As part of a BroadAgenda series on gendered work and the pay gap, we asked Professor Sheridan for her take on the recently released Senate committee report: 'Gender segregation in the workplace and its impact on women's economic equality.' Sheridan has been researching women’s experiences in the paid workforce for more than 25 years. Whilst she welcomes the report and what she calls “the Senators’ efforts to shine a light on this festering sore for the Australian economy," Sheridan nevertheless suggests there isn’t anything novel in the report. Here is her blog commentary:
Given the enduring gender pay inequality evident in Australia, we need more people to keep banging on about it; as only through pressure by public figures and key institutions are we likely to prompt any change. Those Senators on the Committee calling for action, including embedding gender pay equity as an overall object of the Fair Work Act, shouldn’t be silenced by dismissive statements about how far we have come; while gender pay inequality continues, we haven’t come far enough.
We now have the catchier name of ‘glass walls’ to describe the clustering of women and men in different occupations; with those occupations in which women are found paid less than those where men dominate. But this has been clearly tracked for decades, and the patterns have remained remarkably persistent. In Australia, the Equal Pay for Equal Work decision of 1969 and the Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value decision of 1972 were the first steps taken to close Australia’s gender wage gap, but with public policy attention waxing and waning over the years since, we have yet to see any fundamental improvement.