sex of the industries they deal with. Stockbrokers are employed to network with clients and the companies they research – professions which are dominated by upper class white men. It's easier then, to do your job if you are also an upper class white male, able to tap into old boys networks and stay out to all hours drinking and otherwise cavorting.
But let's not discount the existence of outright sexism in these workplaces. A close friend who worked as a stockbroker – the only female on the floor – recounts turning up to a meeting to present her research only to be thanked for "making an effort for us" with her attire and makeup.
Make no mistake: sexism is alive and well in our most respected and trusted professions.