Pharmaceutical companies focused on closing gender paygap. But...

Pharmaceutical companies focused on closing gender gap. But what’s the bottom line?

Last month, the Pharma Australia Gender Equity group released its findings on research conducted last year to tackle gender inequality within the pharmaceutical industry in Australia.

The report found that the overall average pay gap for the sector is 0.3% less than the general market’s pay gap, which currently sits at 2.7%. This is promising news, but is it really worth celebrating?

The report, titled ‘Creating an Industry where everyone thrives,’ was commissioned by the Medicines Australia Special Interest Group which was established two years ago to ‘strengthen the industry’s approach to developing talent by ensuring all people have equal opportunities to advance and be rewarded.’

The three main goals outlined in the report include identifying and improving pay equity, parental leave and flexible working, mainstreaming best fit flexible working and building capability within the industry. The report articulates further goals which include increasing the number of women in senior leadership positions, providing opportunities for professional development and mentoring for women.

Encouragingly, all three members of the steering committee were women.

The group began by surveying pharmaceutical companies to gain insight into the barriers to gender equality within the industry. From that, industry leaders gathered a year later to identity challenges, priorities and solutions and draw up an action plan.

In total, more than 10,000 employees were interviewed across 48 organisations, with companies HQs based from across the world, analysing 133 jobs.

88 jobs featured a pay gap in favour of men. The number of jobs where a woman was paid more than a man? 45.

In fact, men in administrative assistant roles were paid 43% (or $21K) less than women, suggesting men in traditionally female roles were being penalised.

Management level positions had the biggest pay gap, at 3.7% – though at the executive level, it was drastically lower, at 0.2%.

The report states that these trends reflect the wide occurrence of women asking for less than their male peers when starting a new role, and therefore, subsequently receiving less.

It also finds that 77% of companies had flexible work policies (14% higher than the general market) and 66% of companies allowed parents to return to work part time after parental leave. 85% provided variable pay for employees on parental leave and 61% provided secondary carer’s leave.

Still a long way to go

Despite this, other troubling figures remain. For instance, new female employees are paid, on average, 5.2% less than males starting in the same role. Despite women making up over 60% of the workforce within the industry, 66% of leadership or Head of Organisation roles are held by men.

Furthermore, men receive, on average, 3.1% higher in reward than women when they don’t meet performance objectives. The largest pay gap was found to occur in the job titled ‘Account Manager – Experienced’ where the gap equated to a difference of $52,000 per annum.

Across the industry, a 60/40 split exists between women to men. However, this is reversed  at the Executive level. According to the report, this is due to women leaving at greater rates than men as years accumulate. The Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate women spend 1.8 times more on domestic chores than men. Perhaps this contributes to the reason why part time roles are rarely seen in Senior Management roles.

On the surface, pharmaceutical companies appear to be making headway in fostering gender equality within the industry. The report frames the findings against the General Market and accurately demonstrates that on many criteria, they are doing better. But being just a little bit better doesn’t mean we can ease our foot off the pedal.

There’s still a long way to go in closing the gender pay gap and implementing explicit procedures to change these figures. This report should compel other industries and companies to make similar adequate headways into the future.

Also, it’s necessary to acknowledge that 55% of industries across the General Market have not completed a gender pay gap analysis over the past 2 years, so we don’t have the most current figures on how other companies are performing.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction, and it is promising that the report itself acknowledges this itself, stating; ‘There is still work to do and PAGE is designed to support ongoing improvements.’

Their latest initiative, the Flex Ready program, seeks to shift the mindset and behaviour of companies in adopting flexible working hours, providing toolkits and training aimed to support companies pursuing flex hours for their employees, especially at the Executive levels, which the report states, ‘is arguable where the biggest barrier that our people with significant life commitments face.’

The implementation of progressive policies and practices that don’t penalise women who wish to remain in the workforce under their own terms will require long-term, sustained support, advocacy and explicit determination from those in the highest ranks of decision-making roles – if they’re not being taken up by men and women with equitable attitudes, things might never change.

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