Insane reaction to International Women’s Day video

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International Women’s Day has been and gone for another year – and like clockwork, out came the trolls mansplaining why actually, women have it pretty easy, thank you very much.

As inescapable as death and taxes are the same tired, disproved arguments that are trotted out each and every year: The gender pay gap is a myth! Women earn less because they work fewer hours, less hard, and take maternity leave! It’s all women’s fault, because they choose to bludge in low-paying careers!

For proof of this grim annual trend, look no further than a video from reporter Mary Madigan, which was shared on our Instagram page on Wednesday to mark the day.

You can view the original video here:

International Women’s Day is a chance for men to make changes

In the clip, Madigan discusses the gender pay gap, which is currently 13.3 per cent, and the fact the average man has double the savings of the average woman.

It also outlines some of the other common ways women continue to be disadvantaged, including by bearing the burden of paying for contraception, by typically retiring with 28 per cent less superannuation than men, and taking on the bulk of the “mental load” by keeping track of the day-to-day essentials of life within relationships and families.

Madigan also included some straightforward suggestions for men to help even the playing field, such as sharing wage information with female co-workers, splitting costs with female partners based on pay rather than going 50/50, and donating half their superannuation to their female partner for the duration of her maternity leave.

And as expected, the comment section was flooded with furious opinions from disgruntled men faster than you can say toxic masculinity.

In addition to the vile, personal attacks directed at Madigan herself for having the audacity to speak out on the topic, we also saw the same lame arguments about the gender pay gap pop up once again, just as they have in years gone by.

The trolls were out in force this International Women's Day. Pictures: InstagramThe trolls were out in force this International Women’s Day. Pictures: Instagram

So decided to reach out to Dr Leonora Risse, an economist who specialises in gender equality from RMIT University, and Australia Institute Centre of Future Work senior economist Eliza Littleton, to bust the most common gender pay gap myths.

Dr Risse said many of the comments were “revealing” and proved that resistance to equality was holding back progress, explaining that they tended to “come from a position of feeling threatened” and from people who valued personal ambitions over the advancement of society.

Meanwhile, Ms Littleton said these types of sexist myths were “shocking and relentless” and pointed out that the gender pay gap was not a “fringe issue” that was in dispute, but rather a proven fact supported by governments and experts across the globe.

Myth 1: The gender pay gap is false, because it’s illegal for men and women to be paid differently for the exact same work in Australia

Dr Risse said that while it was correct that it was against the law to pay men and women different wages for the same job, the gender pay gap was very real.

“The overall gender gap in earnings – that 13.3 per cent official number we hear – is based on average, full-time earnings across all different industries and occupations,” she said.

“It’s a moral and legislative imperative to pay people the same for the same job, but when we dive deeper, we find that there are a lot of jobs with similar job descriptions that have a huge scope for negotiation and variety in salaries.

“A man and woman might be doing the same job, but we know from research that negotiations tend to work more favourably for men – it’s more socially acceptable for men to negotiate than for women, who often receive backlash for being too ‘bossy’ … men have a reputation for negotiating more assertively, which means they might also end up with more bonuses and non-financial perks.”

Dr Risse also said implicit bias was a factor, with women held back from pay rises and promotions more often than men based on incorrect assumptions they are less experienced and qualified.

Women are held back from pay rises and promotions more often than men based on incorrect assumptions they are less experienced and qualified.Women are held back from pay rises and promotions more often than men based on incorrect assumptions they are less experienced and qualified.

Meanwhile, Ms Littleton explained that the 13.3 per cent gender pay gap was the difference between men’s and women’s average weekly earnings for full-time employment, and that when part-time, casual and insecure work was factored in, it ballooned out to 29 per cent.

“Yes, it’s true that we have a law that means you can’t discriminate based on sex when it comes to wages, but this really glosses over all the issues brought out by these figures that are the gender pay gap. When you are talking about two people, a man and a woman in the same job, we know that of course they should be given the same pay, but that doesn’t always happen,” she said.

“Secondly, we know from the data that the gender pay gap exists, and that men are more likely to be given that [higher paying] job to begin with.

“Women don’t have the same opportunities to work the same hours as men, to negotiate for pay rises, to end up in higher-paying industries and occupations and in management roles that are really well renumerated. A lot of structural barriers are built into the labour market that limits the capacities of women to work in the same way men do.”

Myth 2: If the gender pay gap was real, companies would hire women only, as it would be cheaper

Dr Risse acknowledged that if you hire two people and they are doing the same job equally as productively, but you are paying one less, than naturally, hiring more women would save money.

But she said something else was getting in the way of women’s progress which was not just about a company’s financial bottom line.

“There are other arguments at play as to why the business case argument doesn’t resonate,” she said.

“Some companies have a culture of ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ – and people tend to hire people who remind them of their younger selves, through informal networking, and they tend to hire people they are perhaps familiar with, so they end up with more men and are likely to keep hiring more men, and then promote them into leadership positions.

“While the logic of [this myth] is mathematically possible, we’re not seeing women rise up the ranks, so that’s an indication there are these really subtle gender biases clouding judgment.”

Myth 3: Women earn less because they choose to work fewer hours, less hard, or take maternity leave

“The gender pay gap is calculated on full-time earnings, so part-time work isn’t distorting the numbers here, but if were to do an analysis of hourly wages, we still see a gap,” Dr Risse explained, adding that there also tended to be a “wage premium” attached to working excessive overtime in certain companies and industries, which many women are excluded from based on caring responsibilities.

“When it comes to work effort, I’ve done analysis looking at education levels of women, and on average women have higher education levels and greater qualifications to begin with.”

She pointed to a study out of Denmark which showed that once it became compulsory for gender pay gaps to be published, the gap began to close – not because women’s wages were increasing more quickly, but because the fast rate of men’s wages started to slow.

“It put a cap on [men’s] accelerated wage growth, and that … had no effect on productivity, which implies it actually wasn’t the men necessarily producing more and working harder, it was because their wages were quite inflated,” Dr Risse said.

“Companies could reduce wage growth of male employees without damaging productivity at all, which shows men aren’t more productive – in fact, they were paying them more than they should for what they were giving to the company.”

Women do have more career breaks due to maternity leave – but it doesn’t justify the pay gap. Picture: iStockWomen do have more career breaks due to maternity leave – but it doesn’t justify the pay gap. Picture: iStock

And Dr Risse said while it was obviously true women took more career breaks to have children, it was “overstated how much interruption impedes women”.

“There’s little proof that after having a work interruption, your skills deteriorate. For women returning to the workforce, one message to get across is not to absorb the messaging that your skills have evaporated just because you’ve had a child. It’s not backed by evidence,” she said.

“Women don’t deserve to be paid less because they have had a career interruption and we have to be mindful that just because a parent took time out to have a child or look after the family, it doesn’t mean they aren’t loyal and committed to their career.”

Ms Littleton said that women’s career interruptions were the result of systemic barriers and policies that removed much of the choice from the equation.

“Parents in Australia face some of the highest out-of-pocket childcare costs in the OECD so it’s really prohibitive and we individualise the responsibility to household,” she explained.

“Families have to make the hard decision about who in the household will rear the children, and of course for the most part this is the lower income earner, and we know because of the gender pay gap, women on average earn less than men … so we know this responsibility falls to women disproportionately.

“Things like paid parental leave schemes, which are fairly minimal [in Australia] by international standards, high childcare costs, limited family-friendly work practices and low wages in female-dominated industries all put women in a position where they are taking on a disproportionate amount of responsibility for doing unpaid work. As a result of that, we see a big gender pay gap by international standards.”

On the other hand, in Nordic countries, where childcare is far more affordable, paid parental leave schemes are more generous and female-dominated industries are better paid, the gender pay gap is far lower than in Australia, which is ranked ninth-worst out of 38 OECD countries.

Myth 4: Women earn less because they choose lower paying jobs

Once again, both experts disputed the idea that women were freely choosing to disadvantage themselves.

“Choice is a really misleading word because choices are constrained by what society presents to us. Choices and preferences are shaped so early on, before primary school, when you are exposed to gender norms and templates for the roles for men and women in society,” Dr Risse said.

“Then there’s the other issue – why are jobs that are traditionally done by women so low paid compared to many other jobs done by men? When you look at certain professions like childcare, aged care and nursing that are traditionally seen as female roles, they are generally undervalued in society.

“There is an assumption women go into these jobs because they are altruistic, but just because they may be motivated by altruism doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be paid what they are worth – we saw in the pandemic that they were the thread that held society together, so you can’t justify it as a reason for the pay gap.”

traditionally female-dominated industries like nursing held society together during the pandemic. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peledtraditionally female-dominated industries like nursing held society together during the pandemic. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled

Dr Risse also pointed to another aspect of her research, which found that while there was a higher risk of fatalities in certain traditionally male-dominated jobs like mining and construction, the serious risks posed by workforce hazards such as abusive patients or members of the public were often encountered in traditionally female roles such as nursing and customer service.

“Those jobs are just as hazardous as some male-concentrated jobs, and it can’t justify the gender pay gap, because some female-concentrated jobs are equally risky, but aren’t being paid as much as male jobs,” she said.

Ms Littleton also described how women’s “choices” were constrained by many factors.

“Research found women are three times more likely to say the reason they are not seeking a job or more hours is because they have caring and domestic duties to attend to, and we know that around 43 per cent of women with paid jobs work part-time, compared to only 18 per cent of men,” she said.

“If a woman has caring responsibilities, it limits the amount of paid work opportunities available, because part-time work isn’t distributed equally throughout the workforce, but is instead clustered in lower-paid industries and occupations women tend to be concentrated in, like the care sector.

“We value traditionally female-dominated industries less.”

Myth 5: Woman have less in savings because they spend their money on frivolous things

Dr Risse said the evidence was clear that women had lower levels of savings because they were earning less, taking more career breaks and took a hit to their super during maternity leave.

However, she also explained that research had found that people with higher confidence levels – which tended to be men – also tended to make more reckless financial decisions and over-estimate their capacity to make sound financial choices.

Meanwhile, women tended to be more modest about their abilities, and also to make more conservative decisions about money and risk.

“You can actually draw a link by extension that men tend to be more confident and tend to be more of a liability in terms of financial risk taking – that capacity to weigh up risk is inflated by the egos of those at the end of the confidence spectrum,” she said.

She also added that more women were responsible for the household budget than men, and that generally, people on lower incomes were typically good budgeters because they needed to work within tighter constraints.

“There are a whole lot of examples that really would back up women being better financial managers because they have tighter budget constraints,” she said.

“We also find in international studies that when women are more in control of the family budget, more of it is spent on health and education and equipment that helps with school.

“The way women spend money tends to be more oriented to the needs of the wider family household rather than focused on their individual selves.”

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Ms Littleton added that women clearly had less savings than men because they earnt less on average.

“We also know that during cost of living crises, the people that are hardest hit save the least … they are using that financial buffer to ensure they are keeping a roof over their head and feeding people dependent on then, so of course we’d expect to see women save less than men,” she said.

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