How Can We Close The Gender Pay Gap & Level The Playing Field

3D illustration of male and female symbols with 2 piles of coins a small one for women and a larger one for men.

In this opinion piece, Sportsbet chief customer & people officer Tania Abbotto (pictured below) addresses the pay gap in Australia which still impacts both men and women across all workforces.

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While the gender pay gap may be closing in Australia with it reaching its lowest level in 20 years, the fact remains that there is still an unacceptable difference between male and female incomes for comparable jobs.

It’s not a small gap either – it remains a massive $244.80 per week.

According to the 2018 Workplace Gender Equality Agency report, women working full-time earn on average $1433.60 per week compared to the $1678.40 that men earn.

Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a legacy issue and even amongst today’s graduates, women can expect to earn 27 per cent less than their male counterparts over the duration of their careers – a whopping $750,000 difference.

Whilst the news isn’t all bad, with some steps being taken to address these issues, we are miles away from where we need to be.

Today, government subsidies and paid maternity leave are making childcare more affordable for women returning to work, progressive organisations are increasingly offering employees flexible work arrangements and providing child care options for their people.

Under a Labor government, federal legislation may be introduced that requires companies with more than 1000 employees to reveal gender pay disparities, making this data publicly available to current and future employees.

Gender equality in the workforce is not yet a reality in Australia, but we are slowly, gradually, inching our way closer.

The challenge for all organisations now is how we can turn those inches into meters – and quickly.

We just can’t tolerate another generation of women disadvantaged by archaic practices.

An uphill battle towards equality

There are still a number of factors contributing to women earning less than men over the course of their careers.

Women’s careers are often interrupted by family commitments that are accompanied by periods of unpaid parental leave, or extended periods of carers leave when they take on the responsibility of looking after elderly parents.

The truth is, they can feel forced to make choices that are right for their families that leave them at a career and pay disadvantage.

Until we find a way for flexibility and progression to co-exist, we will be challenged to truly remedy this issue.

Additionally, until families are seen as the shared responsibility of both genders, we have an inherent and fundamental issue that limits progress towards equality.

Financially, in addition to the significant cost of childcare, and the time women spend away from the workforce to focus on their families, female employees also losing out in terms of superannuation.

The retirement savings of single women are far below those of single men due to this time spent away from the workforce raising children, a time when they are not receiving employer contributions.

This is just another contributing factor that makes it incredibly difficult for women to achieve the same rate of pay as their male colleagues.

Just as importantly, this issue has long-term ramifications for women’s independence and welfare long after their professional careers conclude.

How to level the playing field

If organisations truly want to support women in the workforce, the first step is looking at the diversity of the talent they attract and select when they are hiring.

This means ensuring that hiring practices actively facilitate diversity and are free of bias.

Organisations should advertise positions in a gender-neutral way, removing language that serves to discourage women from applying.

They should also consider whether it’s necessary for the role to be worked full-time or whether the work can be completed by someone working flexibly, with a focus on outcomes rather than presentism.

Organisations who attract and select diverse talent then need to ensure that their pay practices for comparable roles are consistent.

This means avoiding the temptation to pay women less because they are willing to accept it.

It is essential that organisations invest money in paid-parental leave and shared work arrangements, incentivising women to return to the workforce.

In addition, government investment in childcare is essential for women who wish to increase their work hours, while amendments to superannuation legislation to reduce the lifelong impact of the financial imbalance between the genders.

Australia has taken some strong first steps toward achieving workplace equality, but it will take the collective effort and unrelenting commitment of business’ and the government to achieve parity.

Together, we can level the playing field for men and women once and for all.

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