According to the World Economic Forum, closing the economic gender pay gap would increase GDP in developed countries by 12 percent over the next 20 years. But at current rates, it’s going to take another 81 years for that to happen.
One of the ways WORK180 is speeding up the process is through our Executives Driving Gender Equality (EDGE) events. Here, we bring together great HR minds from across multiple industries, to develop real solutions and activate strategies for change.
The most recent event was hosted in Sydney, where we discussed Best Practice vs. Next Practice. We focused on parental leave and return to work policies, with the aim of increasing the number of women in leadership roles.
We’re in a unique situation at WORK180. We work with some of the most progressive employers in Australia and see best practice solutions on a daily basis. They include policies such as paying super on the unpaid portion of parental leave and removing the waiting time for paid parental leave eligibility. There’s also grandparent leave, flex leave and school term contracts. More recently we’ve seen employers paying retrospective parental leave to parents who missed out because their children were born before the new policies were introduced.
Next practice initiatives push boundaries even further. They recognise that great parental leave policies, while important, aren’t going to address the lack of women in top leadership roles. The issue runs much deeper and requires more ambitious solutions. First, we need to tackle the discrepancy between what primary and secondary carers are being paid.
What is a secondary carer? Why do they receive less leave? What do we do for employees who are suddenly caring for children of a relative? For premature births, or stillbirth?
Returning to Work
It’s all very well and good to pay generous amounts of leave, but what happens when a woman returns to work and in the years that follow?
Are they being promoted? If not why not? Are they thriving and engaged? Are they being challenged in fulfilling roles?
This is where next practice thinking is needed. We can’t expect people who have been out of the workforce for 12 months or more to instantly return and pick up where they left off. They can’t parent like they don’t work and they can’t work like they’re not a parent.
The Keep in Touch days are proving to be a great start in terms of re-entering the workforce. They allow parents to keep their networks relevant during down time and stay on top of changes that are happening in the workplace. They also provide little windows of sanity where parents get to dress up and leave the house without a baby or a nappy bag, for just a little while.
It’s this post parental leave thinking that is going to be the difference between retaining women and losing them. And the difference between women progressing and derailing their careers.
What about men?
During our EDGE discussion, there was consensus that men too play a pivotal role in closing the gender gap. While women are being overlooked for promotions, men are being denied flexible work and equal parental leave.
This is not only important in those precious first years, but in all the other times of our lives where we may need to assume caring roles. When our kids become teens, when our parents require care, if a partner falls ill, if a child falls ill.
Next practice is big picture thinking. We will simply not move forward quick enough if we don’t think broadly.
We need more women in leadership and with women making up half the population, it’s not unrealistic. But we need smart people within
organisations that are willing to be brave enough to try different things. To plan for the inevitable messy moments that make up our lives. To support us while we support the next generation of game changers.
The world can’t wait 81 years for the gender gap to close. Real solutions exist and we need to embrace them now.
Thanks to everyone who took part in the discussion.