Regular Women’s Agenda contributor and NOW Australia’s Executive Director Kristine Ziwica was recently invited to give the keynote at the Women in Media Victoria Equal Pay Day Drinks.
The media industry event also coincided with the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s new sexual harassment survey results, which showed the media has the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry by a long mile.
Kristine, who also serves on the WIM Vic steering committee, issued a rallying cry to women in the industry to come together in solidarity and fight for change.
Below is an adapted version of her remarks.
On behalf of the Women in Media Victoria Steering Committee, I would like to thank everyone for coming out tonight for our very first Equal Pay Day drinks!
But I’m not quite sure you’ve come to — as the invitation suggested –‘celebrate’ the gender pay gap.
Well, maybe you did…I’m sure there’s a Pinterest page somewhere devoted to cakes with, “Congratulations, you earn 14 percent less than men” emblazoned across the top in pink icing.
At this time when women around the world are joining together in what Dr Kirstin Ferguson and Catherine Fox recently referred to in their new book Women Kind as the kind of “old fashioned solidarity” not seen since the 1970’s to say ENOUGH on a whole host of issues, I suspect a fair few of you have come tonight to discuss this important issue with your peers in the industry and, more importantly, to ask what we are going to do about it!
The average national gender pay gap in Australia currently sits at 14.5%. That’s means women, on average, are earning $244.80 less per week.
(For women in the media industry, it’s closer to 22%, according to Women in Media’s Mates Over Merit Report.)
Yes, the national gender pay gap may be at the lowest level in 20 years, as some were quick to tell us when the 2018 figures were recently released, but don’t break out the champagne quite yet.
Some gender pay gap context:
The gender pay gap has remained pretty stubborn, hovering between 15 and 19 % for two decades.
And that’s just not good enough.
We’re not shifting this.
And we’re not shifting this fast enough to make a difference to women working today or for future generations.
The fact that women retire with, on average, half the retirement savings as men is due, in no small part, to the gender pay gap.
And as change sweeps through our industry, I’m sure this reality has caused women in media, in particular, added angst.
In light of all this, the Co-Founder of Women in Media Tracey Spicer recently asked if it was time to “go back to the barricades on equal pay?”
Who thinks the answer to that question should be a resounding YES!
So, in the spirit of “going back to the barricades” — and to provide a bit of inspiration to sustain us — I want to share with you a few of my equal pay “spirit animals”.
Many of you will recognise this now iconic photo of Zelda D’Aprano.
In 1969, Zelda famously chained herself to the Melbourne Commonwealth Building to protest unequal pay.
Zelda died earlier this year at the age of 90 and this action, it will be 50 years ago next year, precipitated a lifetime of action to combat gender inequality.
To ensure that we — in another 50 years — don’t end of like this lovely woman, who created one of my favourite signs at the Women’s March, we must honour the legacy of Zelda by “going back to the barricades” time and time again — until the job is done.
And for a few more recent examples of the spirt of Zelda in action, I first give you: Carrie Gracie, the former BBC China Editor.
Gracie spectacularly resigned as the BBC China Editor in January of this year in protest of the corporation’s “illegal” and “secretive” pay structure, which resulted in her receiving half the pay of some of her male contemporaries.
Almost 300 women then filed equal pay claims against the BBC and a network of 150 high profile BBC presenters and producers banded together under the “BBC Women Group” banner.
(There’s another outbreak of that “good old fashioned solidarity”, Ferguson and Fox referred to).
In a high-water mark, Gracie gave evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee in January convened to look at the issue.
Seriously, when I need a bit of righteous feminist energy, I re-watch Gracie’s testimony on Youtube, pump my fist in the air, and then get back to the everyday business of smashing the patriarchy. I suggest you do the same.
Gracie systematically discounted the variety of “excuses” the BBC used to justify her pay and the pay of many women across the corporation.
My personal favourite, they described Gracie, a journalist with 30 years’ experience, who speaks fluent Chinese and has a Chinese degree, as “in development”.
Gracie didn’t accept any of these excuses.
“I thought no, I have to fight”, she told the committee.
Here in Australia, I give you Lisa Wilkinson, who, if reports are accurate, came to the conclusion that she was worth just as much as her Today co-anchor Karl Stefanovic, and she was prepared to walk if her bosses at 9 didn’t agree.
What we are seeing from Gracie, the women of the BBC, Wilkinson and increasingly women across the world, is women sticking their head above the parapet, meeting eyes, comparing notes, and joining forces — just as happened following the shocking Weinstein revelations and the incredible outpouring of women’s common experiences of sexual harassment and assault that followed.
Among my many hats, I am also currently the Interim Executive Director of NOW Australia, which is working to end sexual harassment in our workplaces, including the media industry.
New research released by the Australian Human Rights Commission shows that the media industry has the highest rates of sexual harassment by a long mile at 81 percent.
Just let that sink in, 81 percent.
Inequality and harassment that has been so common women often felt it didn’t warrant comment or action, Molly Ringwald likened the ubiquity of harassment and assault to “the weather”, is now being greeted with a thunderous roar of women banding together and saying “No More”.
Women, not just individually, but more importantly collectively, are now the rainmakers.
By coming together in common cause through networks like Women in Media, NOW Australia and other women’s networks and organisations we can create change.
Kristine Ziwica tweets @KZiwica