COM10006 Academic Literacies

COM10006 Academic Literacies

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COM10006 Academic Literacies

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COM10006 Academic Literacies

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Course Code: COM10006
University: Swinburne University Of Technology is not sponsored or endorsed by this college or university

Country: Australia


It is often suggested that Australia, and especially higher (i.e. university) education in Australia, is “meritocratic. Using the statistics, identify a pattern in one demographic that seems to challenge this. Using academic sources, explain some theories and academic research that has sought to explain this pattern.


This essay will argue that the work industry of Australia, along with its sector of higher or University education is, by nature, meritocratic while also identifying and stating one particular demographic that challenges this notion. The demographic considered here is the gender issue in the country. Meritocracy implies that the nation embodies a social system where people are given opportunities and the chance at success based solely on their performance or merit (Wiederkehr et al. 2015). Whether to implement a quota or not has been a matter of debate for quite a long time in Australia. The people are unhappy with the arrangement, as there are sectors that do not conform to this meritocratic ideology. One such example would be the Law Council of Australia, where women are increasingly under-represented. At present, only about 22 per cent of the practising barristers are women, and the policy stands that it has to undertake the briefing of women in 40 per cent of cases that require senior counselling ( 2017). However, only 10% of them are women, which make it difficult to comply to the policies effectively.
However, Supreme Court barrister Jeffrey Phillips disagreed and dismissed the idea of the introduction of a quota system. According to him, the quota system will be a failure, as gender as the basis for choosing a counsellor is ‘absolute nonsense’; the lack of a quota system would thereby ensure that the people get the best in the industry for their money (Nazarov, Kang and Von Schrader 2015). One can agree with his arguments because the world is rapidly progressing in the 21st century; however, male barristers are sometimes not as good as their job as the women. There are a large number of men who are only average and yet employed, while there is a section of highly qualified and talented women who are good at their job and yet get insufficient opportunities for work simply because of the gender bias that exists. The women constitute about 60 per cent of the people who graduate from law school, yet they are the ones who do not get work (Reynolds and Williams 2017). This alone indicates that there is a flaw in the system –– meritocracy does not really work in this aspect in Australia. Education beyond the compulsory high school enrolment is important to get a job in the country, and the demand for qualifications is on the rise in the labour market. The differences in the qualifications and training undertaken by the men and women are important to determine the kind of job that they would acquire in the labour market as well as their career growth pattern (Apple 2013).
Management and commerce was one of the popular subjects of study around the year 2011, especially among the women. The ratio of the women to the men studying this field was almost 2:1, which suggested that almost 29 per cent of the women and 15 per cent of the men were involved in studying this field. Additionally, women were concentrated on the service sector as well, with around 19 per cent studying about Society and culture and 13 per cent studying Food, Hospitality and Personal Services ( 2017). On the contrary, the more popular field of study among men was Engineering and its related fields, chosen by almost 30 per cent of them. The Vocational Education and Training programme in Australia is sometimes offered alongside the secondary school curriculum, and in 2010, more than 52 per cent of the students enrolled in the VET programs were men ( 2017). Moreover, apprenticeship is usually focused more on areas like agriculture or trade, which results in women being under-represented in this aspect. Although contemporary traineeships do extend to field such as sales, hospitality or clerical work, women continue to be under-represented, as men make up for the maximum number of people who undertake such jobs or posts. The most popular fields for men were Technicians and trade workers, within which the most preferred work area was Construction trade and Automotive and engineering. The picture for women was different; in addition to being employed in the Technicians and trade workers sector, a large number were engaged in Community and personal service along with clerical and administrative work. Surveys suggest that almost 79 per cent of the people aged fifteen to sixty four, who were enrolled as trainees under the Australian Apprenticeship Scheme, were men ( 2017). This huge disparity in the number of men and women who are employed challenges the notion of meritocracy in Australia.
When the working-age citizens of the country are taken into consideration, only one out of four people have a higher qualification. History suggests that more men were enrolled in higher education as compared to women. This has seen a marked change over time, and the reason for this was that jobs which were primarily dominated by women –– such as teaching or nursing –– started to demand higher qualifications. The men had a wider range of vocational options to choose from as well, while the options were limited for the women. The result was that almost 57 per cent of the students enrolled in higher education by 2011 were women. Additionally, when it came to completing courses or educational qualifications, the results were in favour of the women (Lie 2014). The only differentiating factor here is that the line of study or the educational path is different for men and women. However, the representation of women in fields dominated by men is seeing a gradual decline with the passing years, especially in Information Technology (Adapa, Rindfleish and Sheridan 2016). The converse is not true though; the percentage of men working in women-dominated fields has remained constant over the past many years.
Unequal wages have been an issue of conflict for the past many years. It has been noted that the starting or the median salaries of women are lesser than that of men. The wage difference was starkly visible especially for the postgraduates than that of the graduates; a woman’s earnings are, on average, 4 per cent lower than a man’s. This is ironical, as according to recent findings, women in Australia perform better than the men, even when compared on the global or international scale (Anon 2017). More women are inclined to undertake tertiary education than men in Australia. The maximum difference in pay is visible in the industry of architecture, where the men earn around 15.3 per cent more than the women do. It is followed by the fields of science, mathematics and health services where the salary gaps are 10 and 9.1 per cent in favour of the men, respectively. Although the enrolment in the field of business management has little or no disparity, the wage gap disadvantage for women is as high as 7 per cent (Australia 2014). The glass ceiling effect can be used here to describe the situation; the women of Australia have made it to the professional roles and occupations, but are yet to be recognised and rewarded according to their talents and capabilities.
The 1984 Sex Discrimination Act made it punishable to discriminate on grounds of gender or marital status in the workplace. However, disparity between the two sexes continues to be a problem in the country. At present, women constitute around 46 per cent of the workforce in Australia, but on an average, they get $282 less in weekly wages than the men (Coelli 2014). This pay gap in terms of gender is at 18.2 per cent, and the country has fallen to a rank of 24 from 15 on the global index that measures gender equality. Women constitute mostly the caregiver section in the country, with 92 per cent of the primary carers of the differently-abled children being female. Most of the workers in industries that have part-time workers and low wages have an over-representation of women, and the private sectors have a higher number of men in leadership and administrative roles ( 2017). The retirement payouts for men are a lot higher than for women, and this means that the women are more likely to suffer and undergo financial stress after their retirement from work, and be therefore reliant on other sources such as the Age Pension. Moreover, the average Australian woman earns the same wages as the average Australian man only after working for 66 extra days.
Despite being labelled as a meritocracy, Australia does have some issues that challenge this notion, the gender gap in education and the workplace being of grave importance in this aspect. As mentioned above, the women are stereotyped as less capable than men, and even when they have the necessary talents or qualifications, they are overlooked and not considered for the job. The difference is clear in the social structure in the occupations, where women in a higher or influential position sometimes do not perceive themselves as merely the holder of that position, but as a specifically female holder of that particular designation. Men and women in the same industry do not have the luxury of equal pay, and the men are at an advantage most of the time. This unequal representation, the glaring wage gap these all sum up the fact that Australia is a meritocracy only on the surface, but the inside picture portrays an entirely different story.
References: (2017). 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, Sep 2012. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].
Adapa, S., Rindfleish, J. and Sheridan, A., 2016. ‘Doing gender’in a regional context: Explaining women’s absence from senior roles in regional accounting firms in Australia. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 35, pp.100-110.
Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].
Apple, M.W., 2013. Teachers and texts: A political economy of class and gender relations in education. Routledge.
Australia, G.C., 2014. An analysis of the gender wage gap in the Australian graduate labour market, 2013. Melbourne, Australia: Graduate Careers Australia.
Coelli, M.B., 2014. Occupational differences and the Australian gender wage gap. Australian Economic Review, 47(1), pp.44-62. (2017). Face the facts: Gender Equality | Australian Human Rights Commission. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].
Lie, S., 2014. World Yearbook of Education 1994: the gender gap in higher education. Routledge.
Nazarov, Z., Kang, D. and Von Schrader, S., 2015. Employment Quota System and Labour Market Outcomes of Individuals with Disabilities: Empirical Evidence from South Korea. Fiscal Studies, 36(1), pp.99-126.
Reynolds, D. and Williams, G., 2017. Gender Equality Among Barristers Before the High Court. AUSTRALIAN LAW JOURNAL, 91(6). (2017). A vote for meritocracy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].
Wiederkehr, V., Bonnot, V., Krauth-Gruber, S. and Darnon, C., 2015. Belief in school meritocracy as a system-justifying tool for low status students. Frontiers in psychology, 6.

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