How can we bridge the gender pay gap in the workplace?

Image showing the gender pay gap

According to the latest report from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), Australia's gender pay gap currently stands at 21.7%. And this year marks the beginning of a higher level of transparency on the data, where every private company with at least 100 employees reported their gender pay gaps for the first time.

What does the gender pay gap mean in reality?

The reality of the gender pay gap in Australia remains concerning. Despite the introduction of the Workplace Gender Equality Act in 2012, aimed at addressing workplace gender inequality, women in Australia continue to earn significantly less than their male counterparts. It emphasises the persistent and widespread nature of gender inequality in the workforce. In addition, there is significant variation in the gender pay gap across different industries.

The new level of data transparency may become a catalyst for urgency within governments and corporates alike. Closing the gender pay gap is not just a matter of fairness and equality; it is also crucial for Australia's economic future. By ensuring that women are paid equally for their work, we can tap into the full potential of our workforce and drive economic growth. 

It is important to understand the data that is being reported as WGEA reports on two different figures that relate to the same time period, but the difference between the two figures is that one is a base salary (which sits at 14.5% for private sector) whilst the other includes payments like overtime, bonuses and incentives, being 19%. Both help to understand varying factors contributing to the gender pay gap. 

What are some of the factors contributing to the gender pay gap?

Understanding the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap is crucial, as they are complex and cannot be easily resolved with quick fixes. Attempts to address the gap often result in temporary improvements that eventually revert back to the previous state.

Here are some of the key contributors to the gender pay gap:

  • Men and women continue to work in gender-biased industries or roles, and those that are female-dominated often have lower average wages.

  • Conscious and unconscious biases continue to affect recruitment and hiring decisions.

  • Women, on average, handle a greater share of unpaid care and domestic responsibilities.

  • Lack of workplace flexibility to accommodate for family responsibilities mean more women decide to opt-out of senior roles (and salaries) and may have more difficulty accessing overtime and bonuses.

  • When having children, women spend more time out of the workforce than men, which impacts their tenure and career progression as compared to men.

  • Domestic and family violence, along with workplace sexual harassment, disproportionately affect women, leading to significant barriers for them in terms of entering, remaining, and advancing in the workforce.

To contribute to positive change, employers need to recognise the legal, moral, and ethical responsibility of providing a safe workplace for all employees.

How can we bridge the gender gap in the workplace? 

In order to bridge the gender gap in the workplace, it is crucial to recognise the importance of taking proactive measures at the highest levels of leadership, including the Board and Executive levels. This involves implementing policy changes that are likely to be necessary, along with establishing regular reviews to ensure their ongoing effectiveness.

Implementing policy changes

Areas to review and those that have been proven to provide positive benefits include:

  • Improving work-life balance and implementing flexible working policies that benefit both men and women. Organisations should actively acknowledge that caring responsibilities are shared among all genders and provide equal options for flexibility to support this.

  • Moving away from traditional "maternity" policies and embracing "paternity" policies with equal leave provisions. This shift towards equality allows men to have greater involvement in family responsibilities than ever before.

  • Providing bias education and training not only to the Executive and Leadership Teams but ideally to the entire organisation. By addressing both conscious and unconscious biases, particularly towards women in leadership roles and when balancing family priorities, organisations can prioritise diversity and inclusion objectives.

  • Promoting gender balance at all levels of the organisation, especially in leadership positions, ensures that all voices are heard and that the diverse workforce's needs are understood.

Regular structured reviews are key

  • It's important to keep in mind that even with the best intentions, pay gaps can re-emerge if regular structured reviews are not conducted. Common instances where this can happen include annual employee pay reviews, during the hiring process, promotions, or when employees return to work after taking leave.

  • Research shows that men tend to negotiate more aggressively than women when it comes to salary, both at the start and during pay reviews. They also request more frequent reviews. That's why it's crucial for organisations to regularly review and adjust salaries for all employees at all levels, not just those who ask for it.

  • Transparency about the goal of achieving gender parity is also encouraged. Organisations can have discussions with employees who request a raise that may not be feasible, or surprise employees with an increase they weren't expecting. Additionally, conducting salary reviews and providing increases during extended periods of leave can help ensure that women are not disadvantaged.

Our commitment to promoting equality at Six Degrees Executive

The business, led by our CEO, Suzie McInerney, has made it a top priority to achieve and maintain gender balance at our executive and management leadership levels. We take pride in being able to say that we have successfully accomplished this goal and are committed to promoting equality in all aspects of our organisation. We also undertook a review of our parental/carers leave, flexibility, salary review, work health and safety and other related policies and processes which impacted our most recent report positively.

The 2023 WGEA Report has identified a median base salary gender gap of 13.0% and a median total remuneration gender pay gap of 33.9%. Our base salary gender pay gap is below our industry comparison group of 25.9%, our total remuneration gender pay gap is above our industry comparison group of 26.4%. The primary contributor to our current gender pay gap is the gender split of our board (5 males, 1 female). At our executive leadership and management levels, our gender split is equal. The report also identified that our administrative roles are weighted more towards women; a reminder that we should be striving for gender equity at all levels.

The key opportunities for Six Degrees Executive to lower our gender gap is to consider gender split as part of our Board succession planning. We will also review our sourcing and attraction strategies for our entry-level and administrative roles, aiming for 50/50 gender split on shortlists for these roles. In addition, we will aim to understand and review the WGEA report in more detail so we can set actionable goals related to improving our median total gender pay gap in the future.

Diversity & Inclusion initiatives

To further support our efforts to close the gender gap, we are in our fourth year of partnership with The Encoreship, a return-to-work program to support professional women who have taken extended period out of the workforce and finding re-entry difficult.

We also provided bespoke professional development modules to Future Women’s Jobs Academy Program who focus on building confidence, capabilities and connections for women seeking a return to the workplace or a change of their work environment. This centred around how to understand and articulate your transferable skills.

In addition, Six Degrees is an alliance member of Inclusive Australia, and member of Diversity Council Australia ensuring we are consistently involved with best practice ideas and forward thinking organisations.

We have also implemented the ReciteMe accessibility toolbar on our website to ensure anyone with an accessibility need, including women, are not disadvantaged.

Our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are at a greater disadvantage with a wider pay gap than non-Indigenous women, and we actively seek opportunities to contribute towards improvement through our reconciliation commitments.

While we acknowledge that addressing the gender gap and promoting diversity and inclusion necessitate gradual and enduring change, our unwavering focus remains on making decisions guided by one of our core values: "Do What's Right".

Our diversity and inclusion initiatives saw us recognised as a finalist in the 2023 Seek Annual Recruitment Awards for ‘Outstanding Progress in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion'.

We look forward to maintaining the areas which contribute positively to our report and pinpointing further areas for future improvement.

How we can help

We are firm believers in promoting equality in all that we do and are committed to making a positive difference to our employees, our candidates, our clients, and our communities.

If you are motivated to be part of the gender pay gap solution and don’t want to be a contributor to the problem, please reach out for assistance and advice. We look forward to working together collectively on strategies and solutions to closing the gender pay gap in Australia once and for all. 

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