Women short changed as Clarence shows its gender pay gap

MEN in the Clarence Valley are getting paid about $12,000 a year more than women - that's 36% more.

The average Valley man earns about $45,000 and the average woman earns $33,000.

These figures show the biggest gap is in machinery operator positions, where men get paid $29,500 more than women on average.

The second highest gap was in the community and personal service industry, where men get paid about $20,000 a year more than women.

The Clarence Valley's pay gap is less than the state average.

In NSW, men get paid about $22,000 more on average than women, which is about a 34% gap.

National Council of Women member and equal pay advocate Elise Stephenson said these wage figures from 2010/11 had not changed.

"People think we're doing much better than we're actually doing," she said. "And when you've got a perception that 'we're doing fine', there is less emphasis to change things."

Ms Stephenson said it was "absolutely ridiculous" and "outdated" that men were still getting paid more than women.

"Money is the main way we value work in our society. What does it tell us of how we value our women?"

Experts say there are several reasons why women still fall behind men when it comes to wages, from employers offering less money to women deciding between a job at lower pay and no job at all.

Ms Stephenson said research showed women were more reluctant than men to negotiate.

"A man will go and ask for a promotion and then prove himself but a woman will tend to prove herself and then ask for a promotion."

University of Queensland political science professor Gillian Whitehouse said women were more likely to be offered and accept lower pay for entry-level jobs such as graduate positions.

She said some workforces still had a gender pay gap on base-level jobs and it meant women would be behind men for the rest of their career.

But no matter what the reason, Ms Stephenson said these factors could lead to women earning hundreds of thousands, or sometimes millions, of dollars less than a man in the same position over a lifetime.

She said there was no excuse.

"Just because we don't ask doesn't mean we shouldn't be paid equally," she said.

In combating the problem, she said the first responsibility fell to governments, businesses and employers.

Ms Stephenson also encouraged women to ask their employers about pay policies.

"If all women in Australia demanded employers paid equally, they'd have to, because that's half the workforce right there."

She also said men had a responsibility to join the fight and that it could be a wife, sister or girlfriend who was missing out on equal pay.

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