New figures show the pay gap between Australian female university graduates and their male counterparts more than doubled last year.
According to a report compiled by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), female graduates stand to start on a salary some $5,000 less than male graduates – an increase from $2,000 for the previous year.
The agency's 2012 GradStats report found men's starting salaries increased over the past year to $55,000, while women's salaries stalled at $50,000. Certain industries are home to the highest pay discrepancies, namely the in architecture and building sector which pays male graduates an average $52,000, compared to $43,000 for women. Dentistry, optometry and law also possess significant pay discrepancies for male vs. female graduates.
Carla Harris, WGEA research executive manager, said it is a disturbing trend, especially given statistics which show the majority of university graduates are women. “The lesson here is that the gender pay gap continues to have a very real impact on the bank balance of young women starting their careers,” Harris told ABC.
Seven occupations saw a reversal of the problem – women earn more than men in pharmacy, Earth sciences and computer sciences. The report found men and women earn the same in just three occupations – education, humanities and medicine.
But where to from here, and what role can HR play in making a difference?
Harris commented that a lack of salary transparency may make it difficult for a woman to judge whether she is being underpaid for the same work as men. “The thing is, it is very difficult to find out what salaries are. There is such a lack of transparency around what people earn,” she said. “You almost never know, but she certainly has the right to know and if she finds that she's not earning the same, she needs to go and ask why not.” Harris said it is still the case that employers may be discriminating because they believe young women will only work a few years before starting a family.
"I think that that is certainly something which does go into people's minds and that's frankly, that's discrimination, and we need to be looking at how we are structuring our work practices to cope with the fact that women do need to take time off to have children," she said.
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