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Women do better in Catholic jobs

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Attendees at the launch of the Catholic Women’s Network at St Mary’s Cathedral House on 13 September. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Attendees at the launch of the Catholic Women’s Network at St Mary’s Cathedral House on 13 September. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Women with Catholic employers are well-supported according to the first national gender pay gap report, but some organisations said there remains scope to better uphold the equal dignity of all their employees.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency published gender pay gaps of nearly 5000 private companies with 100 more employees for the first time on 27 February.

Catholic workplaces consistently reported less than the national median gap of 19 per cent—understood as the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings in an organisation where the women earn 19 per cent less overall.

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Australian Catholic University reported a median pay gap of 14.5 per cent, Caritas Australia 13.1 per cent, the Archdiocese of Sydney chancery 12.2 per cent, and many Catholic schools, clubs, health and welfare agencies showed smaller or negligible gaps.

In an employer statement Caritas, which had a workforce comprising almost 70 per cent of women in the reporting period, said that factors such as parental leave options contribute to its pay gap.

“While reducing the gender pay gap can be complex, it is a critical objective for Caritas Australia,” said People Director Alicia Benardos.

“We wholeheartedly commit to further foster an inclusive workplace where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive.”

ACU recently appointed its first Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) Kelly Humphrey.

ACU Chief People Officer Angelle Laurence said the university’s action plan to remove barriers to equity and diversity was recently awarded a national accreditation for gender equality in education called the Athena Swan Bronze Award.

“Analysis of salaries on a level-by-level basis shows pay is close to parity for women and men at most levels for academic and professional staff,” she said.

“However, for some senior staff positions which are contract based, a higher gender pay gap is evident.”

Anthony Micallef, the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Director of People and Culture, said it has worked hard in recent years to improve the representation of women at senior levels, including appointing the first female member of its curia, the body which assists Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in governance.

It has also improved parental leave access, workplace flexibility and other entitlements for all employees.

“There has been a conscious shift towards improving our support and recognition of women, which is necessary,” Micallef said.

“We are perhaps still a little behind where we should be, but I have sat with the archbishop on a number of occasions who said to me, what are you already doing and what are you going to do to improve the lives of women and family life of all who work at the archdiocese?

“That’s a really powerful question and gave me the mandate to do that work.”

Jennifer Cook, General Counsel for the Archdiocese of Sydney, began her career as a human rights lawyer in Cambodia.

She says at the global level there is much still to be done to advance the situation of women, especially those living in poverty.

But she feels particularly blessed to work for the church in the archdiocesan chancery, where half of senior leadership positions are held by women.

“I have always felt respected and heard, given opportunities and had my contribution valued,” she said.

“Working for the equality of women aligns with Catholic social teaching, in which the dignity of every person is upheld.”

Selina Hasham, chief executive officer of leading pilgrimage provider Harvest Journeys, worked in church settings in several dioceses before taking on her current role in the private sector.

“The church has given me many opportunities as a woman to use my skills and advance my career,” she said.

Having more women in senior positions in the community of the church allows the flourishing of initiatives such as mentoring for women.

Women of all ages supporting one another builds a positive culture and encourages them to make their unique contribution to the church.

Minister for Women Katy Gallagher responded to backlash against the report saying it is not about “shaming or naming.”

“It’s not about saying men should be paid less, it’s about driving change in those organisations so women get a fair crack at opportunity. It’s complex.”

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