Equal work for equal pay? Will the workplace of the future help close the gender gap?
Today we ‘celebrate’ a small step in the journey for equal pay for equal work. The national gender pay gap has reached its lowest level in 20 years at 14.6 percent. So, this year, Equal Pay Day is today, marking the 62 additional days from the end of the previous financial year that women must work to earn the same pay as men.
Glacial progress, but nevertheless a tiny step towards equality. Who would have thought the pace would be so slow when equal pay was introduced in 1969 and legislated in Australia in 1984.
Equal pay may be elusive but perhaps there is some hope in the changing nature of work.
The Future of Work discussion is forcing us to think about work participation in new and different ways, driving us to consider the new skills and capabilities required in the future.
Although many see the future of work and increasing digitisation, robotics and AI and fear this means job loses, this is not the whole picture.
Work by the OECD in 2017 that looked specifically at women in the digital world believe it will advantage women. They say, “The job effects of digitalisation will depend crucially on skills. Skills provide an important safeguard against the risk of automation. Fewer than 5 percent of workers with a tertiary degree are at a high risk of losing their job due to automation, on average, compared to 40 percent of workers with a lower secondary degree (Arntz et al, 2016; OECD, 2016c). This advantages women as across OECD countries they are more tertiary educated women than men.
It is not quite as simple as this but overall this is good news for women, but has the potential for opening opportunities for both men and women.
Historically we have under invested in science and tech specifically in women and we are seeing this very obviously now in our workforce. This is changing the way we train people. Reskilling our workforce to open more opportunities for equal participation in future roles. But the discussion is not just ‘science and technology’ vs ‘creativity, collaboration and critical thinking’. In the future, success will require a blend of both skills sets
The workplace of the future will also be both fluid and mobile. People will timeshift and the workplace will be more flexible. This embracing of flexible and agile workplaces will continue to benefit women who still traditionally move in and out of the workplace more frequently than men.
The WGEA data indicates we have decreased the gap in pay equity from 15.3 – 14.6 percent but driving equal participation will be critical to keep progressing this work.
The Future of Work discussions gives us the opportunity to change the system – instead of having to fit women into an unequal system. But it will take more than a ‘brave new world’ to fix pay inequality. This still needs a concerted effort and focus. Policies set a foundation for equity but we must continue our focus on managing bias and driving day to day inclusive leadership principles.
We still have a long way to go, but we are actively “getting amongst it”. And despite work in the future opening up more equal opportunity, what is still so vitally important is that equal opportunity must also mean equal pay. Both women and men must continue to urge business to think differently, reinvent, and respond to the changing market. But most importantly to correct what is wrong from the past.
This story from the WGEA of Amelia and William is fictional, but is based on data. Why not take a few extra minutes, enjoy and learn from Pay Gaps and Life Hacks.