How gender equality is faring in the workplace

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world on 8 March. It’s a day to reflect on how far we have come and how far we still have to go to truly achieve gender equality in all aspects of life.

So, how are we tracking in the workplace? It’s not unusual to feel daunted by the tidal wave of statistics that are churned out at this time every year, but the old saying also holds true: what gets measured gets managed, so to build any sort of business case for gender equality it’s important to know the numbers.

The Gender Equality at Work report for 2018[1], authored by corporate advisor on workplaces and risk, Conrad Liveris, provided a mixed view:

  • 12 women are ASX 200 chief executives, the equal highest rate ever
  • Women in executive management remains stagnant at 20%
  • Women tend to run support functions – holding 70% of HR executive roles and 46% of general counsel positions
  • Men hold 90% of business unit manager roles
  • Female executives are least likely to be employed by resources, agriculture and property organisations. They are most likely to be found in healthcare, energy, financial services and some infrastructure organisations
  • Women constitute 26.2% of ASX 200 board directors, while this is still low, it is at its highest rate ever
  • Female chief executives and companies with 50% or more women on their board have the highest rates of women in executive roles.

In New Zealand, the results are similar. According to Grant Thornton International’s annual Women in Business Report, the proportion of female senior management has dipped to an all-time low of 18% since the report began in 2004 (31%), compared to 20% in 2017. Even more discouraging is the marked increase in the number of businesses with no women in senior management roles sitting at 56%, compared to 37% in 2017.

What’s happening with pay?

Pay parity progress is also slow, although the gap appears to be slowly narrowing. Here are the latest results for Australia and New Zealand.

  Australia[2] New Zealand[3]
Full-time gender pay gap 14.6% (a slight decrease of 0.7% since May 2017) 9.4% (the second smallest gap in 20 years)
How much less women earn than men per week on average $245 $278
How much women earn to every man’s dollar 87 cents 84 cents

An Accenture poll of over 28,000 women and men across 29 different countries found that at the current pace, developed markets could close the gender pay gap by 2080, while developing markets could do so by 2168.

For those employers looking to close the gap, the WGEA provides this pay equity best practice checklist:

  • Do your organisation’s policies and practices support pay equity? Is there a transparent performance review process and equitable access to training, promotions, and rewards and benefits programs?
  • Does your organisation have an equitable wage setting process that has been checked to ensure it is free of gender bias?
  • Are jobs fully and fairly described and valued, and work value factors such as skill, level of responsibility and working conditions consistently measured?
  • Has your organisation undertaken a pay equity audit to determine areas and occupations where gender pay inequity may exist? An audit usually involves a review of the payroll data to identify the areas where there may be gender inequalities.
  • Are there flexible working arrangements? Are the flexible working arrangements available to all employees, and does the workplace culture support such arrangements?
  • Is pay equity incorporated into your organisation’s business objectives and goals?
  • Does your organisation compare salaries for men and women upon commencement, yearly and on promotion to analyse where gaps exist and either seek justification for any imbalances or work to eliminate them altogether?

The WGEA’s Data Explorer page has analysis, industry profiles and best practice tips.

Change starts at the top

Beyond pay equity, what else can employers do? It’s apparent that without meaningful behaviour changes at all levels of a business, no progress can be made towards creating a real gender balance regardless of policies that are in place. As Grant Thornton’s report states: “The tone has to be set from the top; leaders are the only ones who can really press for progress, and they can do this by actively championing the cause to create inclusive cultures where every individual has an equal opportunity to flourish.”

Source: Grant Thornton International’s annual Women in Business Report, 2018

ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll is a proud sponsor of the Australian HR Institute’s International Women’s Day Breakfast, taking place in Melbourne on 8 March. For more details click here.

[1] Liveris, C, “Gender Equality at Work 2018: Opportunity, with Qualifications”, March 2018

[2] The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2018

[3] Statistics NZ, June 2018

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