Friday, May 25, 2012

Gender Pay Gap still looming

The gender pay gap is still evident and even prominent in Australian workplaces, today, according to latest research from the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA). 

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals that:

* Australian women, on average, earn 17.4% less than men
* WA has the largest gender pay gap at 25.8% while the ACT has the lowest at 12.0%

The gender pay gap has remained almost unchanged - in a staggering - two decades. It was 17.6% in November 2011 and has consistently hovered around 15-18% over the last two decades.  

The average weekly earnings of women working full-time were $1,186.90 per week or $250.50 per week less than men, who earned an average weekly wage of $1,437.40 per week. Over the course of a year, this difference would add up to $13,026.
Helen Conway, Director of the EOWA, said: "The gender pay gap is a disincentive to women's participation in the workforce. In a time of significant skills shortages and with productivity levels in decline, it makes good business sense and is in our national interest to eliminate this disincentive to full workforce participation."

Emma Walsh, Director of mums@work, says one of the areas wage inconsistencies occur is when women return to work from parental leave. "It's easy for them to be 'forgotten' in the pay review cycle because - out of sight, out of mind. Women can find themselves re-entering work based on their old pay scale before leave, often unwittingly realising they have missed out. This can occur due to a downsize of their job or because they've been out of the workforce for a while. A lot of women end up devaluing their skills and settling for less pay than they deserve."

What Can Organisations Do?
EOWA offers a free and online Mind the Gap course designed to explain pay equity concepts, outline Australia's pay equity history and show how to ensure equality across human resources policies, processes and procedures that might unintentionally incorporate gender bias or lead to disparity.

Conway says: "Organisations can start by doing a payroll analysis to determine if they have a gender pay gap. They can ask themselves whether working flexibly in their organisation limits a person's career. They can also examine whether their workplaces contain stereotypes and embedded bias in job design, evaluation and remuneration processes."

Walsh comments that, when it comes to working parents, a support program is a great initiative. "Keeping the lines of communication open and being receptive to alternatives modes of work and flexibility, can actually help achieve a long-lasting successful result for the working relationship with keeping women in the positions and the wages they are best suited."

Impending legislative reforms to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 will strengthen the ability of EOWA to track and provide advice on the gender pay gap for organisations across industry sectors.

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