Write it right

The COAG Reform Council has released a report looking at education, employment, housing, health, disability, and homelessness outcomes by gender: Tracking equity: Comparing outcomes for women and girls across Australia (127 page pdf). Basically, it says women are being fucked over in most parts of their lives.

This is how it’s being reported in the Sydney Morning Herald: COAG report: girls ahead at school but women lag in pay stakes:

It is the “baffling contrast” in gender equality in Australia: girls generally outperform boys at school, and are more likely to hold a bachelor degree, but men continue to earn more than women in the workplace and overwhelmingly dominate leadership roles…

…But in the workforce a significant gender pay gap still exists, with women paid about 17.5 per cent, or $266 a week, less than men. The disparity exists even within the same profession in many cases, and once the different average hours worked by men and women are taken into account.

At dailytelegraph.com.au (I don’t know if it’s in the paper): Women paid less than men for same job:

GIRLS outshine boys at school and are more likely to graduate from university – but are still paid less to do the same work as men, a damning new report reveals.

The Council of Australian Governments Reform Council report, shows that young male dentists earn $14,000 more than women in their first job, while male architect graduates earn $9000 more and male lawyers $4300 more…

…”Financial disadvantage starts as soon as women enter the workforce,” the official report says.

“Graduate starting salaries are overall significantly lower for women than men.”

And at abc.net.au – COAG equity report finds Australian women still lag behind men in pay, care more for disabled – it was the same general summary of the findings, with this detail at the end:

The report also found women continue to bear the brunt of caring for Australia’s disabled and that they often pay an economic and psychological price.

The report says women are almost twice as likely as men to be the primary carers for people with a disability.

Nearly 40 per cent of women who are caring for a person with a disability are not in the workforce, with many suffering physical and mental health impacts stemming from their role.

The report also states Indigenous women continue to face a significant homelessness problem.

The rate of homelessness of Indigenous women is more than 15 times higher than it is for non-Indigenous women.

Only the ABC mentioned Indigenous women and women who have caring responsibilities. None of the stories mentioned the fact that Indigenous women have a life expectancy of 72.9 years, compared with 84.2 years for non-Indigenous women. And that women with a disability are less likely than men with a disability to be working, and less likely than men to use disability services.

Now, I understand that a single news story doesn’t do justice to a report like this. It’s possible that these journos have saved some of the other issues for more stories over the next few days. Mind you, that doesn’t seem to happen very often these days. Once the report has been released, it’s old news and will sit on the pile of other reports about “women’s issues” that no one with any power does anything about.

But what if we flipped it to put the focus on the real problem?

What if these stories were about the Australian employers who are discriminating against female employees, in a clear breach of the Sex Discrimination Act? It becomes a different story then, doesn’t it? One that’s not so easily dismissed as a women’s issue, for women to sort out.

What if, rather than just numbers per 10,000, the stories about homelessness focussed on family violence being the main reason women report using homelessness services?

Flipping the stories to focus on the cause and not the outcome will help change the way people think about these issues. We know from decades of research into framing, agenda setting, and priming, that not only does the news media shape what issues people think about, but also how they think about those issues. So as long as journalists keep writing about women being underpaid, instead of employers underpaying women, then people will keep thinking about it as a women’s issue.

We know, from report after report after report, that women are paid less than men. We know, from report after report after report, that carers do not have the support that they need. We know, from report after report after report, that Indigenous women have a much lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous women. We know all this, and yet nothing happens.

Many journos will say the reason they became journalists was to change the world. To write the big, important stories that make a difference. Well, these are those big, important stories. It’s time to write about them in a way that forces action, that changes the way people think. It’s time to write about them in a way that wins you a fucking Walkley.

14 responses to “Write it right

  1. agree wholeheartedly, move the focus from the victim to the inflictor, highlight the immorality of the situation created by the perpetrator. do this constantly with injustices highlighted, only way to change and shame the perpitators. it’s unfair now and has been for decades past. younger writers with more awearness and confidence are our hope and chance for a better future. i enjoy reading your thoughts. thanks.

    • Thanks tredlgt. I’m hopeful too, but there’s a lot of research showing that journalism graduates drop their idealism quickly once they get into newsrooms, in order to fit in with the culture. They also dismiss their university educations as a waste of time, to fit in. But I am still hopeful.

  2. *standing ovation*

  3. In IT, women are often not put forward for technical jobs, usually by agents. I’ve seen men less qualified than I am put forward for senior roles but when I ask about them I’m told they don’t think I can do the job. Is anyone tackling discrimination by agencies?

  4. Love your blog so thanks. As a mother of small children I
    have wondered what comments you would make about ABC kids TV, with all the princesses and dominant male characters. in my opinion it’s a minefield. I know there is insufficient funding but to me it is important. Kids copy everything…
    I look forward to reading your next piece.

  5. Many journos will say the reason they became journalists was to change the world.
    Do they?
    I became a journalist because I’d pretty much stuffed-up every other career option.
    Cracking post, though.

    • Ha! Many, Ramon, not all. I remember as a j student, we had a guest lecturer, the HR manager of a news organisation, who said ‘put your hand up if you want to be a journalist because you like writing’. Many hands went up. Then she said ‘put your hand up if you want to write the stories that will change the world’. By now, almost all hands were up. She said ‘these are the two worst reasons to be a journalist and you’re probably going to suck at it’. So harsh. But many journos I’ve met, when you dig around into their reasons, say they want to write the worthy stories that bring about change. Or write the important stories that bring down a government. That last one is a massive ego thing, huh?

  6. Pingback: Down Under Feminists’ Carnival LXVII | Kiwiana (inked)

  7. I have to agree with you. We have that problem here in the states, but to a lesser degree. One reason is that women speak up so much more and blast the people who are hurting them. It needs to increase (the reporting) even here.
    Thanks for the great post.

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