Seeing a $26,000 gap in total remuneration between men and women in 2017 is certainly frustrating.
It’s even more frustrating to see that pay gaps are actually widening in a handful of industries, including retail and healthcare.
But there’s reason to feel encouraged by today’s report released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, (as long as you can look past the 22.4% gap in the total remuneration of men and women working full-time, and avoid calculating just what that would mean for your superannuation.)
The report reveals more employers are pursuing measures that indicate they’re taking gender equality seriously.
Perhaps it’s due to the reporting they’re required to do annually, or maybe they genuinely appreciate the business case for attaining, retaining and promoting women.
According to WGEA, the proportion of employers undertaking gender pay gap audits is up 11% over the past year, with 38% of the 11,000 employers reporting to WGEA claiming they are doing this.
A gender pay gap audit is the first step. As we’ve written previously on Women’s Agenda, even the CEOs of some of the largest organisations in Australia find they are surprised to see that pay gaps exist across their workforces.
Admitting you have a problem is a necessary first step.
From there, taking action on the problem is vital.
And if having a ‘strategy’ or a ‘policy’ is taking action, then organisations are moving ahead, according to the WGEA data.
WGEA finds that 72% of employers now have an overall gender equality strategy. That is encouraging. It’s undoubtedly concerning that around a quarter of large employers still have not given much thought to this issue, but at least we’re seeing progress and this quarter is still the minority.
Meanwhile, flexible work is on the rise – and we’re definitely seeing and hearing anecdotally that it’s becoming significantly more accepted in large organisations. Sixty eight per cent of employers now have a strategy or policy on flexible work, up 5.3%.
And 62% of employers now have a formal policy/strategy in place to support employees with family and caring responsibilities, up 5.5%.
Strategies and policies on things like flexible work, family, and gender equality are great to have. They contribute to the gradual progress being made on the gender pay gap and the slight increase in women getting promoted.
But it’s what’s going on outside of the paid workforce that could really be preventing significant change on these numbers – and that’s where we need these workplace policies and strategies to come to life.
When it comes to total remuneration, especially when factoring in bonuses and opportunities for further income beyond base salaries alone, women are being short-changed in a huge way. Women still undertake the majority of unpaid work which plays a significant part in their overall diminished incomes.
According to recent ABS stats, women spend an average two hours and 52 minutes on domestic work a day, and 59 minutes on childcare. Almost twice as much as men. Recently, PwC found women contribute $345 billion in unpaid childcare work every year.
This unpaid work is vital for Australia’s economy, yet it’s not valued accordingly.
‘Policies’ and ‘strategies’ from large employers are needed to better support their employees – male and female – in meeting their obligations and responsibilities outside of work. This is especially true given advances in technology that mean more work is creeping into the home, and into all hours of the night and weekend.
Waiting for ‘qualified women’ or women of merit to take a higher proportion of the CEO, key management personnel and board positions isn’t going to help.
Women have the merit and are perfectly capable – with 31% of the female population holding at least one bachelor degree, compared with 26% of men. And as ABS data recently revealed, the pay gap starts at graduation, with the average female graduate starting on $56,000 compared with $60,000 for men.
So be encouraged that there are ‘strategies’ and ‘policies’ in place – that employers at least acknowledge there’s a problem.
And when we start to see more changes in these WGEA figures – on the pay gap and regarding women in management positions – we’ll know those policies and strategies are worth more than the website they’re published on.