We’re all equal, but some are more equal than others

By Reader Contributed

I recently opened a women’s magazine and was hit in the face by a line-up of seven famous women.
The focus of the article was to feature a small biography on these women as they were judges in the Australian Women’s Weekly ‘future awards’.

The awards celebrate young women who make a difference.
Reading through this I was struck by one of the panellists and her recent stand as she resigned from a top rating morning show and moved on to another station, all said to be over her stand for equal pay to her male counterparts.
This encouraged me to reflect on my own industry — child care or early childhood education.
The industry has seen many changes in the past 10 years — mainly consisting of fee increases, and more pressure on educators to produce extensive documentation and complete extensive checklists.
With just a basic Certificate III qualification, we are required to be able to identify developmental delays in children and give warning to parents so they can get the child to see a specialist; all to the tune of about $22.08 per hour for someone with a second-year Certificate III qualification.
And these are just a few of around 20 tasks educators perform over their shift which can start at 6.30am and go to 6.30pm, all with no penalties.
On top of this you are expected to stay back to cover ‘ratio’ if the numbers across your service don’t drop quickly enough.
So, one thing that has been a shortcoming in these changes has been equal pay for educators.
Don’t worry about equal pay to their male counterparts — I’m talking about equal pay to the rest of society or even motel cleaners who earn about $25 per hour for their efforts.
So in an effort to climb the financial hill to support myself, I quickly worked out that working with children — which was what I was passionate about — was simply not going to support me as a single female and enable me to pay a mortgage and support myself.
With this in mind I continued to study and empowered myself with every professional development session I could and accepted every opportunity I could.
I climbed until I took a position as a centre director of an early learning centre.
‘‘Finally!’’ I thought, ‘‘a director!’’
I thought I would easily be on a six-figure salary at last. This was the money spinner for the males I knew who were in such roles.
But alas, this was not the case.
Managing a team of 35 staff, more than 98 families and 200 children and putting myself forward to be the ‘nominated supervisor’ — taking responsibility for all compliance and regulation or possibly incur a personal fine of up to $10 000 — would see me paid the sum of $62 000 per year.
This is more than $50 000 less than a male ‘director’ of any other position at any other job in any other industry.
Perhaps most of you are thinking $62 000 per annum is a great income, and I agree it is a good amount to earn.
But my challenge is — why should I, along with my peers, continue to earn significantly less than not just male counterparts, but also relatable industry counterparts?
As a director I manage human resources, rosters, payroll, staffing issues, recruitment, leadership, complaints from parents, supporting vulnerable families, liaising with external stakeholders, working with the Department of Health and Human Services and all compliance regulations — to name a few.
I wonder how many other directors manage all this alone.
We shouldn’t have to earn less; we are entrusted with the babies and children as families go about their daily life, we are told by every governing body that we are responsible for the education and the care of future generations and are given huge responsibilities to comply with.
We are at the liberty of the government’s often-unachievable expectations and all for about $22 per hour.
Further to this, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the financial strain the fee increases have burdened families with while not supporting pay increases for educators.
For example, in 2010 an average fee for a long daycare spot was $52 and a Certificate III educator earned $19.80.
Now, in 2018, fees are about $114 per day in some places and wages are about $22.
That is more than a 100 per cent increase in less than 10 years for fees and about a 20 per cent increase in wages for staff.
Seem fair? No — that’s because it’s not.
In the past two months, the government has introduced the heralded-next-best-thing for families — the new Child Care Subsidy.
What has this done to support families and ensure all children have access to early childhood education?
For many families not much, unfortunately.
Not to mention the fact it has made it more difficult for women to re-enter the workforce as their access to hours of subsidised care was slashed.
So as a women who has a passion for my industry, an industry that I have been a part of for more than 20 years, I write this column to start a conversation as to why we should be entitled to better pay.
Better pay that is supported by government, not a wage increase that puts more pressure on families to pay higher fees.
Fee increases don’t support better wages, let alone equal pay to male counterparts in other blue collar industries.

- Cate Collins, GV Pride committee member