Women are ready to change the rules to address penalty rates, insecure jobs and flexible work arrangements because they are being harder hit, unions argue.
Polling for the Australian Council of Unions found 67 per cent of women said they had not had a pay rise in the past 12 months, compared with 61 per cent of men.
The poll of 1500 people, by Cadreon, found 66 per cent of women thought business had too much power, compared with 54 per cent of men.
While 50 per cent of men opposed cuts to penalty rates, it rose to 63 per cent for women.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said women were feeling the brunt of inequity at work, due to a gender pay gap and with more women in casual work or in female-dominated industries.
"In all the ways the rules are broken, they're more broken for us," she said in Brisbane on Thursday.
"It's actually got to do with sexism and got to do with patriarchy."
Ms McManus said early childhood educators were not being paid what they were worth.
"It's because people think it's women's work, people think that supporting and educating young people is something that we've done forever, for free, so therefore why should we pay people a decent wage for it?" she said.
As part of the Change the Rules for Working Women campaign, unions will call for action on penalty rates, changes to the superannuation system and securing 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave for all workers.
Gold Coast early childhood educator Tracey Bell said her work was still classed as "women's work".
"Women are still not receiving equal pay for equal work, let alone pay for work of equal value," she said.
"I love my job but love isn't paying the bills."
Ms Bell said she wanted women working in the early childhood sector to be classed as professionals, respected and paid appropriately.
"We're able to attract early childhood educators, but we're not able to retain them," she said.
"We can't retain those quality educators, those women with passion and knowledge because they can earn more going and stacking shelves."
Ms Bell said her battle with inequity began 25 years ago when she was fired from her job with a financial institution because she did not wear pantyhose to work.
"This was 25 years ago, not the 1960s," she said.
"I was a single mum due to divorce and had two young children and had to support myself."
Ms Bell said she found work in the hospitality industry and was told all she had to do was "work harder" to get a management position. But instead, it was "jobs for the boys".
When she was 32, Ms Bell decided to change careers and began working as an early childhood educator.
"I assumed that being a female-dominated industry, that I could get that fair go and that I could be rewarded with a professional career," she said.
"I started at 32 years old, at $8.60 an hour [18 years ago]."
Ms Bell said she was concerned her superannuation would not be enough to support her in retirement.
"I could potentially be forced to live in poverty and all because all I had to do was just work that little bit harder," she said.
By Felicity Caldwell
The Sydney Morning Herald
7 June 2018