Currently the pay gap between men and women continues despite the implementation of discrimination legislation. Work traditionally undertaken by women, whether in the paid workforce or as unpaid work in the home, continues to be undervalued and often unacknowledged by our society. In addition to assisting women to enter occupations traditionally reserved for men, there is also a need to re-evaluate the caring and nurturing roles dominated by women.
Why as a society do we continue to omit the value of the unpaid domestic and care work from our economic measures? Why do we continue to accept that this work should receive no status or recompense? Attempts to attain equality by pressuring women to further compromise their responsibilities as principal caregivers are not only likely to be ultimately limited in effectiveness but also potentially cruel to both women and those for whom they currently care. Ultimately shunting this work to lowly paid employees or even to men, does not remedy the underlying justice. When will our society recognise that caring for others is essential, skilled and praiseworthy work that should be valued at least equally with other work such as managing money or digging minerals out of the earth?
Women also continue to be severely underrepresented in leadership positions in both government and the corporate sector. While this situation continues we can expect decisions to be made which favour male interests and systematically disadvantage women. These decisions are also often damaging to the community as a whole, failing to prioritise community interests and the care of the young, elderly and disabled and long term environmental impacts over the short term financial interests of powerful men. Non mandatory targets have not been effective in accomplishing significant change in levels of female representation in governance.
Aside from industrial action on behalf of workers in traditionally female industries to raise rates of pay, there is also a commensurate need to cap the salaries paid to individuals in traditionally male dominated industries such as banking, finance and mining. Targets also must be also set and enforced in relation to attaining 50% female representation in management roles and public and corporate governance.
The concept of paying a universal basic income is currently being trialed in a number of Western democracies. This may also provide some way forward to ensuring that women are also valued and rewarded for the domestic work they do. It will also enable many women to attain a greater level of independence from men.
Visit https://www.awu.net.au/women-awu and http://www.nfaw.org/what-we-do/ to learn more about how the pay gap and how Australia’s economic policies disadvantage women.