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A Multilayered Problem: Gender Pay Gap

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The gender pay gap is a multilayered problem. It arises from a wide range of cultural and economic factors, which can range from gender isolation in a workplace, all the way through to the availability of flexible working conditions to utter discrimination. Closing the gender pay gap may seem like an easy job, but what people have believed for many years is hard to change overnight. It all begins with the most respected person in a workplace because if someone can turn a business around, it’s them. Even so, eliminating it may take a generation.

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The annual wage review is something that is undertaken by the Fair Work Commission each year. For the second year in a row, the government’s submission about the review has claimed that lifting the minimum wage, would have no impact on the gender pay gap because they claim that most of the gender pay gap occurs between high-income earners. This is actually false, and not the advice provided by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, and I would like to explain to you all why this is incorrect. The pay gap is not just about a man and a woman sitting side by side doing the same job for different pay, although that does happen, the majority of the time that is not the case. Research shows that much of the pay gap actually comes forth from something called structural discrimination. This type of discrimination operates and focuses on most industries and occupations. That’s more understated than total discrimination against these specific women.

Australian workplaces are highly gender-segregated, men and women tend to be bunched in different jobs in different sectors. The problem is that there are more women in the same type of occupation or sector, which overall means that it is likely that that sector is poorly paid compared to male-dominated occupations or sectors. What this means is that workers with quite similar experiences and also similar levels of education are paid different amounts depending on whether they work in a male-dominated field, or a female-dominated field. As an example for this, w8uje’re talking about the maintenance department staff being paid more than the child care staff, which I might add needs a Certificate III in early childhood education and care, compared to no prior experience needed to work in the maintenance sector.

People who believe otherwise would say that these different kinds of occupations are just valued differently in the market. This may be true in some cases, but overall there are a lot more factors that contribute to it when talking about this issue. As a society, it is proven that we have consistently underestimated and unappreciated women’s work. Pay is predominantly worse in roles that match the stereotype which people tend to believe, such as the occupation women have traditionally done at home, such as housewife, stay-at-home mum, cooking and cleaning, etc. Honestly, we have been for a long time now pretty terrible at recognizing the worth and value of the work done even when it’s done by our own family members or female professionals. It’s not ok to just say, ‘Oh well, men and women choose different career paths.’ There’s numerous set of factors that shove both men and women into these gender-stereotyped careers. Individual choice is no way to explain this, and sometimes many women have no choice. Some female-dominated fields are female dominant because they are the only place offering these truly flexible roles where women can combine their caring responsibilities with actual professional work.

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