The Gap Grows Wider

By Shanda Glover

Last week in Australia, the women’s collective of the University of Queensland student union organized a Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale to celebrate their annual feminist week.

bake sale itemsWhat makes this bake sale different is the differences of prices. The union set prices their prices to represent the proportion of the dollar that female graduates earn compared to their male counterparts.

Prices for each baked good started at a dollar for students who identified as men, and then were reduced in price for those who identify as female.

The bake sale intended to raise awareness of the gender pay gap. However, the sale has sparked rage on the university campus. Discounted cupcakes and treats for women has prompted claims of discriminations, and threats of rape and violence.

girls from the bake sale in Australia

Madeline Price, right, and fellow sellers from the bake sale.

Madeline Price, the gender and sexuality vice-president at the University of Queensland Union and a final-year arts and law student from north of Brisbane, said the event was intended to be a conversation starter. The Facebook group UQ StalkerSpace (unofficial social media presence of the University of Queensland followed by 37,500 people, mostly students) sparked campus-wide debate over the sale and even the existence of the wage gap.

A study released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in February last year showed that men in full-time employment earned an average of $1,587.40 a week and women earned an average of $298.10 less.

According to the American Association of University Women, a woman who graduates from the same school and in the same major as her male classmate and takes a full-time job in the same occupation as he does earns an average 7 percent less than him one year out of school.

This difference was greater for women with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The WEF has stated that we are moving at a slow pace in which the gender pay gap is widening to the point that “women are now [just] earning what men did a decade ago.”

In 2014, the United States is ranked 65th in wage equality among 142 countries reported, according to the World Economic Forum. One year after being ranked at 65th, the United States ranks 74th in wage equality.

Earnings aren’t equal anywhere: There’s no country in the entire world where a woman earns as much as a man for doing the same job.

Unequal money amountsHowever, according to the World Economic Forum some countries have a narrower gap than others. For example, Iceland who is ranked number one, and then Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland at number five. Economists have ranked 145 countries, with Iceland holding on to the top position for the seventh consecutive year.

“They have the best policies in the world for families,” says the report’s lead author, Saadia Zahidi. “Their childcare systems are the best and they have the best laws on paternity, maternity and family leave.”

Rwanda ranks sixth and is the highest-rated developing country in the world, achieving a greater level of equality than the United Kingdom, the US or Germany. Women are almost equal members of the economy and the labor force, and hold the majority of seats in parliament which is the highest proportion in the world.

The United Kingdom is ranked 18th, coming in below South Africa, Namibia and Nicaragua. It scores very highly in health and education, but a lack of women in parliament means it scores poorly for political empowerment.

On the other end of the spectrum the bottom countries with the highest gender pay inequality are Iran, Chad, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen (ranked 145th).  North African and Middle Eastern countries feature heavily the greatest political, social and economic differences between men and women.

The current inequalities “risk being exacerbated” in the future due to technological advancements that eradicate jobs traditionally held by women, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum told the Daily Telegraph.

The undervaluing of women’s work and the underutilization of women’s skills is a lost resource for the economy and for society as a whole. We need to create a united society where women’s contributions and hard work are as valued as those of men.

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