Editorial: The key is to know our worth
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 5, 8 July 2022, page no.5
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of participating in a “women of the world” conversation at the end of a matinee performance of “9-5 The Musical”.
Under the title “Making it matter – What a way to make a livin’”, I got to spend an hour after the show in conversation with leading Australian economist Nicki Hutley, singer songwriter Casey Donovan, 9 to 5 co-producer Suzanne Jones and the phenomenal Leesa Watego, First Nations mother, wife, volunteer and managing director of Iscariot Media.
Ironically, one of the first questions we were asked after having just seen the musical was what surprised us most about what had or hadn’t changed? On that day I quoted a tweet that went: “OK so let me get this straight. The number 1 movie in the country is Top Gun, the number 1 song is Kate Bush “Running up The Hill”, and America is in a proxy war with Russia? So, we’re just like “**** it, let’s give 1986 another go then?”
In other words, 40 years passing since the movie was released, things are the same, yet different.
When I started working for the Union 26 years ago, I was often the only woman in the room, despite education being viewed as a “woman’s” profession. While the gender balance in those rooms has improved, the feminised nature of the profession continues, and regardless of the role they play, women still need to navigate misogyny and bias every single day. In fact, when the gender pay gap figures were released this month, one of the explanations for the pay gap was that women tend to work in more feminised professions such as education, which are lower paid.
This justification made me take a pause – why can a commentator so matter of factly say that feminised work such as education attracts lower pay. In reality, we are entrusted with the most important thing in so many people’s lives – their children – and yet we are lower paid. I was asked as I was preparing for the event, do we think we need to have more men in education if we are going increase the salary of teachers. My question in reply: why should we? I think the key thing for us as teachers and school leaders – irrespective of gender – is to know our worth.
Something that should bother all of us is that older women are the fastest growing cohort among the homeless in this country. They have no nest egg, they are in limbo and I truly believe that the rates of homelessness are camouflaged as more and more of us re-enter a phase of having our elder generation live with us – ostensibly to look after the children, the pets, ourselves – but really so that our parents feel the security that they provided to us as we were growing up. One in four women are retiring with no superannuation – and of the 75 per cent of us who have superannuation, the gender gap is real. You cannot live your entire working life with a gender pay gap and not end up with a resulting gender superannuation gap.
As a Union that represents a largely feminised workforce, it is no coincidence that our EB claims have included gender equity claims – we are the ones who need to demand that “feminised work” is remunerated equally to that of that work traditionally undertaken by men.
I absolutely accept that we need an offer that addresses cost of living pressures and the teacher shortage, but each EB we campaign for also needs to reflect the value of our work and reclaim our profession as a profession.
US abortion ban
The recent Supreme Court decision on abortion was about control, more specifically the control of women’s bodies.
We all know that criminalising it does not reduce abortion, it simply increases the number of unsafe abortions and further impoverishes women. A woman seeking an abortion and exercising her right to choose what happens with her own body in the US now faces a jail sentence greater than that of a rapist.
Women being marginalised, devalued, raped, tossed aside, overlooked, undervalued, demeaned, ignored, being patted on the head and told good girls are seen and not heard has gone on too long.
So, take the anger that you are feeling about what is happening in America and channel it here in Australia. We saw the impact women had in this federal election. We also saw the impact of Gen Z – two parts of our country that feel they have not been listened to for so long. And look what happens when we get organised.
Good things can happen when women find their voice and when women lead.