Things in Australian workplaces can improve but it's not dire

Things in Australian workplaces can improve but it’s not dire

gender equality
Earlier this month, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) — an Australian Government statutory agency which promotes gender equality in Australian workplaces — released its annual workplace gender equality scorecard.

Suffice to say, it wasn’t the agency’s most positive assessment. Between April 2018 and March 2019, Australia saw an 0.5 per cent improvement in the gender pay gap, with men still taking home nearly $26,000 more a year than women.

The scorecard also showed that while three-quarters of the 4841 business organisations on the WGEA database have a gender equality strategy or policy in place, only 32 per cent are actively monitoring their implementation.

The agency’s director Libby Lyons was so disappointed she suggested there was “a bit of diversity and inclusion fatigue” permeating Australian workplaces.

And while we agree that this doesn’t look great laid out on paper, here at WORK180, we’re seeing a slightly different picture.

With 80 per cent of the 155 WGEA Pay Equity Ambassadors (a collection of organisations who have signed the agency’s Pay Equity Pledge) also signed on with us, it’s heartening to see that so many people are willing to provide transparency to job seekers.

More broadly across our network, we are seeing more positive changes. We see many employers who are highly engaged with diversity and inclusion, with a high level of enthusiasm for developing their strategy to appeal to more diverse candidates and better support their existing employees.

We are seeing great strides in policy development being made across areas of flexibility, paid parental leave and diversity in their workforce. In fact, every three weeks, one Endorsed Employer changes at least one policy – so we are definitely not seeing fatigue.

It’s true that Australian workplaces can do better. Take parental leave as an example: while in many cases companies are still merely paying lip service to this policy, we know from PwC that both men and women are proactively searching for these policies when they are evaluating an organisation and looking for roles.

What’s more, job seekers are no longer just looking at maternity leave — women especially want policies open to everyone, not specific policies which cater only to them.

When organisations accept and actively encourage men to take up parental leave and work flexibly, it only serves to enhance the rate at which women can also take these policies up, as it drives a balance in work and personal commitments.

Not having these policies (or failing to promote them) is ultimately detrimental to a company’s candidate acquisition strategies, and will result in the business falling further behind as the best talent goes elsewhere.

A total overhaul of workplace culture cannot happen overnight. Such deeply ingrained gender expectations take a long time to shift.

We believe that working with employers to introduce supportive policies needs to be something that starts small and builds over time. Expecting employers to bring in many and varied policies around diversity and inclusion from day one is not realistic, and not something most organisations are resourced to do.

Instead, we take the view that helping and guiding organisations on identifying the most impactful policies for their staff and candidates is key to getting buy-in at the leadership level, gaining momentum in the Diversity and Inclusion space and avoiding the fatigue.

Yes, we could – and should – be doing better, but it’s important that we acknowledge and celebrate what is being achieved and keep whittling away at the detractors.

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