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  1. From pocket money to retirement income: how women are systematically paid less (and what you can do about it)

    March 8, 2016 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    Happy International Women’s Day. As it turns out, it could be a lot happier for women in the workforce.

    It starts young – inequality applies even to girls’ weekly pocket money, as reported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Gender Pay Gap over the Life Cycle report. Apparently girls start out with 11% less pocket money than boys and this continues with women graduates with a bachelor’s degree earning $1.5 million less over a lifetime than men with the equivalent qualifications.

    A report by Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency released last week, Gender Equity Insights 2016: Inside Australia’s Gender Pay Gap, outlines the following:

    • Women key management personnel (KMP) working full-time earn on average $100,000 a year less than male KMPs.
    • Gender pay gaps lead to significant earnings shortfalls for women across their careers. Women moving through managerial positions at the same pace as men, working full-time and reaching a KMP role in their tenth year, earn $600,000 less.
    • Male managers working in female-dominated organisations can expect to earn considerably more than their female colleagues.
    • More women on boards is associated with significant reductions in gender pay gaps.
    • Part-time roles are dominated by women and are significantly lower paid (on a full-time equivalent basis) than full-time roles.
    • Men consistently earn more additional remuneration than women. The average male ‘bonus’ premium is almost 8 percentage points for full-time workers, and is highest in the financial and insurance services industry, at 15 percentage points.


    Is it simply a case of gender pay gap = direct discrimination? The gap can be explained in part by differences in how men and women work, the industries they work in and their level of skills and experience. My own experience in publishing, a vastly female-dominated industry, is that average pay is low and many people work part-time and on short-term contracts.  The same goes for teaching and nursing, both overwhelmingly female dominated. The report tells us that a startling 75% of part-time workers are female.

    But the gender pay gap can also indicate more subtle bias within workplaces, where preferential treatment is given to certain workers for career advancement and pay. The report notes,

    ‘Gender pay gaps can be a sign of both direct and indirect biases, both of which are problematic for a number of reasons. They signal inequity in a society that has been built on the concept of a ‘fair go’. They result in poorer outcomes for women in terms of economic and personal freedoms. They impair and stunt economic growth for nations looking to remain competitive on a global scale. Furthermore, they represent a lost opportunity in human capital investment and potential.’

    So what can the average manager do?

    Employers generally don’t intend to pay men and women differently. Gender pay gaps are not good for staff attraction, retention or engagement. We know that gender equality is better for both individual performance and company productivity. But perhaps unintended biases are creeping into hiring, pay, promotion and performance decisions. A payroll analysis can uncover this.

    The Workplace Gender Equality Agency and the Australian Institute of Management have produced a Manager briefing, Gender pay equity guide for managers, outlining steps that can be taken at each stage of the employment cycle to address unconscious biases and practices in the recruitment, promotion, performance and remuneration stages.


    Identifying the causes of gender pay gaps: Some quick tips for managers

    • Check your job descriptions. Are women doing similar jobs to men but with different job titles and pay?
    • Analyse starting rates in your team. Are these monitored by gender? If an employee starts on a higher rate, is this based on evidence and recorded, with reasons?
    • Compare the organisation’s pay rates to market rates. Are variations applied consistently? Or do lower rates favour roles dominated by women?
    • Check superannuation rates. Is the rate of employer-paid super consistent across levels? Are all employees, including those on parental leave, treated in the same way?
    • Investigate bonuses and discretionary pay. Is one gender more likely to be in roles that attract bonus payments? Is discretionary pay more likely to be paid in a traditionally ‘male’ role?

    Managers can show leadership on gender pay issues and are well placed to develop a plan to address them. It begins with finding and analysing the data, and then addressing the gaps and their causes. As the Manager briefing points out, ‘the removal of bias in pay and performance decisions requires a medium to long term strategy and cultural change’.

    Be in it.

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