A year's progress: the 2017 Workplace Gender Equality Agency update

This month, we attended the CEDA Women in Leadership Series event: A Roadmap to Change, where the findings from WGEA’s 2016-17 Australia’s Gender Equality Scorecard were presented by Libby Lyons. Accompanying Libby were Helen Fraser (HR Director AECOM) and Debby Blakey (HESTA CEO), who both drew on their own personal experiences as well as their company’s initiatives to promote gender equality.

Despite the progress we are making as a nation, we still have a long way to go before achieving gender equality.

The report found that while the full-time gender pay gap is trending down, the average man still takes home a staggering $26,537 more than the average woman each year (22.4%). Since 1981 the gender pay gap has only decreased 2.9% and despite a recent push has only decreased by 1.2% in the last 20 years. Despite these disappointing figures, it was great to hear that South Australia has the lowest pay gap of all the States/Territories.

While the representation of women still declines with seniority, the representation of women across all manager categories has grown consistently. The rate at which women are being promoted and appointed to manager roles has steadily increased since last year and is proportionately higher than the rate of women’s current representation in management. With women currently only holding 38.4% of manager roles, it is predicted that the proportion of women in management roles will continue to grow.

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Disappointingly, one area that has remained static is women’s representation on boards, which has continued to hover around 25%, despite the number of skilled women who are wanting to be given a chance.

It is however promising to see work flexibility on the rise (up 5.3% to 68.3% from last year), which helps enable not only gender diversity, but diversity more broadly. Moving forward we hope to see a push towards flexibility for all levels of an organisation, including managers, as currently only 6% of managers work flexibly or part-time.

As Libby Lyons eloquently promoted, achieving equality isn’t about meeting quota’s, ‘it’s the action that’s important’ and this can be done in various ways. Hesta has decided to vote against boards with no women and have also written to all ASX100 companies about promoting gender diversity on boards. AECOM has three focus areas; reducing the pay gap by eliminating all like-for-like pay gaps, promoting male champions of change for gender diversity and providing the option of ‘term times’ – where work is scheduled around school terms. By pushing initiatives like these, promoting inclusive leadership, culture and systems and processes, and continuing to implement pay-gap analyses (currently up 10% over the last year to 37.7%), we can hope to see gender equality within our lifetime.

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