5 things to look for when choosing an employer that supports gender equality

Many organisations have still simply not embraced gender equality or other forms of diversity and the advantages that it brings.

This week the Workplace Gender Equality Agency released Australia’s 2016 gender equality scorecard showing the state of play of gender equality in our workplaces. Some of the key insights indicate that women make up half of the nation’s workforce but earn only 77 per cent of men’s average full-time income, and women remain under-represented in leadership roles: holding just 16.3 per cent of CEO and 37.4 per cent of all manager roles.

Women may find themselves in the position of wanting to advance their career and seniority, but face challenges within the organisational structure. This may be due to a lack of flexibile work arrangements, discovering that pay inequities exists between men and women or they have been overlooked for a promotion because they have kids or are at childbearing age.

If you are in this position and are considering alternatives here are some things to look for when investigating prospective new employers:

1.Are they an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation holder?

The Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation is awarded to leading organisations in gender equality. To receive this citation employers must have a gender equality policy or strategy, conduct a payroll analysis and address gender equality in a number of other ways.  The full list of the EOCGE citation holders can be found here.

2. Check the narrative around women and diversity

It is also worthwhile to read through the organisations website, annual reports and other materials to see if there are specific mentions of gender equality programs or diversity initiatives. I have done this, comparing the narrative of companies within different industries and it can show a clear distinction between the companies that are trying to attract women and those that have overlooked this issue.

Of course what is written is not always reality so ask about these initiatives in more detail during your interview and ask people who work for the organisation what their experience is.

3. Does the employer offer different flexibility options?

Flexibility is a key enabler for the advancement of women into leadership roles so it is important to check if the organisation offers different forms of flexibility, that flexibility has formal arrangements around it (i.e. not just reliant on individual managers), and that flexibility is offered to everyone (both women and men).

4. Does the employer pay women and men equally?

Women and men should receive equal pay for equal work! Because we don’t have a system of pay transparency in Australia, it is often difficult to know if you will be paid on par to your male counterparts within organisations. By reviewing the organisation’s public WGEA report what you can check is whether the organisation undertakes a payroll analysis and that the employer takes action on pay equity.

5. Access the public report to the WGEA

Each year non-public sector organisations over 100 employees are required to submit a report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency which covers gender equality performance on a range of reporting matters (covering gender composition, governance, pay equity, flexibility, consultation and sex based harassment and discrimination). Many organisations make this report available on their website or you can access reports here. These reports provide a good indication of what the employer is doing in terms of gender equality strategies and initiatives.

Change on these issues comes from many sources. As individuals we can vote with our feet and select employers that are proactive in creating employee experiences that are fair and equal regardless of gender. Share your experience of what else you look for when selecting prospective employers to ensure they support both women and men in the workplace.

For more information on the latest stats download Australia’s 2016 gender equality scorecard.

Fair go, but she’ll be right – taking steps to address gender related pay gaps in your organisation

I’m often asked about the reality of the gender pay gap in organisations – people always seemed shocked that these gaps occur and question whether they are gender related.

So here’s the first thing I always say – it’s great to ask questions about gender pay gaps and be open to a discussion.

The kinds of questions usually asked are

  • Aren’t the pay gaps just related to women who work part-time?
  • How can it be commercial for small businesses to address gender pay gaps?
  • Aren’t pay gaps just about the national average, which is more about participation in the workforce?
  • How do I know if my business has gaps?
  • What can I do if I find any gaps?

These questions are totally understandable because what we often hear reported in the media is the national gender pay gap – which can be harder for individuals to then understand how gender gaps may relate to their own role and organisation. 

For you to take action, focus on organisational gender pay gaps

For individuals to feel they can take meaningful action on pay gaps within their organisation, it is more useful to focus on the three types of gaps that typically arise in organisations:

  • Organisation-wide gender pay gap
  • By-level gender pay gaps
  • Like-for-like gender pay gaps

The strategies to address each of these types of pay gaps are different and I’m going to focus on how best to address like-for-like gender pay gaps (same job, same performance rating, different pay) – as these are the gaps that  are primarily related to conscious and unconscious gender bias in recruitment, promotion, pay and performance decisions.

Identifying like-for-like gender pay gaps – they are real

Like-for-like gaps are pay gaps between women and men undertaking work of equal or comparable value (comparing jobs at the same performance standard), for example, comparing two senior management consultants in the same organisation who perform at the same level.

These like-for-like gender pay gaps are caused by*:

  • Inequality in commencement salaries 
  • Bias in performance ratings
  • Bias in performance management system
  • Inequality in access to discretionary pay
  • Negative impact when women negotiate (because either women negotiate less or because there is often a gender backlash when women do negotiate)
  • Cumulative effects of pay inequality 
  • Impact of long term leave

  • Impact of part-time employment 
  • Discrimination (conscious and unconscious)

And yes these are real, with evidence and anecdotes from both the employee and employer side. Many employers who I have worked with over the years initially could not believe they had like-for-like gender pay gaps and it was only  after conducting a payroll analysis they identified these gaps were occurring. 

I have been contacted by numerous women since working in the field of gender equality who have shared reasons given by employers for receiving lower pay than their male colleagues in the same role such as ‘well he has a family to look after’ and ‘he has financial commitments’. To be clear remuneration needs to be based on the role and responsibilities, performance and outcomes. Personal circumstances are irrelevant in determining how much an employee is paid.

And what can you do about it?

It is important is to recognise that like-for-like gender pays gaps are rarely intentional and may have been the result of a range of pay and performance decisions. Addressing these gaps is not about placing blame or pointing fingers – it is about looking objectively at the data to understand if there are issues and tailoring solutions to addressing them. Here’s some simple steps that both large and small organisations can do: 

  • Become aware of the issues, what causes gender pay gaps and the business case for addressing these issues
  • Ensure commitment from the top level of leadership to address pay equity 
  • Conduct a payroll analysis (there’s great resources you can download for free to do this)
  • Develop a strategy and action plan specific to the issues you find
  • Continue to review and monitor gaps

Detailed resources on specific pay equity strategies and actions can be found on the WGEA website here

It is a core value of Australians that everyone deserves a fair go, but we also have the approach that ‘she’ll be right’ – we want fairness, but we often assume it or passively support it, often ignoring the issues when they arise rather than being proactive. 

Sometimes we have to stare at the cold hard reality of data, if you conduct a gender payroll analysis and find no like-for-like gaps, that’s awesome, keep it up, but if you do – then it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate that you are serious about addressing the issue and promoting a truly fair, merit and performance based workplace by taking real action.

I’d love to hear your questions and experiences related to addressing gender pay gaps within organisations.

*Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Guide to gender pay equity, Practical steps to improve pay equity between women and men in your organisation (available at https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/Pay_Equity_Toolkit_Main.pdf)

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