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Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

November 26, 2021
| Womens Advocacy

Founder’s Weekly: An open letter to the PM, how the gender pay gap is affecting Aussie women, and Annette Kimmitt speaks up.

From an open letter to the PM demanding change to the US setting up a council for gender and equality, let’s see what’s happening for women around the world.

Fellow remarkable women,

I hope you had a wonderful International Women’s Day and took the opportunity to celebrate all the remarkable women in your life! This week, we’ll be discussing the events that took place - many of which were spurred by IWD. From an open letter to the PM demanding change to the US setting up a council for gender and equality, let’s see what’s happening for women around the world.

An open letter to the PM

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Australia has a problem with violence against women. More importantly, as recent events have shown us, the Australian government has a problem with women. Whether it’s issues of sexual assault, harassment, or pay parity – gender equality is an ongoing issue in Australia. And our government absolutely needs to step up.

To this end, a large group of Australian women have sent an open letter to ScoMo demanding change and asking that the upcoming federal budget addresses the issues of gender equality. Signed by such names as Lucy Turnbull, Ita Buttrose, Elizabeth Games, Nicola Forrest and Rosie Batty, the statement reads:

“We know that while inequality persists, true development and economic growth can never flourish… While we have made some strides on gender equality over recent decades, we are still falling short for women in almost every workplace, including the federal parliament.

We, the undersigned, are calling on you, Prime Minister, to ensure the upcoming Federal Budget makes the lives of Australian women easier, not harder.

The next Federal Budget should deliver key reforms that support better equality for women, including a commitment to place early learning reform on the agenda of the National Cabinet. The time is now. We urge you to move towards a better, more equal future.”

You can  read the full statement here.

It’s time to talk about the gender pay gap

For decades, talking about your salary has always been seen as a faux pas in the workplace. However, what we need to realise is that this lack of transparency helps no one. Recent articles reported that, as part of an overall study of salaries of their employees, Google found it was paying men less than women working in similar roles. If corporations openly disclosed employee compensation, it would be an illuminating and instrumental tool to help people make better and more informed career decisions.    

This is supported by the  University of Pennsylvania’s findings that “companies that implement more practices around pay transparency are seeing the pay gap closing among their employees.”

As part of their pledge to close the gender pay gap, the Labor party has announced a plan that will require companies to report their pay data annually before it would appear on a publicly listed and searchable website. Salary data published to the public website would allow users to filter data by gender and role.

The new plan would also see Labor hand new powers to the Fair Work Commission to order pay increases for low-paid workers in female-dominated industries, as well as addressing and regulating the pay gap among public servants, for whom the gender pay gap is currently 7.3 per cent.

How the pay gap hits women at home 

If you wanted more evidence that the gender pay gap is negatively impacting women (although, let’s be honest… we don’t really need any more proof), all you need to do is look at homeownership numbers in Australia.

CoreLogic’s inaugural  Women and Property: State of Play report has found that of the 4.7 million properties analysed, only 26.2%  belonged to women, as opposed to the 29.9% owned by men.

Eliza Owen, CoreLogic’s Head of Research and author of the report, states:

“Unsurprisingly, the report found that rates of male property ownership are generally higher than women, but with important distinctions that highlight the relationship between the gender wealth gap and the gender pay gap, and have implications for institutional response.

“CoreLogic estimates Australia’s residential real estate to be worth over $7 trillion. Given there’s a high level of equity held in real estate, if you don’t own property, that’s a big source of household wealth and security you don’t have access to.”

To highlight how the reported pay gap can impact access to homeownership, CoreLogic did some simple modelling for Australia. Based on the average weekly full-time earnings for men and women, it would take women an additional 10 months to save for a 20% deposit on the median Australian dwelling when compared to men. This means that men get access to housing sooner, have more time in the market, and therefore have greater wealth accumulation as well. 

Biden signs executive orders for women’s rights and gender equality

On March 8th, President Biden released a statement on establishing a White House Gender Policy Council to ensure that every domestic and foreign policy the US pursues rests on a foundation of dignity and equity for women. The Executive Order reads:

“Advancing gender equity and equality is a matter of human rights, justice, and fairness. It is also a strategic imperative that reduces poverty and promotes economic growth, increases access to education, improves health outcomes, advances political stability, and fosters democracy.  The full participation of all people — including women and girls — across all aspects of our society is essential to the economic well-being, health, and security of our Nation and of the world. 

It is therefore the policy of my Administration to establish and pursue a comprehensive approach to ensure that the Federal Government is working to advance equal rights and opportunities, regardless of gender or gender identity… this order is intended to advance gender equity and equality, with sensitivity to the experiences of those who suffer discrimination based on multiple factors, including membership in an underserved community.”

You can read Biden’s  full statement here and details of the  Executive Order here.

Minter Ellison CEO Annette Kimmitt takes a stand

I am so incredibly proud of Annette Kimmitt. For those of you who don’t know, the (former) CEO of Minter Ellison has been stood down after she expressed concerns that a senior partner in her firm had agreed to represent Attorney-General Christian Porter over defamation. 

In her email to staff, she stated:

“Acceptance of this matter did not go through the Firm’s due consultation or approval process. Had it done so, we would have considered the matter through the lens of our Purpose and our Values… The nature of this matter is clearly causing hurt to some of you, and it has certainly triggered hurt for me. I know that for many of you, it’s a tough day, and I want to apologise for the pain you may be experiencing.”

Kimmitt then added that any staff feeling distress could reach out to the firm’s internal sources, herself or their manager.

It didn’t take long for the reactions to start pouring in. Some clients threatened to withdraw their business, while other firms stated that her email was unprofessional. While many supported her, others criticised her for shaming a colleague without contacting him first. In fact, it seems Kimmitt did not consult anyone in the firm’s leadership group – or its communications department – before she sent the email.

While some may say that Kimmitt jumped the gun in sending the email, losing her job over an attempt to express concern and ensure the wellbeing of staff (especially junior, female staff members) is problematic for so many reasons. It discounts her motivations for doing so and suggests that transparency, compassion and vulnerability are to be frowned upon. And that, ladies, is a very dangerous precedent.

Until next week, 

Shivani

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