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Lisa Wilkinson is proof of the gender pay gap, but how can we beat it?

Woman start off on the back foot and the gap only gets larger as their careers progress.
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Long gone are the days of most women being stay-at-home mums – life is just too damn expensive. The majority of people who are trying to buy a house in our current market, or even a fancy brunch, would laugh at the prospect of living on one income.

In fact, women now make up 46 per cent of the Australian workforce. However, despite making up almost half of the workers in Aus, there is still a definite gendered pay gap – a problem Lisa Wilkinson can attest to.

Westpac released The Westpac International Women’s Day Report which reveals that in Australia there is a gender earnings gap of $123.4 billion per year, further highlighting why prioritising gender pay equality is a crucial issue.

The report, designed to explore the International Women’s Day theme Pledge for Parity, shows that when women embark on their career they will be earning 11.9 per cent less than their male counterparts and this trend continues throughout their entire career.

WATCH: Celebs react to the pay gap.

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“Its clear women face challenges right across their working life,” Ainslie van Onselen, Westpac Director of Women’s Markets, Inclusion and Diversity said. “We need to take every opportunity to have a consistent dialogue with business leaders, government, community and our families about the role we all need to play to bridge this gap.”

The research also affirms that career breaks for maternity leave have a serious impact on the earnings gap, and also on a woman’s long term earning potential.

Many women return to work part-time with an average of 17 work hours per week, which further augments the parity issue, and on average she will receive 12 per cent less upon returning to work – a disparity that she is likely to never recover.

More men may make take up paternity leave as the scales begin to balance, but it is likely to still be predominantly women who are the primary care givers.


Why should this hinder their careers in an age where employers are enlightened to the value of women in the workforce?

“The key is to give women choice; whether that’s working flexible hours or having two days a week working from home. It’s about enabling a full life balance and empowering women to continue on their chosen career path,” says Ainslie.

“By introducing professional and personal support – such as education, training, agile work conditions and mentoring – we have helped 93 per cent of our employees return to Westpac after a career break and we have a workforce that is ultimately happier and more productive in their roles.”

Taking a break for further education was also shown to increase the value of a woman’s salary by 18 per cent, but although the research showed no one regretted taking the time for education, how many women truly feel that they can afford to take that time off when they are already behind the eight ball?

Asking for a pay rise was also identified as an issue for women, with 60 per cent of women never asking for more money, compared to 46 per cent of men that will raise the question and they will also ask for more money than women.

Of the women who did ask for more money, they were more likely to receive the full amount requested than their male counterparts who hit it target a little high.

Ainslie van Onselen’s top tips for women when it comes to money and career:

Share the load

Sharing the primary care-giver role with your partner can allow you to return to work sooner and continue to progress your career. Make the right decision for you and your family; in some cases it may make more sense for your partner to be the primary care giver.

Plan for a career break

Career breaks can be a great time to work out your next move, invest in education or start a family.

Plan them in advance and budget accordingly and honestly. For a budget to work you need to be honest with yourself and to look at all money going in and out.

Westpac’s Online Budget Planner can help you get started, then set aside a couple of minutes each day to think about your finances, check in on your spending to identify any red flags and how you are tracking.

It can’t hurt to ask

At your next performance review, or meeting with your manager, why not start salary negotiations or a discussion about what opportunities there are for a pay increase. Arming yourself with evidence, particularly measurable figures will help support your case.

Let the young you, look after the old you

The superannuation gap for women is significant, so get organised early and set yourself up. Making additional contributions to your superannuation will help bolster your account and could make a huge difference when it comes to retirement.

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