Lisa Wilkinson has exposed a lot more than television pay disparity

Lisa Wilkinson has lanced a boil on much more than the appalling gender pay gap.

In the time it took her to say 'no' to her old bosses, she's opened up a public discussion on that pay gap and why women still - on average - receive 17.5 per cent less than their male counterparts.

At this point it doesn't matter if you think she's worth $2 million or $2.3 million, half of that, or double that. What she's done is illustrated that bosses think it's okay for pay scales to reflect body parts, not involving the brain.

The proof of that is in Nine's declared reason for objecting to her demands. It would have to slash the jobs of 10 producers, and it wasn't prepared to do that.

So why weren't 10 producers' jobs cut when Karl Stefanovic got his last pay rise?

It just doesn't ring true, and it stinks of unfairness and a gender discrimination that corporate Australia accepts with complacency.

But there are two other issues brought out in the open over this week's media furore, and both of them demand the same level of public discourse.

Lisa Wilkinson has started an important conversation. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

Lisa Wilkinson has started an important conversation. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

Firstly, the difference in pay packets across industries. And this truly is a national disgrace.

How can we continue to accept an inequity, where our teachers bring home $65,000 a year and media personalities line up for $2 million?

Is Stefanovic's role more crucial than that of a teacher entrusted to enliven the minds of 28 children each day?

Or a police officer, who brings in an annual average salary of $71,000?

Or a fire fighter who can earn between $46,000 and $98,000 a year - with an average of about $67,000.

At least your local GP earns between a 20th and a 10th of our top media entertainers and personalities, earning an average of $105,000. The lucky ones go home with $240,000.

I could go on, and you probably have your own example. But that's not fair, and it points both to the power of advertising revenue and how we value service roles in Australia.

But Ten's decision to appoint Lisa - and her acceptance - points to something else that should climb the priority list of water cooler topics.

Wilkinson is 57, and at the top of her game. She's witty and warm and engaging and she will bring to Ten new viewers - male and female - who are older than The Project's traditional audience.

This will highlight Wilkinson's real pulling power, and it's a clever move by Ten.

But it's still rare for workers - with extraordinary talent and experience - to be embraced in new, senior roles once they turn 50.

Take this example, which hasn't received the same publicity - but should.

Catherine O'Sullivan, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Bond University, resigned this week.

O'Sulivan, a former school principal, boasts elite public service positions as well as several board posts, and a stack of awards including Queensland Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

But it was the news of her resignation, authored by the University's male vice-chancellor Professor Tim Brailsford, that shocked some supporters.

O'Sullivan was leaving to explore other opportunities, he said, "before the twilight years of her career''.

The twilight years of her career? Can you imagine, for a moment, that being said of a senior male colleague? Of course not - because it wouldn't be!

I wonder what his chancellor retired Federal Court judge Dr Annabelle Bennett AO SC would make of that comment?

She recently took up an appointment as the new part-time President of the Anti-Discrimination Board in NSW.

And Brailsford's language is exactly the type of language she needs to address - starting in her own backyard!

This story Lisa Wilkinson has exposed a lot more than television pay disparity first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.