How To Achieve Gender Equality & Close The Gender Pay Gap

Gender EqualityIn 2015, when Justin Troudeau became Canadian Prime Minister, he appointed 50% of his cabinet as women. A journalist asked him why. His response was, “because it’s 2015.”

Back then, this attitude towards gender equality would have been considered by many as progressive, even outlandish. After all Australia had experienced it’s highest gender pay gap in 16 years only the year before.

However it only took another year for David Reynolds, Chief Executive of the Department of Treasury and Finance in SA, to announce his and the Department’s commitment to gender equality and how he planned to achieve it.

Achieving gender equality in leadership and pay

The Gender Equality in Leadership (GEiL) strategy aims at achieving a 50/50 gender split in leadership positions in the Department of Treasury and Finance (from ASO7 and above) by 2020.

It’s based on the diversity dividend principle that you get “better outcomes when you have diversity around the table.” It’s not about tokenism. It’s simply about fair and equal representation.

After all, more or less 50% of the Australian workforce is female. So why are only 17.1% of CEOs women?

The goal is to create a workplace where women can access equal opportunities in the workplace based on merit, without prejudice and without being forced to choose between family life and rewarding paid work.

By achieving gender equality, not only in leadership but in industry and occupation, we will also make great strides towards closing the gender pay gap.

The national gender pay gap is currently 14.1%, a record low. It measures the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings (expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings).

The pay gap is reported to be a result of the following gender inequality issues (Mail Champions of Change):

  • Leadership gap – more men than women hold higher paying leadership roles
  • Occupational segregation – a higher proportion of women in support roles that are paid less, while men are more likely to be in higher paid operational roles
  • Industry segregation – female-dominated industries (eg teaching and caring) attract lower wages than male-dominated industries (eg engineering)
  • Flexible work and perception of part-time work – women are more likely to work part-time or flexibly and therefore find it more difficult to access senior roles; they may be perceived to be less ambitious and fall behind in responsibility, promotion, and prestigious work
  • Career breaks – women are more likely to take career breaks resulting in them missing out on career opportunities, promotions and salary increments

The gender pay gap is a source of great resentment nationwide and with good reason. But anger is pointless without action and movement for change. “Don’t get mad,” says Reynolds, “get even. Get even numbers.”

The Department has been making changes to achieve gender equality since 2016, some of which are outlined below. If your organisation believes it’s time to change its culture to one that’s more gender equal, it’s time to take action.

3 changes that need to be made to achieve gender equality

1. Redefine merit

The question of merit is a challenging issue. We have a preconceived idea of merit that needs redefining in order to achieve gender equality goals.

Merit is not only about hiring the best person for the role, it’s about getting the best outcomes for the organisation. These outcomes include the best diversity and the best opinions. So gender balance has to be a key consideration when it comes to recruitment in order to develop a well-rounded, diverse organisation.

2. Remove unconscious bias

Unconscious bias are impossible to remove from our thoughts, it’s part of human nature. But it is possible to remove bias from our decision making. One way to do this is to ensure there is an equal number of male and female interviewees.

3. Celebrate flexibility

It is important to get rid of the guilt that surrounds part-time and flexible working. We need to celebrate flexibility, not consider it a compromise. Men and women shouldn’t feel awkward or nervous about requesting flexible work options. But it’s not surprising that they do, since it often acts as a disadvantage to people in their careers.

It’s up to organisations to take the first step to dispel this guilt culture. By proactively asking all employees every 6 months whether they would like to accept some flexible working conditions, the SA Department is signaling that this is a discussion they welcome.

Until action is taken, change will never happen. Don’t expect beliefs to evolve without proactive measures by influential people and bodies. Organisations must start now, if they haven’t already, by setting gender equality targets and continually measuring their progress.

There need to be major changes in recruitment. Changes in outcome based performance. Changes regarding flexibility in the workplace. Changes in training. This is how we’ll achieve gender equality and close the gender pay gap.

I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing about your expereince in driving change at your workplace, in achieving gender equality and closing the pay gap.

Warmly, Donny

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