I had the pleasure of joining our Founder and CEO Emma Walsh yesterday at the National Press Club in Canberra to listen to the Head of Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Libby Lyons deliver the key findings of the agency from the 2015 – 2016 reporting data.

You can access the findings in a reported titled Australia’s Gender Equality Scorecard, published by WGEA however a few points struck me as worth bringing to your attention.

In an ideal world both women and men would experience equality in all areas of life, including the workplace.  However, we know that this is not the case.  Each year many Australian companies with employees of 100 or more submit a report to the Agency against six gender equality indicators.  It is this data which represents 4 million plus Australian employees, that is being reported on.

Lyons highlighted that there are a number of trends on the path to gender equality.  These include and are not limited to;

  1. Equal remuneration for men and women
  2. Equal representation of men and women in management positions
  3. Equal participation of men and women in the workplace

1: Equal remuneration for men and women

The gender pay gap is the most obvious symbol of gender equality in the workforce.

Full time working women in Australia experienced a 23% pay gap.  This means that the average Australian man earns $27,000 more than the average Australian woman based on total remuneration.  This has decreased since last year when it was 25%.

The gender pay gaps exist in every single industry in Australia – including the female dominated ones.

The biggest causes of the gender inequality in the pay gap are;

  1. Bias and discrimination at the biggest factor – 38% of the causes
  2. Women and men’s concentration in separate industries and roles – male dominated industry attracts higher pay and remuneration.
  3. Time out of the paid workforce of women who still bear the unpaid caring responsibilities.  Women have to return to work in part time roles that undervalue their skills and career progression, and retire with half the superannuation of men.

2: Equal representation of men and women in management positions

Your boss will most likely be a man.  With 5 out of every 6 CEOs are men.

The pipeline of women into leadership is increasing.  The proportion of women in every management category has increased.

The number of women being appointed and promoted has also increased. In the past year women made up 42% of all manger appointments. Although only 37% of leaders are women we can see that the numbers are heading in the right direction.

Only 6% of management roles are part-time.

3: Equal participation of men and women in the workplace

There is a well-documented and clear business case for change. The link between gender equality and better business outcomes. For example, a recent McKinsey & Co report analysed 366 companies in the US, UK and Canada and found that those within the top quarter for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have higher financial returns than their national industry mediums.

It becomes obvious that we need to increase pushing the role of women in management not just for women but also for the sake of the economy and business success.

What do we need to do to increase gender equality in the workplace?

Lyons suggest a couple of key changes which will increase gender equality in the workplace.  These include;

  1. Provide more childcare places and make them more affordable – for every hour that men work, women work an hour and 48 minutes.  Women generally take on the greater amount of home and family caring responsibilities, even women who work full time in the workplace.
  2. Move from measuring our employee’s success in their roles on the number of hours they are present in the office (presenteeism) to outcomes they generate – some may argue that we do this already however it is well found that although we may try to do this our conscious and unconscious bias kicks in to subvert our success at this.
  3. Retrain ourselves, our staff and our managers to question the unconscious and or conscious bias they hold when hiring or promoting employees – if we can get more women shortlisted for roles, then we will also hire more women.
  4. Offer flexible work to all employees – men and women – and have senior leaders showing that it’s ok to do this through their actions and words. It’s still unusual for men to have a compressed working week, and a recent study by Bain & Co and Chief Executive women found that men working flexibly often feel judged by senior managers.
  5. Set targets to address the gender pay gap – without targets we won’t measure or work towards making structural changes.

In summary

We still have a very long way to go before men and women reach equality in the workplace.  The power of the data in this report is undisputable.  It means that we can now have a national conversation on the issues.  Some companies are even taking positive steps towards addressing these issues by offering flexible work for all employees, or actively increasing the number of women in leadership roles.  Some, although a smaller amount, have support systems and services in place to support working parents be successful in balancing the competing roles of parent and employee.  At Parents At Work we applaud those companies and the leaders paving the way within them who are agitating for change.  We hope that the success will be obvious and more studies will make the direct connection between gender equality in the workplace, and organisational (financial, economic and cultural) success.