Australia's gender equality efforts panned

Women are still earning far less than men, drawing international scorn

Australia's gender equality efforts panned
tralia has a long way to go in improving gender equality in the workplace, and progress in recent years has been far too slow.

That’s according to the new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle.

It found that the median full-time working woman in Australia earns 87 cents to every man's dollar- just marginally above the OECD average of 85.7 cents to the dollar.

Most OECD countries are tackling workplace gender injustices through stronger laws and regulations.

In addition to Australia, countries such as Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom, have introduced measures to encourage more young women to choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and young men to study and work in health and education.

The report recommended Australia should attempt to close the gender wage gap by addressing the main causes, such as the higher chance of women pausing their careers for child-rearing, and employer discrimination.

Recent figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) also showed that the Australian national pay gap – the difference between men’s and women’s average weekly full-time earnings – is 15.3%, or around $251.20 a week.

WGEA also found the gender pay gap is highest in the 45-54 age group at 20.0%, and in the past 20 years the national gender pay gap was highest in 2014 at 18.5% and lowest in 2004 at 14.9%.

“The pursuit of gender equality must be a priority to achieve sustainable, inclusive growth for the benefit of every citizen,” said OECD chief of staff and G20 Sherpa Gabriela Ramos.

“There is no reason for women to trail behind men in social, economic, and political outcomes,” said Ramos.

“Countries need to do much more to reach the gender equality goals.”

The report also found that while today young women in OECD countries leave school with better qualifications than young men, they are less likely to study in the higher earning STEM-related fields.

Women’s labour force participation rates have moved closer to men’s rates over the past few decades, but in every OECD country women are still less likely to engage in paid work than men.

And when women do work, they are more likely to do it on a part-time basis, are less likely to advance to management positions, are more likely to face discrimination, and earn less than men. The median female worker earns almost 15% less than her male counterpart, on average, across the OECD – a statistics that hasn’t moved much since 2010.

Moreover, gender gaps tend to increase with age, reflecting the crucial role that parenthood plays in gender equality.

Much more than fatherhood, motherhood generally has sizable negative effects on workforce participation, pay and career advancement.

The report found gender inequalities are apparent in public life, as well: women are underrepresented in political office, holding less than one-third of seats in lower houses of national legislatures (on average) in the OECD.

It also argued that affirmative action is needed, but alone it is insufficient to bring about gender equality.

Further, nations need to invest in female leadership opportunities through mentoring opportunities and network supports. Male role models in senior management also need to drive the change in gender stereotypes and norms that continue to hinder women’s access to leadership.

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