Women under-represented in management positions and are paid 24% less than men

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A new study has found that women make up just a quarter of those employed in the key management positions of Australian companies.

As well as an under-representation of women in management positions, the findings revealed the average full-time earnings of men were almost 25 per cent more.

One-third of Australia’s workforce was included in the data, with more than 11,000 employers reporting to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) on more than 4 million employees.

WGEA director Helen Conway said the results of the Gender Equality Scorecard were “ground-breaking” and proved gender equality needed to become a priority.

“It doesn’t matter how you look at it, women are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to climbing up the management tree,” she said.

A glass ceiling was evident at the first layer of management where women comprised 39.8 per cent of employees, but the number fell to 31.7 per cent at the next level of management – senior managers.

From the senior management level, female representation steadily declined with women comprising 27.8 per cent of executive and general manager roles in Australia, and 26.1 per cent of key management personnel (KMP) positions.

At the top management level, chief executive, women held 17.3 per cent of positions.

One-third (33.5 per cent) of employers had no KMPs who were women, and 31.3 per cent of organisations had no other executives or general managers who were women.

“There are significant cultural and structural barriers in workplaces that stop women from moving up,” Ms Conway said.

“One of the main cultural barriers is gender bias.” 

Ms Conway said there was a belief new mothers should be able to do some work but it was often not career-advancing work.

“Often women come back from parental leave and there is an assumption made that they won’t want career-advancement work, that their only priority are family priorities,” she said.

“Flexible work means more than giving new mothers poor-quality part-time work … it should focus on outcomes. So employers should say, ‘these are the outcomes we need from you, we don’t care how you get there’.”

Ms Conway said as well as more opportunities for women to move up the ladder, increasing the number women in the workforce would increase productivity and overall organisation performance.

“It makes sense to improve GDP by improving female workplace participation,” she said.

The G20 acknowledged the potential of gender equality recently by committing to close the workforce participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025.

“There is a strong economic case for organisation to increase female participation,” Ms Conway said.

“If you increase diversity in a workplace you improve innovation, decision making and organisational performance.”

Largest pay gaps in financial and insurance sectors

The report revealed women’s average total remuneration across all industries and occupations was 24.7 per cent less than men.

The figure was highest in the financial and insurance services sectors at 28.4 per cent and 36.1 per cent respectively.

Ms Conway said organisations needed to make flexible work “business as usual” without it being a disadvantage to career advancement so women could move up the management ladder and have the same access to discretionary pay as their male counterparts.

“There is a good business case for gender equality in Australia,” she said.

Strategic direction towards gender equality needed

Less than one quarter (24 per cent) of organisations have undertaken a gender pay gap analysis and less than one in 10 (8.8 per cent) of organisations have set a target to lift the number of women around the boardroom table.

Ms Conway said a purposeful strategic approach was needed to make lasting change within organisations.

“Organisations are not taking a strategic approach to gender equality. We are finding those that are trying have disconnected initiatives that are often ad hoc and are not going to lead to sustained change,” she said.

“Taking a strategic approach needs to come from the top. The leaders need to be driving the change for it to last and we’re not seeing that happen.”

Ms Conway said flexible work arrangements, paid parental leave and initiatives to prevent sex-based harassment and discrimination in the workplace were all enablers of gender equality.

Data from 11,000 employers covers 4 million employees

The findings were derived from data provided by Australian employers under new reporting guidelines.

This was the first full year of reporting since the new guidelines, which form part of the Workplace Gender Equality Act.

“I think this is very powerful … we’ve never had standardised, granular, comparable data before and it has come from a very broad pool within the private sector,” Ms Conway said.

“The data will inform policy makers, government and researchers and has broad appeal to stakeholders across the community.

“This data will keep on giving. This is the first cut and it will facilitate a lot of analysis.

“Employers will get a customised confidential benchmark report so they will have an evidenced-based report on how they’re going, how they’re tracking against competitors. Employers will be able to use the data to improve.”

New reporting framework

Under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, non-public sector employers with 100 or more staff must report to the WGEA annually against six gender equality indicators:
  • Gender composition of the workforce
  • Gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers
  • Equal remuneration between women and men
  • Availability and utility of flexible working arrangements
  • Consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality in the workplace
  • Sex-based harassment and discrimination

The data released on Tuesday is derived from the first full year of reporting under this framework. 

For the complete results view the scorecard here.

By: Emily Clark and Rhiannon Hobbins

Source: ABC News

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