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I was asked the question yesterday ‘Why are women paid less?’  Not an easy question, and maybe one I have never really put much thought to.  I have often pondered why more women don’t run large businesses. The number of women who are the founders of seriously sized enterprises in Australia is not large. Take a look at the BRW Fast 100 or even the BRW Rich list.

We know that people in junior roles are paid almost equally to men. We also know that women are far more likely to take parental leave (and put careers on hold for many years) so when they return to work they do not have the same years of experience that their male counterparts have.

The disparity really begins in senior roles.

I left corporate life when I became a Mum. I wanted to have more flexibility in my life, be with my children and also keep myself intellectually stimulated by starting my own ‘little hobby business’ from home.

When I started my business – it was not about the money, nor about putting wheeties on the table, it was about using my skills to doing something interesting. Later (about 2 years into the project) I got a clear sense of purpose, which is to ‘Change gifting in Australia forever by delivering amazing experiential gifts.’

It is my purpose that drives me – rather than the financial rewards. I know many on those fast lists are probably driven by the money, ‘the deal’, the return on investment. As a result, they often end up with a bigger pay packet.

I think it is how we define ourselves – Women define themselves by the role they fulfil. Women still want to ‘prove’ themselves, as such they will do the role for much less financial gain – and until we are paid the same then we will never be equals.

There are just too few women in senior roles in Australia, too few role models, too few women on boards. It must start from the top. Let’s be outrageous and legislate to have 50% of board roles must be filled by women by 2020 and be paid equally. (Canada did this with its judiciary – and it really worked).

Something has got to change, and organisations will continue to pay women what they think they can “get away with.” But women have to want it… and pursue it single-mindedly.

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Comments

  1. I think this pretty much sums it up …. "have to want i?& and pursue it" …. everything is possible and achievable when you want it.

    A trap I think many people fall into is in the proving yourself – proving yourself becomes a pursuit in showing ‘them’ you’re equal or better; in measure up; or to be ‘like them’. Well, who ever said this was the way it was meant to be? Proving yourself to whom? and WHY?

    Naomi has set a great example. CREATE YOUR OWN PATHWAY; CREATE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE! want it! pursue it! and never settle for less.

    Why be defined by those who know little about you? Be the ‘you’ you want to be; want it! pursue it! love it! and live it everyday!

  2. Your comments ring very true, and the outstanding thing in your piece is that it really is the choice of individual woman.

    How can we as a whole group of women say it is outrageous there are not more of us on boards and running large corporate companies, when a large majority of women don’t want to do that. They are happy to support the girls that do, but their own reality is such they would rather be supporting their husbands and their family unit.

    This does not mean they are intellectually inept, but rather socially aware there needs to be someone in society doing the nurturing and supporting and they naturally feel drawn to doing that – we can’t all be running companies.

    These are not people to be looked down upon for their choices, but revered for having the courage to do what they want to do without pressure from society saying they should honor the bra burners.

    I have recently left a very male oriented Corporate world to pursue my own life choices and I have to say I was being paid the same money for the same job with the same opportunities.

    It was my choice to believe I could do it and so it was.

    My husband and I often joke how much ‘easier’ our lives would be if I could just accept my place and manage the house and bake cookies and have a little job in school hours – the reality is that neither of us would be even remotely happy if I did.

    Life may be easier, but we would view it as dull. Our choice.

    I question if it is really necessary for boards and businesses to be half full of women?

    The women with the right mindset are all in there doing their job right now.

    Anyone who has the inclination will achieve what they want, regardless – the volume is not so important perhaps, as long as those with the desire are kicking the goals and inspiring other women with a similar inclination and drive to do the same.

    I am really enjoying your blog posts and hope you don’t mind my replying. It is so nice to read intelligent thoughts from a female achiever perspective.

  3. It is all about choices… why I say ‘half women on boards by 2020’ is that until there is equality in leadership the rules of the game will always be set by men – and may not accommodate family choices.

    For those women who do choose the ‘big’ jobs – They must be paid equally for them.

  4. Choices are limited for women, especially with children.

    Access to work situations offering financial freedoms and social contacts is often blocked by family commitments or discriminatory views.

    Skills and professional development, necessary for working in higher paid positions in our social order, can be very hard to gain if other demands take precedence.

    I personally don’t have anyone else other than myself and my two children to support, yet I find that my attempts of regaining the leadership role I had before I had children is near impossible.

    Financially and socially there are huge limits placed on me as a full time mother so work opportunity is greatly reduced.

    I have found that ‘mothers’ are valued the least in economic terms in what they do.

    Yet, ironically, to pay for the services that a mother fulfills would pay much more than some of the highest income earners.

    The hours, commitment and skill I have in the role of being a mum is highly undervalued and I have learnt that the abilities and understandings that I have acquired from ‘real-life’ parenting experience is NOT transferrable / not recognised or valued in the workplace.

    For example, qualifications and other requirements are necessary for some of the basic positions of child-care.

    Real life experience is not always recognised, nor are equivalent roles/qualifications no matter how advanced.

    So yes, why are women paid less for what they do?

    Why are there roles, skills and experience devalued?

    Awareness is critical to affecting change, yet the balance of power in our existing social order often prevents this occuring largely because ‘red tape’ and attitudes prevail that restrict this.

    Also, women are often socially fragmented and often isolated in their role as a mother.

    There are no unions and few group networks that address the inequity.

    Women who don’t have kids have more of a chance of making head-way in the work-place.

    Women who have a strong network of contacts can also make head-way.

    Yet there are limitations.

  5. Like you, I don’t measure my happiness by the size of my pay, but I am very concerned about pay inequity. The difference in pay for most women starts a lot earlier than your blog entry suggests. Entry level graduate women earn about $2000 per annum less than male graduates. and the pay gap has increased from 15.4% in 1999 to 17.2% this year.

    Women earn less than men at all points of the employment spectrum. For example, the pay gap for women and men in key management roles is around 28.3%.

    I agree with what you are saying about being driven by purpose, but women pay a high price for pay inequity in their careers. The wage difference adds up and by the time women retire, they have significantly less savings and superannuation than men. According to HREOC, retirement savings for women are less than half that of men. (See http://2020women.org/pay-equity/)

  6. Unfortunately this article makes an assertion (that men are paid more than women) but does not back it up. Rather it writes about a few of the authors experiences and opinions.

    Yes on average women are under repesented in the board rooms, but that hardly is representative of the entire work force!!!

    When looking at relative pays one should also look at what the motivators call "hygiene factors".

    – 95% of all workplace related deaths are suffered by men (2006).

    – Almost all jobs that are outside in the cold, in dirty industrial refineries, in mines, on rooftops, etc etc are occupied by men. (because women choose nicer environments to work in).

    – Almost all jobs involving permanent relocations away from family and friends are taken up by men.

    The majority of jobs requiring extended hours, or lifestyle sacrefices are taken up by men.

    The majority of "hard" sciences and engineering students are men, despite the fact that entry scores for these courses and others such as MBA courses are lower for women.

    The question should be then "Why are men not paid more?"

  7. “they do not have the same years of experience that their male counterparts have”

    When has that held men back? I know lots of cases where men with little to no experience have gotten jobs over a woman.

    Why have women bought into the idea that they should be penalized for taking a few years out of the workforce. Really, that meme has been trotted out by corporations to maintain their sexism. Just as things were changing and women were making strides in the workplace out comes this meme.

    Why do women buy into this stuff?

  8. Yes, it is a sad fact that although the Sex Discrimination Act has been around for quite some time now which should in theory lead to equal pay for equal work, it is still a fact that men occupy most of the senoir positions in the workforce can generally be expected to be paid more for comparable jobs. It shows, I think, that the legal elements of change are not enough and that there must be a deeper cultural shift to a genuine committment to these principles before we will see real results.

  9. Is it necessary to prove ourselves in a world where we probably don’t want to exist in anyway. Is it not more important to know and be who we were created to be, by taking time off (and enjoying it) from traditional or not so traditional ‘paid ‘ employment to have children if we want to. We devalue our role as mothers ourselves, by saying that we need to be paid in monetary ways to be important. To be a mother is a role that is so enriching challenging and fulfilling in many other ways. We perpetuate the myth that unless we are paid and equal in a monetary capacity then we are not as important.It puts money on the pedestal instead of doing,using and loving what gifts we have. If we do our jobs whatever they may be for the love of them and not for the monetary rewards then we will be much better off, mentally, physically and spiritually… and probably monetarily because it won’t be the be all and end all so it will be satisfactory and meet our needs because we won’t be needy of it on its own.

  10. I recently discovered this blog and love reading your articles.

    Regarding this one, I believe (at the end of the day) that women really do focus more on family and protecting the nest, whilst men are more career minded and money driven. I know this is a stereotype and there are always exceptions to the rule, but I really do think this.

  11. Recently when researching information on negotiation I came across the book “Women Don’t Ask”. What interested me was the assertion in the book that women don’t negotiate well and ultimately under-value their worth.

    Some of their statistics can be found at: http://www.womendontask.com/stats.html

    Of course, there is a lot more to be said about this topic than just plain old negotiation skills, or a lack thereof…. however I haven’t heard many people considering this as one of the variables that contribute to women being paid less.

  12. Your comments about starting a business as a way of achieving flexibility to allow you to be a good mother whilst at the same time keeping you mentally stimulated resonated with me. I find that when you do something out of purpose that is aligned with your personal values, the outcome can be highly rewarding.

    I run a personal finance community for women (www.womenintheblack.com.au) which helps women make wise choices about money so that they can life the life they choose.

    One of the reasons women have less money than men is that they are underpaid but at the same time women don’t negotiate well or do not ask for a raise (which is besides the point).

    One of the articles I have written “Have Your Cake and Eat It Too” http://womenintheblack.com.au/have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too/ features you as an inspiration for all women to start their own business so that they too can combine motherhood & a rewarding business life.

  13. I appreciate how her articles focuses on how women can be their own worst enemies – and daily it is. At the cost of sounding defensive – I believe women are not paid equally to men for the same reason that you don’t see many male CEO’s who are short — Go figure. In the politics of business, they are “nonsense reasons”.

    It is frustrating for a woman knowing her male counterparts may not surpass her in competence, trustworthiness, skills (hard and soft) but she keeps getting passed over for promotions and juicy projects. Women bring different things to the table, different assertiveness, class, creativity, norms, value-systems, approaches, and encouragement. These assets are not always easy to value especially by male-dominated professionals who are not used to them – and especially since it took centuries for women + male feminists to help us come so far.

    It can be frustrating to think that as soon as you see a way – we go two steps backward – surprisingly all too often in developed countries. There is “paving the way” but there is still a difficult way if the way is blocked by people who do not welcome equality – and revert to sexism as “safe” and unchanging.

    However, men may be good at “aggression” – but I find that women are masterminds at the “way around”. A woman can accomplish comparability very much even before sexists knew what hit them – while still maintaining her femininity and nurturing nature. It is a profound skill I have witnessed and one I am hoping to hone well. I refuse to give up anything good that I am, for anything good that I want. As women we should get used to the fact that we deserve both. And also to stop mentally sabotaging our own progression. We are our own worst enemies therefore all the “external” hurdles seem like mountains – and they cannot all be mountains. Not all at the same time.

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  1. […] “task” to your daily life might be challenging but it may be very rewarding as in the case of Naomi Simson. You will get a sense of accomplishment not only from being a great mum, but that you can run a […]

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