“So tell me what you want, what you really really want”…sang the Spice Girls in the 1990’s. My daughter was a toddler then and if someone had asked me what I really really wanted at that time; the answer would have revolved around how to escape the twilight zone I was in, otherwise known as the 3 C’s. Cooking, cleaning and caring. I was an ambitious and driven young working mother. However, like many women, my career went into the equivalent of The Twilight Zone whilst I was required to juggle the 3 C’s along with working.
If someone had asked me back then what I wanted, (and I knew what I now know) I would have asked for a wife! And a pay rise! And for there to be no twilight zone that would have a negative impact on my lifetime financial wellbeing.
I Need a Wife
I read “The Wife Drought” by Annabel Crabb some time ago through laughter and gritted teeth. Gritted teeth because I was envious that there were advantages that you have when you have a life partner who enables one’s career by doing “wifely” stuff. I would have said (back in the day) “I need a wife” as I understand the advantages and ‘potent economic empowerment’ that having a stay at home spouse delivers.
What it would have meant for me to have a stay at home spouse is that I could have gone to work, without an unpaid career break. I could have worked hard, got noticed, got promoted and advanced my career and financial situation at a much faster rate than it actually occurred.
Instead, I became another statistic where I was economically disadvantaged because of the systemic barriers that working mothers face. My personal gender pay gap started when I was 25 and a first-time mother. I had to take unpaid parental leave, my superannuation stopped, then, when I did return to work, I had no option to work flexibly, so I had to work part-time, spent a monarchs ransom on childcare and was overlooked for promotions because I was “only part-time”.
The Gender Pay Gap is Real
The gender pay gap starts early and persists throughout a woman’s life. It harms her. Especially when she becomes a woman over 50. It harms Australia, economically, socially and politically.
Women’s wallets are penalised from the outset of life. Girls are paid less pocket-money than boys, they’re expected to contribute in greater amounts to household chores and they perform more caring duties than boys. This is a trend that continues throughout a woman life. It’s the Female Twilight Zone.
Women are not only paid less than men to the tune of 14.1%, (AUD $239.80 per week) they also carry out two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men. As a result, women have less time to go to work or they are forced to work longer overall hours when taking into account paid and unpaid work.
The lifetime gender pay gap costs women hundreds of thousands of dollars, their homes, their health and their dignity. Pay equality in the workplace is the responsibility of leaders who must take action so that all people are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities, regardless of their gender.
Back in the Day…
Back in the 1990’s when my daughter was a toddler, more women tended to have a supporting or background role at work and in life. What is astonishing, is that nearly three decades later, my daughter is now the same age as I was when I first became a mother (yikes!) What is AWFUL, is that my long-ago experience as a working mother is still the reality for so many women in Australia.
My call to action is for all leaders, in all sectors, to critically examine their own mindset and behaviours when it comes to women, work, money and equality. Because I for one want my daughter, and all the other women who come after me, never to have to enter The Female Twilight Zone.
Michelle is a trusted advisor to leaders who are serious about moving gender diversity from conversation to action in their workplace. Have a chat to see how she gets stuff done!