At the current rate of decline, it will take 75 years for the gender pay gap to close and the principle of equal pay for equal work to be realised worldwide, according to an Oxfam Australia report released last week.
The report urges the G20 world leaders, meeting in Australia later this year, to make gender equality a priority in their discussions.
It notes a number of staggering statistics that highlight the extent of the problem, including Australia’s own pay gap that’s hovered between 15 and 18% for the last two decades, the fact women still do most of the unpaid labour, are over-represented in part-time and casual work, and discriminated against in the household, markets and institutions.
Seventy five years is a long time to wait for change. Rather than hoping that our children or our children’s children will not have to hear the same statistics and feel the same sense of disappointment, I believe there are a number of ways we can stand up, ‘lean in’ (as Sheryl Sandberg would say) and rise up to the challenge today.
1. Join conscious conversations circles
This is all about raising awareness through conversations, via what I liked to call ‘conscious conversations’ that can ultimately help to change the world.
Conversation brings awareness, and with awareness comes empathy and understanding. The most important aspect to these conversations is to reach out to both men and women, equally. Gender equality is not merely a women’s issue. Nor is it about about blaming men. It’s a societal and systemic issue. It is everyone’s issue, so let’s bring everyone into the conversation.
2. Speak up! For the sake of gender equality everywhere
Have you ever:
• Undervalued your salary in a job interview?
• Remained quiet when you had an important comment to make?
• Intended to ask for a pay rise but you just couldn’t find the words to say it?
Be mindful of how you respond in these common circumstances and never undervalue yourself. Become an equality advocate and address your own personal situation first.
3. If you’re a leader, ‘let down your robe’
I once heard Christine Nixon, the first female Chief Commissioner in any Australian state police force, talk about female leaders letting down their robe to let younger women in. As women in senior and management positions, she said that it’s important to show and guide women to leadership and senior positions.
We need positive female role models. There is profound power in women encouraging, supporting and collaborating with one another. The more women at the top encouraging other women, the more women we will actually see at the top.
4. Aim to fix the system, not try to ‘fix’ women
Both men and women in senior positions need to stand up within their organisations and advocate for change. It’s not about women adapting to the current system, it’s about the current system adapting to having both men and women in the workplace.
Raising female participation in the workplace and closing the pay gap is just as important for business and the economy as it is for women.