A confession: it is not often I read anything related to the pay gap and feel a rush of anything resembling hope. An occupational hazard of writing, or talking, about the pay gap is the inevitable onslaught it triggers of responses explaining why the pay gap is a mythical figment of a feminist’s imagination.
— WGEA (@WGEAgency) August 22, 2017
It isn’t. It is a simple, and stubborn, matter of fact that is infuriating to consider, let alone accept. Which is why I am quite genuinely giddy about a report I have just finished reading from the Male Champions of Change. (And I’m quite sure this isn’t entirely explained by the fact I might need to get out more.)
In Closing the Gender Gap, 122 leaders from Australian businesses, have publicly committed to eliminating the pay gap between men and women doing like for like work in their organisations. And, this is the bit where my hopes rose, they have set out a step-by-step guide for delivering on the commitment.
Best of all though, and this is where the giddiness set in, they have included a whole section in the report that renders null and avoid the multitude of excuses that are offered to justify or deny any difference between what men and women earn.
It is GOLD. Pure, solid, rolled gold that ought to be printed out widely and stuck up around tea rooms, building lobbies, board tables and lifts everywhere.
“We’re paying her more than her last employer!”
But was her last employer also paying her less than the men it hires to do the same work? Are YOU paying her less than the men you have hired to do the same work?
“We have salary bands!”
And research shows women get paid at the lower end of these salary bands.
“It results from women’s choices”
Do you sincerely believe women choose to earn less money for the same work of their male colleagues?
“It’s problematic to compare ‘apples to apples’. The data is too complex”
It really isn’t. And if it is beyond your skillset, is it possible your skillset might need expanding?
“Women choose lower incentives and higher fixed pay”
Could some gender bias be underpinning this view?
The report specifically identifies and dismantles the workplace conventions and fallacies that fuel the discrepancy between men and womens’ remuneration.
It clearly explains the various ways in which gender pay gaps can emerge, even at the hands of a leadership team who are certain that no gap could ever exist in any workplace, let alone their own.
“There is no excuse for men to be paid more than women for work that has the same accountability, breadth and difficulty, and for which they have comparable performance, competence and experience,” LendLease CEO Steve McCann said. “We’ve learned that gender-based pay gaps can be both common and insidious – particularly in historically male-dominated sectors. Having regular, scrutinised and actioned reporting is a game changer – real-time access to relevant data becomes hard to ignore and demands action.”
— WGEA (@WGEAgency) August 21, 2017
EY is a signatory to the report and one of its partner, Rohan Connors, led the team who assisted the MCC with drafting the report and methodology.
“I have worked in the realm of gender pay equity for a number of years,” he told Women’s Agenda. “It’s has been sitting pretty stubbornly above 15% for all of that time and I have worked with a number of organisations who have wanted to address it.”
That work led to a sophisticated and practical understanding of the issue he says is imperative for leaders to address.
“If we can’t trust out business leaders to pay properly without discrimination, we undermine the willingness of Australians to contribute to the economy. We know women are more likely to opt out of the workforce because they aren’t paid properly.”
Fixing the pay gap isn’t a set and forget exercise but Connors says it’s absolutely viable to manage.
“On the surface of it addressing a like for like gap is easy to fix in the moment but what’s more difficult is to keep it closed as you go through hiring cycles, bring people on and have people leave,” Connor says.
He cites LendLease as an example of an organisation that discovered a pay gap can re-emerge over time after taking a stand. “It requires real-time analysis and needs to becomes embedded in the operational framework,” Connors says.
EY has reduced its pay gap from 1.4% to 0.4% in two years on account of making the issue a priority.
Connors says the fact the pay gap remains widely misunderstood is a roadblock this report is seeking to dismantle.
“I would say the pay gap is very well understood among the MCCs but one thing we are trying to tackle is the fact it is not well understood more widely,” he says. “According to WGEA only a quarter of organisations have undertaken a pay gap analysis.”
In a nutshell, the Closing the Gap roadmap to delivering equal pay for equal work to your any workplace is this:
Get your facts straight about what people are paid.
Look at fixed pay, variable pay, benefits and total remuneration.
Measure the gap.
Looking across four lenses to discover the different facets and causes of your pay gap between men and women: like for like, external market figures, level by level and organisation wide.
This might involve gender pay reviews, one-off adjustments, budgetary adjustments, examining the hiring process and negotiation styles preferred.
“Addressing the national gender pay gap requires the effort of our whole community,” Libby Lyons the Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency said. “Employers must step up and play their part. All leaders have the power to analyse their data and take action on pay gaps within their organisations.”
Admittedly, this isn’t entirely new information. It is information that has been readily available through WGEA for several years. But it is also true that this report detonates the option of complacency, by undermining the various excuses for the pay gap and by specifying, in very simple terms exactly how it can be fixed.
Print it out. Send a copy to your boss. Leave it lying around. And definitely keep it bookmarked for the next time someone tries to tell you the pay gap isn’t a thing.