Senior Partnerships Adviser
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has today released the inaugural findings from comprehensive gender data provided by Australian employers. This world-leading dataset paints the most comprehensive picture of gender equality in workplaces Australia has ever seen.
For the first time, the gender composition of Australia’s leadership pipeline is revealed in detail, showing that, while women comprise 39.8% of ‘other managers’, their representation falls to 26.1% of key management personnel (KMP) and just 17.3% of CEOs. One-third (33.5%) of employers have no female KMPs, and 31.3% of employers have no ‘other executives / general managers’ who are women. At the top three layers of the management hierarchy, women comprise just 26.2%.
WGEA Director Helen Conway said this ground-breaking data confirms Australian organisations are failing to maximise the potential of the country’s highly educated female talent pool.
“There is now extensive evidence that shows women face clearly defined structural and cultural barriers in the workplace that make it harder for them to rise up the management ranks. This is a lost opportunity given it’s accepted diverse teams underpin an organisation’s ability to innovate, meet the needs of customers and effectively manage risk,” she said.
Analysis of the data by five defined management categories shows women by and large aren’t progressing through the talent pipeline (see table below). On a positive note, some of the male dominated industries like Mining and Electricity, Gas and Waste Services, are doing a better job at pulling women through the management levels.
“Organisations that are failing to engage, retain, develop and promote women during those critical childbearing and career acceleration years are incurring real bottom line costs in terms of staff turnover. Yet, the vast majority of employers do not have the required strategies in place to create a level playing field and ensure women and men are equally represented, rewarded and valued in their workplaces,” Ms Conway said.
The data shows around half of employers have policies on the known enablers of gender equality but few are developing strategies in these areas. Nearly half (47.7%) of employers have policies on flexible working but only 13.6% have a strategy for flexible working. Similarly, 45.2% have a policy for supporting employees with family and caring responsibilities but only 13.2% have a strategy for this important focus area.
Moreover, very few employers are taking a strategic whole-of-enterprise approach to this critical business issue with only 7.1% of organisations having a standalone overall gender equality strategy despite just over half (53.6%) of having a gender equality policy in place.
Remuneration data highlights the financial cost to Australian women of not having access to the same opportunities at work. Across the reporting population, full-time working women earn a base salary that is 19.9% less than full-time working men while their total remuneration including discretionary pay such as bonus payments, allowances and overtime is 24.7% less than men.
“This data shows that women don’t have the same opportunities as men to boost their earnings with discretionary pay. Unfortunately, employers are not doing enough to address this issue. The data shows less than one in four employers has done a gender remuneration gap analysis to check for potential pay equity issues,” Ms Conway said.
The data also reveals 48.9% of employers have a remuneration policy or strategy, and only 18.1% have specific gender pay equity objectives in their policy or strategy, suggesting many organisations don’t take a disciplined approach to setting pay levels.
“Gender bias is likely to creep into pay decisions when employers have a loose approach to remuneration. This leads to unequal pay outcomes for women doing the same or comparable work as men.
At the board level there is also more work to be done to ensure good governance. Less than one in 10 (8.8%) organisations have set a target to lift the number of women around the boardroom table despite only 23.7% of directorships being held by women and just 12.0% of chairs being women.
When viewed as a whole, the Agency’s dataset indicates employers are not taking a strategic approach to gender equality. Recognising this issue, the Agency has also launched today a ground breaking methodology for building a gender strategy. Built in consultation with employers, the comprehensive framework details how to build a gender strategy that measurably supports an organisation’s corporate strategy so that gender equality is appropriately and inextricably integrated into core business practices.
Ms Conway encouraged employers to embrace the data to reap the well-documented rewards of gender equality, and she urged others to apply pressure to employers to lift their game. “Investors, employees, procurement officers and other interested stakeholders now have standardised gender performance data at their fingertips for over 11,000 employers. Anyone who prioritises investing in, working for or buying from organisations with a superior approach to managing their people should be referring to the public reports of these organisations on our website. Similarly, employers now have the roadmap to once and for all consign workplace gender inequality to history,” she said.