I was asked the question yesterday ‘Why are women paid less?’ Not an easy question, and maybe one I have never really put much thought to. I have often pondered why more women don’t run large businesses. The number of women who are the founders of seriously sized enterprises in Australia is not large. Take a look at the BRW Fast 100 or even the BRW Rich list.
We know that people in junior roles are paid almost equally to men. We also know that women are far more likely to take parental leave (and put careers on hold for many years) so when they return to work they do not have the same years of experience that their male counterparts have.
The disparity really begins in senior roles.
I left corporate life when I became a Mum. I wanted to have more flexibility in my life, be with my children and also keep myself intellectually stimulated by starting my own ‘little hobby business’ from home.
When I started my business – it was not about the money, nor about putting wheeties on the table, it was about using my skills to doing something interesting. Later (about 2 years into the project) I got a clear sense of purpose, which is to ‘Change gifting in Australia forever by delivering amazing experiential gifts.’
It is my purpose that drives me – rather than the financial rewards. I know many on those fast lists are probably driven by the money, ‘the deal’, the return on investment. As a result, they often end up with a bigger pay packet.
I think it is how we define ourselves – Women define themselves by the role they fulfil. Women still want to ‘prove’ themselves, as such they will do the role for much less financial gain – and until we are paid the same then we will never be equals.
There are just too few women in senior roles in Australia, too few role models, too few women on boards. It must start from the top. Let’s be outrageous and legislate to have 50% of board roles must be filled by women by 2020 and be paid equally. (Canada did this with its judiciary – and it really worked).
Something has got to change, and organisations will continue to pay women what they think they can “get away with.” But women have to want it… and pursue it single-mindedly.