Equal pay – no small change

Yesterday, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) released a detailed report on the gender composition of the Australian workforce. The data shows that despite the emphasis on gender equality in many workplaces, the opportunities for women in the workplace are still running a poor second to those of men, not only in access to top management positions but also in their access to equal pay. It was not until 1972 that women who performed the same work as men were awarded equal pay, although this still only applied to women under Federal Awards. In 1974 this changed to include all women. So why, 40 years later is there still a gender pay gap of nearly 20 percent?

The figures from the WGEA show, across the reporting population, full-time working women earn a base salary that is 19.9 percent less than full-time working men while their total remuneration including discretionary pay such as bonus payments, allowances and overtime is 24.7 percent less than men.

Bias and preference, particularly the bias which is buried deep within our unconscious often works against equality – particularly equality in the workplace. These hidden and often unacknowledged mindsets  are much more powerful in driving our actions than we would like to believe.

Equality is about mindset and behaviour change and changing minds is often much harder than changing behaviour. Gender equity broadens the talent pool but it also means the path to promotion is no longer one sided and the benefits of success also have to be equally shared. True equality in the workplace is not just about the right policies, it is not even about the right words, true equality comes in action and a very clear action is to address the pay gap between men and women.

The data reveals 48.9 percent of employers have a remuneration policy or strategy, but only 18.1 percent have specific gender pay equity objectives in their policy or strategy. The question is why? It is certainly not that women are less capable of working in and leading organisation than men. Increasingly equal numbers of women complete higher education, certainly equal numbers complete secondary education. Is it just that equal pay requires not just good intent but intentional action?

Change requires a well-planned and a well communicated strategy. It needs to incorporate benefits to both the business and the people who work there. It takes passion and most importantly it takes perseverance. A change of heart for some and an acceptance of change by others. But in the end, it will certainly result in a more productive, diverse innovative and compassionate workplace.

For more information on what we have done at KPMG to address gender pay equity, check out the KPMG report on the WGEA website.
Susan Ferrier is the National Head of People, Performance and Culture. She is also a wife and mother, a daughter of the red dusty western plains of New South Wales, a netball tragic, and a proud feminist.
Feature Image: © robynmac / 123RF Stock Photo


2 thoughts on “Equal pay – no small change

  1. Good article, Susan. This is an area we all need to be aware of and promote equity in, as it is not acceptable in a country like ours to still have a pay gap of this size between the genders.

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