What our kids' pocket money says about the pay gap

Turnbull: We have not achieved gender equality

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there was "every chance" a woman would be chosen to be at the helm of Australia's first space agency.

Australia has a mighty problem with women, and it’s more deep-seated and discriminatory than individual statistics suggest.

It starts when our girls are young and follows them through school, parenthood and work.

And it doesn’t rest until their superannuation balance - between the ages of 60 and 64 - differs by 52.8 per cent from their male counterparts.

Already, a backlash is growing against the push for more women to sit around the board table.
Already, a backlash is growing against the push for more women to sit around the board table. Photo: Rob Homer

Let’s start with children earning pocket money: boys receive $13 on average and girls, $9.60.

When Dr Terry Fitzsimmons from University of Queensland’s Business School told a group of leaders from girls’ schools across Australia that, you could hear the collective intake of breath.

The equality picture deteriorates as boys and girls progress through school.

Take these examples.

In terms of the top 10 boys’ and girls’ schools (by matriculation) in Queensland, the boys' schools occupy 15 times the physical space of the girls' schools. And they receive 10 times the level of bequests and donations from parents and alumni.

What does that tell our daughters?


Boys have a greater and earlier understanding of their mother’s and particularly their father’s occupations.

In year 7, 15 per cent of girls could not name either their mother’s or father’s jobs.In comparison, only 6 per cent of boys did not know. Girls in year 11 still stood at 9 per cent.

Could that mean the messages given to our sons - about the need to be the primary breadwinner for example - are different to those delivered to our daughters?

These figures aren’t plucked out of the air; Dr Fitzsimmons is a national expert in this area and his survey sample included 10,000 male and female students in Brisbane, along with 500 interviews.

Upon graduation, females of the same age, experience and qualifications will earn 5.5 percent less than their brothers.

And by the age of 25, there will already be an 18 per cent gender difference in superannuation balances. That will climb to almost 30 per cent over the next 10 years.Something for our daughters to look forward to.

Or this. Women represent 70 per cent of primary unpaid carers of children and spend twice as many hours on unpaid care of children than men.

Or this. Women’s average full-time total remuneration across all industries and occupations is 22.4 per cent less than men’s. That’s $26,527 per annum. Almost one-quarter.

Or this. The relative number of women CEOs in the ASX200 has moved from four in 2002 to 13 in 2017, and down to 11 in 2018.

But this statistic we should be shaking our heads at: on current trends, gender parity in CEO roles will occur in 2221.

Already, a backlash is growing against the push for more women to sit around the board table - and perhaps it’s too easy to blame business solely for the woeful support of women across society.

Because while we are pointing the finger at corporate Australia, government is escaping attention.

And so, perhaps, are the messages we deliver to our own children.

“What kids see in their childhood they replicate in adulthood,’’ Dr Fitzsimmons says. “It’s got to be individuals, organisations and governments working collaboratively to solve this problem.’’

That might stop Australia’s slide in the global gender gap index - measured using economic, educational, health and political variables. It shows Australia falling from 15th position in 2005 to 35th last year.

And it might start with the amount of pocket money we hand out to our sons and our daughters.