How Australian women can be paid the same as Australian men

Susan Ferrier, National Managing Partner, People, Performance & Culture
Susan Ferrier, National Managing Partner, People, Performance & Culture
Gender parity and the very tangible exemplar of the gender pay gap is a shared responsibility of government, business, its leaders, and its workforce.

Despite increased participation rates by women in the workforce (this has nearly doubled over the past 40 years), increases in pay and improved policies for parental leave and flexible working, the gender pay gap remains as a stark equity issue for women, for business and for the growth in Australia’s productivity.

Enacted into law in Australia in 1969, true pay equity remains elusive. Based on the most recent statistics, the gender pay gap is 16.2 per cent in 2016 and, based on information published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, has fluctuated between 14 per cent and 19 per cent over the past 20 years. Australia is not alone – just this week, the World Economic Forum has downgraded its estimate of when we are likely to achieve parity at current rates – globally, now increased from 118 to170 years.

The gap is unacceptable but acknowledging it is not enough for change. Understanding the drivers of the gender pay gap is critical to designing interventions which will enable organisations to close the gap. The KPMG Australia report, She’s Price(d)less: The Economics of the Gender Pay Gap, launched today, prepared for Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), aims to do just that.

When undertaking this research, we were conscious that there is already a lot of data available on the gender pay gap, and every week it feels like there is another report calculating how far women are behind. In our new research, we focused our attention on the underlying factors driving the gap and the changes that can be seen over the seven year period since our last report in 2009.

Understanding the reasons for the gap helps devise the best method to bring it to parity. At KPMG we are serious about equality and see gender equality as a very vital part of our overall diversity & inclusion strategy.

At KPMG we began seeking to understand gender pay in 2010. In the first few years, we built up capability for understanding what was happening in the remuneration of our people and in 2012 we produced a comprehensive report for our National Executive Committee. This report demonstrated the criticality of taking action and has led to significant, sustained commitment across the firm to addressing the gap. Senior management attention and analytics have been important drivers of change for KPMG.

Numbers are powerful and they help us make decisions that override any unconscious bias that may still exist. We now have a comprehensive analytics reporting tool which enables us to track promotions, performance and remuneration results by gender in real time. Independent representatives from HR participate in business unit performance review meetings to monitor and challenge decisions on performance, promotion and pay at the point decisions are made. Data is also captured on ratings and remuneration outcomes which provides real time quantitative data on the gap between comparable roles across the firm.

Most importantly our Executive Committee, CEO and Chairman are strong supporters of pay equity. Their support is essential to drive our strategy to eradicate any inequality.

In the Executive Compendium accompanying today’s launch we have outlined six steps towards pay equity that all organisations can undertake.  These steps have underpinned our progress.

Know the numbers
It is crucial to first understand the size of the pay gap, including an honest assessment of the cultural, environment and business behaviours and processes which may be contributing.

Leverage the lifecycle
Key phases of the employee lifecycle (e.g. recruiting, performance review, remuneration setting and reporting) provide an opportunity to consider how current business processes could be amended to drive equality in pay outcomes.

The ‘caring conundrum’
Businesses need a focus on how they can retain employees who take time out and ensure their return is sustainable. This is particularly relevant when woman work part time or have a break as the primary carer of their children.

Train the team
The availability of on-the-job training initiatives provides critical access to skill development and the building of professional networks which can drive women’s greater participation and career progression.

Deal with the dollars
It is critical to redress remuneration-related gender bias which women have encountered in the past.

Change the culture
The right organisational culture is absolutely essential to emphasise the right behaviours that will lead to the elimination of the pay gap.

If you are still not convinced action is needed (and now), there is a raft of research demonstrating that more women in more senior positions, with equity in pay translates into more profit for the company.

In the words of Gough Whitlam, who as one of his first acts in government reopened the National Wage and Equal Pay cases at the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to define equal pay for equal work – “its time” to lift our game and take active deliberate and positive action of what remains a very real and close to home business and human rights issue.

Read the full analysis and Executive Companion here

Media Release

One thought on “How Australian women can be paid the same as Australian men

  1. Great article, Susan, and I look forward to reading the report you mentioned. I find it interesting that a significant factor in the pay gap isn’t mentioned; that is, that our organisation is not transparent about what staff are being paid. Employees do not have all of the information that they need to negotiate their salaries, and this will continue to have a greater negative impact on women than men. In organisations and sectors where pay information is known to both employer and employee, the gender pay gap is notably less.

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