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Overview

Small business employs a large number of Australians. Small businesses in Australia face a unique set of issues when it comes to managing and improving gender equality in their workplace.
Out of Australia’s more than 2 million trading businesses, around 96 per cent are small enterprises (0-19 employees), around 4 per cent are medium sized (20-199 employees), and less than 1 per cent are large (over 200 employees).

Given the significance of small business to the Australian economy, it is important that we ensure gender equality is a consideration in this sector.

Gender equality in small business

Small businesses in Australia face a unique set of issues when it comes to managing and improving gender equality in their workplace. Key issues related to gender equality in small business include:

  • workforce composition
  • gender balance in management and ownership of small business
  • women and negotiation skills
  • managing flexible work arrangements
  • managing parental leave
  • pay equity 
  • sex based harassment and discrimination. 

Key challenges for small business in achieving gender equality

The key issues on workplace gender equality for small business can be classified into two broad categories:

1. Issues related to achieving workplace gender equality including, for example, findings related to pay equity in small business as outlined in the 2012 economic Security 4Women report “Attitudes to Gender Pay Equity in Small Firms”

  • limited awareness of gender equality and pay equity within small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
  • negotiation skills amongst women contributing to pay inequity within SMEs 
  • competing priorities in a challenging economic environment.

2. Other more specific small business management issues, such as:

  • lower turnover rates
  • higher impact of parental leave costs
  • challenges in implementing flexible work options
  • limited or no HR resources
  • limited resources to develop gender strategies and management systems
  • limited data collection systems and processes.

What is the Agency doing to assist small business?
The Agency is committed to assisting small business to manage and improve gender equality.  In the 2014 year, the Agency’s key education and campaign priorities include:

  • raising awareness on gender equality in the workplace
  • improving pay equity 
  • managing flexible work arrangements
  • building gender strategies

Under each of these projects, the Agency has planned a series of educational tools and resources. Previous research on small business conducted by economic Security 4Women has highlighted the need to customise and simplify these tools to be applied to small business.

Following consultation with key stakeholders and in collaboration with economic Security 4Women, the Agency will develop simplified tools and resources for small business within each of these projects.

WGEA resources for small business

External resources for small business

Showcasing success stories

If you are a small business that is working on these issues or has had success in addressing gender equality, we would like to draw on your experience to help other organisations. Please email Heidi Sundin at heidi.sundin@wgea.gov.au.