According to the latest report from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), Australia's gender pay gap currently stands at 13.3%. While this may initially appear as a positive shift compared to the previous year's gap of 14.1%, it's crucial to note that the gap had actually widened in 2020 and 2021. As a result, we have only managed to make a minimal 0.1% improvement from our pre-pandemic position. Unfortunately, Australia continues to fall behind other countries in the OECD, whose average gender pay gap is 11.9%.
What does the gender pay gap mean in reality?
The reality of the gender pay gap in Australia is 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. On average, women earn $255 less per week than men, emphasising the persistent and widespread nature of gender inequality in the workforce.
This startling figure highlights the urgency to 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.
Within the region, New Zealand has successfully reduced its gender pay gap to single digits at 9.1%, which demonstrates more progress is possible when focus is applied.
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).
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.
This year, we formally reported to WGEA, which involves the disclosure of our leadership and team demographic information, employee salary and benefits data, our policies and procedures, and our current and future programs and initiatives for improvement.
We were pleased to verify that we have achieved pay parity and gender balance across our consulting and leadership teams. We also were able to pinpoint specific areas that were marked for opportunities to improve, allowing us to hone our focus and future strategies very specifically around these areas.
Diversity & Inclusion initiatives
To further support our efforts to close the gender gap, we are in our third 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.
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".
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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