The gender pay gap in Australia is currently sitting at 18.8%. What does this mean in dollar for dollar terms? Women are currently earning just 81.2 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earn, down from an average of 85.1 cents ten years ago.
In other words, we are going backwards in terms of wage equity in Australia, not forwards. Worryingly, it seems we are not making much headway in other areas of equity in the corporate workplace either, despite discussion, think tanks, enquiries… the willingness to talk is present, but the action? The research speaks for itself, if you look at information from the Gender Diversity Council of Australia.
The council’s CEO Lisa Annese said last year: “If we did nothing at the moment, with current practices that are in place, it would take about 177 years to reach gender equity in our workplaces – which is pretty unacceptable”.
So who bears the onus to make change happen? And more to the point, how is this change going to take place if current practices aren’t working?
Change can only come through both men and women being willing to stand together and fight actively for gender equity – not just in terms of pay, but in terms of leadership positions, being able to serve within any role in any industry – whether public or private sector – and to have the option to be sponsored to get to those positions.
The ‘leadership pipeline’ as it stands is not viable. Why? Partly because when it comes to mentoring and sponsorship within corporate and public sector organisations, like sponsors like. This has been proven time and again in various studies, and it is borne out if you take a look around any large company.
Gender sponsors gender, and it even comes down ethnicity sponsoring ethnicity. So – if the company is 80% male, and the leadership body is 95% male – then the potential leadership pool being sponsored is predominantly male.
Those females who do sponsor and mentor are overwhelmed in terms of who they can take on – which means there is a talent pool who see no support for their skills, and quite often as a result either walk away or refuse to believe in their own abilities… and also in turn don’t sponsor, because they weren’t.
The Australian Defence Force has massive flaws, and they have been (rightly) investigated with a fine tooth comb by Elizabeth Broderick in her role as Sex Discrimination Commissioner; but one thing they have definitely got right is equity within pay and rank.
There is no discrimination between men and women at any level in terms of salary. LT GEN David Morrison, AO, Chief of Army, has made it incredibly clear that discrimination within the Australian Army will not be tolerated. He is fervent about promotion of women by merit, just as it is for men, and this brings me back to the point about standing together.
Women can’t just talk the talk about gender equity in the workplace. Women must support each other wholeheartedly through networks, both personal and professional. We must sponsor, mentor and nurture those younger women coming through the ranks. We must ask the hard questions at interview for new positions about salary – we must ask each other the hard questions about salary and ensure that we are being paid what we are worth.
And we must not dismiss men who are willing to fight for what we want. Our male champions of change are looked at askance and seen as less than valuable with their opinions about equality in the workplace. But think about this. If only one in five board directors in Australia are women…
Then if we stand together, we have a five in five chance of making a difference. Rather than just 20% – which is pretty close to the gender pay gap.