Gender equality is achieved when people are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are a woman or a man.
Many countries worldwide, including Australia, have made significant progress towards gender equality in recent decades, particularly in areas such as education. However, women continue to earn less than men, are less likely to advance their careers as far as men, and are more likely to spend their final years in poverty. At the same time, men often find it more difficult to access family-friendly policies or flexible working arrangements than women.
The aim of gender equality in the workplace is to achieve broadly equal outcomes for women and men, not exactly the same outcome for all individuals. To achieve this requires:
- workplaces to provide equal pay for women and men for work of equal or comparable value
- the removal of barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce
- access to all occupations and industries, including leadership roles, for women and men
- elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities for both women and men.
Achieving gender equality is important for workplaces not only because it is ‘fair’ and ‘the right thing to do’, it is also vitally important to the bottom line of a business and the productivity of our nation.
For more information on the Agency and the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, visit the About WGEA section of this website.
What are the benefits of workplace gender equality?
Gender equality attracts top talent
A workplace that is equally appealing for women and men will provide employers with access to the entire talent pool. As women are increasingly more highly educated than men, a workplace that is not attractive to women risks losing the best talent to competitors.
Gender equality can reduce expenses
Replacing a departing employee can cost 75% or more of their annual wage. As both women and men are more likely to remain with an organisation they view as fair, employee turnover for an organisation offering gender equality can be reduced, thereby decreasing the high expense of recruitment.
Companies with gender equality perform better
A considerable body of research suggests a link between gender equality and better organisational performance. While there are a range of reasons to explain this link, one factor is that diversity brings together varied perspectives, produces a more holistic analysis of the issues an organisation faces and spurs greater effort, leading to improved decision-making.
Gender equality improves national productivity and competitiveness
The World Economic Forum has found a strong correlation between a country’s competitiveness and how it educates and uses its female talent. It states: “…empowering women means a more efficient use of a nation’s human talent endowment and… reducing gender inequality enhances productivity and economic growth. Over time, therefore, a nation’s competitiveness depends, among other things, on whether and how it educates and utilizes its female talent.”
In the Australian context, the Grattan Institute has argued that removing disincentives for women to enter the workforce should be an economic reform priority. It has found that increasing female workforce participation by 6% has the potential to add $25 billion each year to the Australian economy.
Gender inequality wastes resources
While gender inequality exists, Australia is not only missing out on the important contributions women make to the economy, we are also wasting the years of investment in the higher education of young women. Around 58% of Australia’s university graduates are women but only 67% of working aged women are currently in paid work, compared to 78% of men, indicating Australia is failing to capture the substantial economic contribution tertiary educated women offer.
By balancing the scales of equality, women and men will have an equal chance to contribute both at home and in the workplace, thereby enhancing their individual wellbeing, and that of society.