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Report finds little improvement in the gender pay gap or the proportion of women on boards and in managerial roles

Australian women earn only 78% of a man’s average full-time pay despite greater employer focus on gender equality in the workplace, an annual scorecard has revealed.

It also found there has been little change in the proportion of women sitting on company boards over the past three years and women remain underrepresented in management, occupying 16.5% of available roles.

Australia’s gender equality scorecard detailed the fourth year of data reported by businesses to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), comprising information on more than four million employees and 11,000 employers.

It found there was very little improvement in the gender pay gap (a drop of 0.7%), female managerial appointments (a rise of 0.8%) or female representation on boards and governing bodies (a rise of 0.2%).

On average, men earn $26,527 more than women each year, it said. In the top levels of management that difference rose to $89,216. The biggest gender pay gap in favour of men was in technician and trade roles, but every managerial and occupational category had a disparity.

The answer was greater awareness and vigilance by companies, the report suggested.

“We need to concentrate and continue to implore organisations to look at their own data and conduct their own pay gap analysis and to take action on the pay gap in their organisation because they can control that,” said the WGEA’s director, Libby Lyons. “Until organisations analyse their own pay data, they won’t know what they won’t know.”

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The proportion of employers who had conducted a gender pay gap analysis rose by more than 10 percentage points to 37.7% and more than 55% said they took action on the results.

The most common forms of action were identifying the cause, reporting metrics to executives and reviewing decision-making processes. One in four organisations said they took no action because their analysis found no gender pay gaps.

“I’m very encouraged by the strong improvement that we’re seeing in employer action,” said Lyons. “To see that sort of jump in a year really encourages me.”

Law firm Russell Kennedy had complied with reporting requirements to the WGEA each year, but last June decided to analyse its gender equity in pay. Its managing director, Paul Gleeson, said it was “one of the easiest things to measure because it’s numbers” and it would also assist the company in applying to become a WGEA “employer of choice”.

“We found in two or three instances in our organisation there were areas where there was a disparity in pay which couldn’t be explained and it was a gender-based disparity,” he said.

Gleeson said the company remedied the disparity through its annual pay reviews and monitoring, but transparency was an issue because of the confidentiality of salaries.

The company has also changed policy to presume the viability of a flexible work arrangement request, provided it still met company needs.

“We simply turned it on its head to make it clear that from this point forward all roles are flexible,” said Gleeson. “In terms of the attitude and cultural change that’s come about, I think it’s really quite fundamental.”

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The proportion of companies with targets for managers on gender equality also rose to 28.4%, as did those with a policy or strategy for flexible working (to 68.3%).

More than 43% of organisations also reported formal policies or strategies to support employees experiencing domestic violence – the vast majority through flexible working arrangements and access to unpaid leave.

The report said while there was a substantial change in employer focus on gender equity in 2016-17, key indicators still revealed widespread inequality.

The report also revealed improvements in the number of women appointed to managerial roles but, said Lyons, “unfortunately, the number of women on boards remains static and too few organisations are reporting their gender metrics up to the board”.

“If we consider that governing boards are there to monitor strategy, to provide the overall governance and also to ensure the best productivity and returns to the shareholder, the fact the numbers haven’t improved tells me boards are either sticking their heads in the sand or ignorant of the fact that the business case of gender equality is absolutely clear,” she said.

“There is an abundance of evidence out there that says organisations that are gender-balanced are more productive, retain staff longer, staff are more engaged, they get better shareholder returns.”

Source: The Guardian

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