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November 20, 2019

Closing the gap on equal pay

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After 6 years of collecting data, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has recently shared their findings on what organisations have been doing to reduce the gender pay gap.

I had the privilege to attend their data launch event in Melbourne on 19th November. Even though I was a bit disappointed to hear change has occurred at a slower pace than what was expected, the WGEA is still confident we can achieve the 50:50 target by 2030.

As I am a firm believer that every step forward should be celebrated, I have decided to focus on highlighting some of the things achieved so far in terms of gender balance. I will also share some insights on what employers can do to ensure the gender pay gap continues to decline (and at a better pace), as well as some quick wins to help organisations get stared.

How far have we come?

Key highlights

Over 40% of employers in Australia are reporting to the WGEA. Out of that 4,841 organisations (40% of employers):

  1. Over 75% have an overall gender equality policy/strategy
  2. 72.7% have a policy or strategy for flexible working
  3. 49.4% offer paid parental for the primary carer
  4. 43.8% offer paid parental leave for the secondary carer
  5. 44.7% are analysing their payroll data for gender pay gap
  6. 30.3% are providing access to paid domestic violence leave

Key facts

  • Most organisations have a gender strategy/policy in place. However, only half of them have implemented KPIs and set targets
  • Most employers are providing some sort of flexible working, but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure men are also getting access to it
  • Similarly, more organisations have implemented gender neutral parental leave policies. However, there is still a gap between the number of women and men getting access to equal pay for both primary and secondary carers
  • A considerable number of employers are collecting and examining payroll data to identify gender pay gap across the business, although almost 40% of those employers took no action to reduce that gender pay gap
  • Things are changing but progress is happening way too slow.

What can employers do to speed up these changes?

After hearing from the panel on the day (representatives from BHP, HESTA, Maddocks and RMIT) and combining that with the progress and challenges we hear from WORK180 Endorsed Employers, these are some areas organisations can focus on to reduce the gender pay gap for good:

• Set targets and share them across the organisation. Targets are key to measure success, focus efforts and make improvements.

Setting targets for women in leadership and men’s engagement on flexible working and parental leave is crucial to document progress. However, targets do not necessarily need to be a number.

Quick wins – You can review SGN’s diversity & inclusion journey to visualise how that may look like for an organisation.

• Take action on the gender pay gap. Once organisations analyse their payroll data and identify where the pay gaps are across the business, they need to decide on a strategy to start reducing that gap.

Jad Vodopija – Vice President Human Resources at BHP encourages organisations to be transparent about that data, especially with leaders and key decision makers. She suggests they need to be aware of the gap within their teams and be empowered to act on it at their discretion.

Quick wins – Allocating budget and distributing that across the most critical areas of the business in terms of gender pay gap, can be a good start to reduce that gap.

Alternatively, you can complete your HR Health Check to benchmark your current policies against your peers and download the WORK180 Report to find out what most progressive employers are doing in this space.

• Create the space for employees to talk about diversity & inclusion. If employees feel safe and encouraged to talk about the topic, they are more likely to embrace new initiatives and become advocates. That, at the same time, helps foster a more diverse and inclusive culture.

Having advocates and role models within the organisation is critical to increase employee’s participation in key initiatives to improve gender balance within organisations, such as flexible working and parental leave policies.

Martin Bean, CBE-Vice Chancellor and President at RMIT, suggests that to create real change, diversity and inclusion needs to be embedded in the culture through the values. That helps bring employees into the journey and makes everyone accountable for the progress.

Quick wins – Some ways organisations are encouraging employee’s participation and fostering more diverse and inclusive cultures include:

• Make flexible working accessible to everyone across the organisation. Flexible working is not just for women and organisations need to be more proactive on changing that perception within organisations.

Despite of the challenges the construction industry has to face, especially when it comes to offering flexibility to rostered roles, BHP is going above and beyond what more organisations are doing about flexibility. They offer All Roles Flex.

There is still a small bunch of Flex Able Certified Employers but it is great to see more and more organisations committed to make it work through the Flexible Working Ambassador Program.

Quick wins – Showcasing what flexible working looks like within your organisation through storytelling can be a good start i.e. Flexible Working is possible

• Make your hiring process more inclusive. Employers are doing different things in this space.

One thing was recommended during the panel discussion; stop asking women what salary they were on before applying for a new role. At the end of the day, when organisations are really focused on equal pay, they pay for a set of skills required in the role and don’t differentiate between gender.

Martin Bean, CBE-Vice Chancellor and President at RMIT, said gender balanced shortlists works well for them, especially when recruiting for leadership and positions in other male dominated areas.

However, when we look at what organisations can do to get started, improving job ads and being open to discussing flexible working at the interview stage is critical. The way organisations engage job seekers through their job ads can make or break the whole process.

In addition, flexible working is not just for women or parents anymore, it is also about how people prefer to work. Being open to have those conversations from the very beginning can help organisations tap into that talent pool they had not considered before.

Quick wins – You can watch WORK180 Job Advert Training – Hiring for a gender balanced workforce to get started

• Review your parental leave policy. If organisations offer equal paid parental leave to both parents, it is more likely they are willing to share the unpaid domestic work.

Some employers offering equal paid parental leave for primary and secondary carers include: WORK180, Accenture, Zendesk and Deloitte.

One of the trends we are also seeing when I work with clients, is that more and more organisations are reducing the minimum waiting period to access parental leave benefits. That is particularly powerful when it comes to engaging a broader talent pool. People (mostly women) shouldn’t have to choose between having a career or a family and organisations that are supportive of women, are enjoying the benefits of connecting with that pool of candidates that many organisations are missing on.

Quick wins – reducing minimum waiting period to access parental leave is usually a no brainer for most organisations, especially when that matches probation period provisions.

It is also possible to go above and beyond. Some employers with no minimum tenure to access parental leave benefits includes: Buildkite, Hatch, Qinetiq, GreenSync, Unity Water and Bank of Queensland.

All in all, the gender pay gap continues to reduce. Every three weeks one of our Endorsed Employers with WORK180 make a policy change, improving the lives of countless employees around Australia.

Organisations who don’t prioritise diversity and inclusion are not only missing out on great candidates, they will lose existing employees as more employers increase their transparency around their policies to become employers of choice.

If organisations are serious about reducing the pay gap in Australia, they need to get better at collecting data, implementing changes, communicating their employee value proposition both internally and externally, facilitating flexible working across the organisation and providing paid parental leave both to primary and secondary carers.

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.