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5 Steps to Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace

Significant changes have been made over the past few years to create a more gender-equitable society. But one area that still lags behind is the workplace.

5 Steps to Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace

In New Zealand and Australia, there are still certain industries that women struggle to access – for example, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Women make up 27% of the workforce across all STEM industries in Australia and earn around 18% less than men. Statistics are similar across the ditch, with 28% of the New Zealand STEM workforce made up of women.

While some industries have a higher wage gap than others, evidence suggests that the national gender pay gap is shrinking. However, we still have a long way to go before it is closed completely.

The impact of COVID-19 on the gender pay gap

Unfortunately, the pandemic had a significantly more adverse impact on women than men.

The Grattan Institute laid bare the realities of the pandemic in a report that highlighted how more women than men were significantly impacted by the effects of COVID-19.

Not only did women have to pick up an increase in unpaid work (including supervising children who were learning remotely) on top of their existing responsibilities, but they were more likely to become unemployed during the pandemic than men and were less likely to receive government support.

Specifically, the report notes that women who became unemployed during the pandemic now face serious impacts on their long-term financial situation and career progression. Six months out of work can add another $100,000 to the average $2 million lifetime earnings gap between men and women with children in Australia.

Choosing to challenge gender inequality in the workplace

While the statistics still show a significant gender pay gap in Australia and New Zealand, some changes are occurring to help close the gap.

For example, Australia’s new gender pay gap reporting law means that organisations with 100 or more employees will now have their gender pay gap published on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency website. Currently, these companies are required to report their workforce data and performance against key indicators of gender equality to WGEA each year. They would then obtain WGEA reports with their employer gender pay gap and a benchmark of their progress against other industry peers. These reports were provided to the employers confidentially – but now, the new law means their gender pay gap information will be available publicly. A similar gender pay gap reporting requirement is being debated in New Zealand and is gaining momentum.

Aside from requiring companies to publicly report on their gender pay gap, what are some of the other ways organisations can work towards gender equality? We’ve put a list together of 5 key points.

1. Ensure equal access to learning and development (L&D) opportunities

Women in the workplace have fewer opportunities for learning and development than their male colleagues.

Often, women are overlooked for training and development which also limits their skillset and opportunities for growth within the company. This can result in fewer women within senior roles and management positions, and therefore less women attaining higher-paying roles.

Providing equal access to L&D opportunities for both genders can help to promote gender equality in the workplace and also shrink the gender wage gap.

2. Ensure hiring procedures are free from bias and promote diversity

Despite the best attempts to avoid it, implicit (and sometimes explicit) bias exists in every organisation. Unconscious bias is an inherently human habit, but one that must be monitored and challenged – particularly when remuneration decisions and recruitment processes are affected by unconscious bias.

Collecting data on your existing workforce and employee remuneration can help to break down the numbers on key areas like diversity and pay parity. This can provide insights into whether unconscious bias has already had an impact on these areas.

3. Build an inclusive work culture

There is no silver bullet for building an inclusive work culture. Doing so takes time and a dedicated organisational mindset to instil D&I into the fabric of an organisation. First and foremost, companies must have diverse leadership teams. Not only does this enable a diverse set of perspectives at the top level; but it also demonstrates to employees that diversity is valued at all levels of the organisation.

Other factors to consider when building an inclusive work culture are investing in diversity and inclusion training, using inclusive language in everything you do and taking a zero-tolerance approach towards bullying and harassment.

But the responsibility of creating an inclusive workplace culture shouldn’t fall to just one group of people. Research has shown that women are much more likely to put in the hard yards when it comes to building an inclusive and diverse culture, but their critical work in this area often goes unrecognised.

Creating an inclusive workplace culture that welcomes diversity and different ideas is everyone’s responsibility.

woman leading a meeting

4. Make mentors available to everyone

Mentoring programs can be beneficial for any organisation, and can have a significant impact on the performance of mentees. Having a mentor can help to accelerate a person’s career in many different ways, and is also a great way to learn directly from someone else’s valuable experience.

Mentor programs are an effective way of building a pipeline of female leadership talent. Through access to a trusted advisor, female employees can seek advice on issues concerning their progression, personal development and on thorny topics such as how to ask for a pay rise.

5. Offering paid parental leave for mums and dads

Better gender equality at home can lead to more gender equality at work. Since the primary caregiver in a hetero-normative household is the mother, it is predominantly women who bear the responsibility for unpaid domestic and care work. This is perpetuated by the fact that many organisations do not offer significant paternity leave. According to data collected by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 3 in 5 employers (60%) offer access to paid parental leave (either to both women and men or to women only), in addition to the government scheme. Women account for 88% of all primary carer’s leave utilised and men account for just 12%.

The result of this is that if women feel like they have to take time away from their careers to raise children, then they’re at risk of falling behind their male counterparts in their careers and in terms of overall financial security.

The need for continuous improvement

Gender equality in the A/NZ workforce has made several large strides over the years. But there remains much more to be done. The good news is, there are many steps organisations can take in order to make the workplace more gender equitable.

One of the first steps an organisation can take towards bridging the gap is by analysing its data. By collating and examining data, you can discover which areas need the most improvement. This will give you a place to start when you compare the numbers against your inclusivity and gender equality workplace policies.

It’s important to remember that gender equality in the workplace is an ongoing process. But taking steps to address inequality in your workplace will help you attract and retain the best employees, which can ultimately help to place you ahead of the competition.

ELMO Software’s Remuneration product is just one way you can assess your organisation’s gender pay gap. With Remuneration, you can run reports in real-time, efficiently manage end-to-end remuneration allocation and empower managers to make more informed and consistent decisions for transparent, unbiased outcomes.

About ELMO Software

With a highly configurable product that can be tailored to suit your business, industry-leading security practices, and a supportive implementation process, it’s no wonder more people prefer – and stick with – ELMO.

Visit our website to learn more about ELMO’s product and how our software can help your business.

*YouGov findings are based on the survey responses from 347 HR decision makers in Australian businesses with 50+ employees. Responses were collected in March 2023.