The gender gap is real in Australia according to the latest gender equality scorecard released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. This research has found that while women make up half of the nation’s workforce they only earn 77 per cent of men’s average full-time income. The data is supplemented by research conducted by Robert Half, which shows almost nine in 10 (89 per cent) Australian HR managers acknowledge a difference in salaries across genders in their company, thereby acknowledging the existence of a gender pay gap within Australian workplaces.
Under the current Fair Work Act 2009 there are restrictions on private sector employees’ rights to disclose a broad range of information about the employee’s pay or earnings with co-workers. With the primary method for setting pay in corporate Australia being individual agreements, there is a so-called trend of ‘salary secrecy’ whereby salary level discrepancies can arise among male and female employees.
“Women today are more ambitious than ever and high-performing female professionals need to be adequately compensated at a level on par with their male counterparts,” said Nicole Gorton, director, Robert Half Australia. “While today’s female professionals have more opportunities available to them – the pay disparity continues which highlights the need for companies to take action. Pay transparency will put the onus on employers to have to justify pay decisions.
“It is encouraging to see Australian companies actively aiming toward closing the gender salary gap, which not only promotes ethical business practices, but it can also lead to higher productivity within organisations as competitive and fair remuneration policies tend to lead to higher performing staff,” she added.
This sentiment is reflected in a recent KPMG report, which asserts the gender pay gap negatively affects economic growth by discouraging equal labour force participation. As companies strive to adopt more ethical business practices, Australian organisations are actively taking measures to address and close the gender pay gap. Almost one in three (31 per cent) HR managers are implementing pay transparency, while more than a quarter (28 per cent) are undertaking salary audits. A similar proportion (27 per cent) are currently monitoring promotions and pay rises. Encouragingly, only three per cent say they are taking no measures at all.
When asked what additional measures their company would need to take to further close the gap, more than one in three (36 per cent) HR managers cite a system where promotions are linked to fixed pay rises.
“Having a diverse talent pool within an organisation is crucial, particularly with the apparent skills shortage in several industries,” said Gorton. “In light of this, businesses need to offer competitive salary packages to attract and retain top performing candidates, whether male or female. Promotions should also be awarded to the most competent contender who embodies the required skill set and business acumen that will benefit the company.”
Gorton asserts this approach needs to be part of an encompassing process where employers reward their staff fairly and evenly on the basis of their experience and contribution to the company, factors that completely disregard gender.