This week Lisa Wilkinson made the shock announcement and quit her job on the Today Show. There has been a whole bunch of speculation about her departure and the subject of equal pay is at the forefront of each and every headline. One news outlet reported that channel 9 had created a $200,000 PR nightmare for themselves. They could have, in fact, chosen to make leaps and bounds for women, not just the entertainment industry, but all women in the workforce, to outwardly support equal pay. But instead of choosing to match co-host Karl Stefanovic’s pay packet, the negotiated sum on behalf of channel 9 clocked in at 200k less. Sure there are some semantics involved including Lisa’s role at various other publications, and Karl’s apparently delightful and zealous contribution to 60 minutes amongst other roles at channel 9, but, where is the lie?
Nine CEO Mark Hughes, stated that they would have to fire 10 producers to match Lisa’s pay packet demands, but there was absolutely no mention of just how many he would have to fire to compensate for Karl’s salary. Also, I wonder how many of them would be women? In line with the current salary gap he would have to fire more female employees to compensate for the 17.9% gender wage gap that still exists in this country today. In 2017.
The most damming evidence against channel 9 and in favour of Lisa quitting because she was getting paid far less than her male colleague came from the flood of tweets in solidarity from others at the top of their game. Leigh Sales for one. Karl was reportedly “in shock” about the news, sure, but what I would have liked to have seen happen, is for him to take a (safe, privileged white male) stand and say “I back her, and her decision to strive for equality in the workforce”. Because let’s be real here, no one, and I mean no one, is going to fire Karl from the Today show. The guy was drunk on air after the Logies for god sake and still has his job.
Furthermore, Lisa’s departure also opens up an entirely new can of questions and controversy for the next (presumably but hey it’s a man’s world so you never know) female host who chooses to wake up with Today. Will they employ someone who is willing to settle for less pay than her male co-host, or will they attempt to reverse the PR
shit storm nightmare they’ve created and pay them the same amount as golden boy Karl? Or… Will they choose to cite a whole list of excuses for not proving equal pay? Here’s a list I’ve pre-prepared. “She’s slightly more inexperienced, she has other commitments, she’s new to the show (but has been working as a journalist for decades but still…), she’s not as tall as Karl, Karl’s won a gold Logie, Karl looks better in the same suit every single day, and look she’s a woman so…” The list goes on.
This whole shebang and controversy got me thinking about not only my job(s) but the working life of every single woman in Australia. Because this is Lisa flipping Wilkinson we’re talking about here. It may appear as though all her job entails is simply hosting a morning TV show, but she is not only one of the most experienced but also one of the best journalists working in this country. (Notice that I didn’t prefix this by adding female into that particular sentence). But what about women in general in the workforce? Women who aren’t like Lisa, in that we all can’t be the most sought after in our chosen field, how do we negotiate our pay? If Lisa Wilkinson can’t get equal pay at the top of her game, what hope do the rest of us have? More importantly, how does the every day citizen, walk away from a job purely to protest the gender wage gap? I know I certainly wouldn’t be able to simply walk away from the job(s) I have in protest. Sure, it would feel great at the time, especially if I knew for certain that I was in fact getting paid less than my male colleagues (luckily all of my jobs pay award wages, I checked), but when the bills roll in as they always do, and I find myself at 27 back living at my parents house, what then?
Lisa’s departure from the Today show should serve as a starting point for a discussion. The fact that it’s 2017 and we don’t have equal pay is beyond a joke. Australia as a nation prides itself on being the lucky country, but when was the last time anyone asked, “yeah but… lucky for whom?”