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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.

  2. Working After Baby: how have childcare issues affected your return to work?

    December 6, 2011 by Jenna

    Now, at the risk of offending stay-at-home dads, this is and will probably remain for some time to come an issue that almost universally affects women. 

    As a woman, and a mother of a three-year old, and expecting another baby soon, I feel very fortunate that: 

    a) I work for a flexible and supportive organisation and boss who enabled me to return to work at a time and pace that suited the changing needs of my small child 

    b) I was, after some effort and waiting and getting in early, able to secure a place two days a week for our son at a local childcare centre we remain delighted with 

    c) I have parents and parents-in-law who are besotted with their grandson and are able to care for him when extra help is needed 

    I was also very pleased to read the comments of two of the respondents to our most recent online pollHow much did childcare issues impact on your return to work? – reproduced below:

    – “Keeping a very organised schedule and ensuring our daughter attends a very good Early Learning Centre, childcare has not impacted on my return to work. I am now back at work 3 days per week. My daughter thoroughly enjoys the Early Learning Centre that she goes to and I thoroughly enjoy being back at work. The childcare centre follows a weekly learning program and my daughter loves all the activities that they do.” 

    – “A combination of a very supportive family, as well as great flexibility as far as my husband’s working hours, meant my return to work (when the baby was only 3 months old) was seamless. It did however mean that I hardly ever saw my husband!” 

    However, the news is not that great for a huge number of women. Another poll respondent recounted her struggles: 

    – “Because child care was too expensive, I relied on my parents and grandmother to look after my children. I also took on casual jobs where I had no super, no regular and secure income and no stability, just so that I could do the hours that suited my family’s needs. I also worked night shift so that I could be home with my children during the day; my husband then took over at night. Again, this was very difficult for me and my family, but financially it helped as the night casual rates were higher.”      

    Even for women with family support and access to care, the decision to leave their child can induce intense feelings of guilt and a deep sense of “missing out” during their child’s early years. A contact I spoke to regarding her experiences said that while she had no return to work issues relating to finding care (her father looks after her baby at home three days per week) or her company’s parenting policies, she finds it extremely challenging to juggle work, home, commuting and caring for her family, not to mention emotionally wrenching every time she departs. She would in fact, if she could afford it financially, remain at home. 

    An extensive poll conducted earlier this year by the online businesswomen’s network group sphinxx “found that children and careers fail to mix. Almost half of those surveyed (48%) said the cost of childcare had negatively hit their careers but not their partners – 71.6% said their partners hadn’t been held back at all. Almost three quarters of respondents (74%) agreed that quality child care is hard to come by.” [Source] 

    The poll also revealed that 92% of respondents cited the rising cost of childcare as a top policy issue in the next election. The founder of sphinx, Jen Dalitz, said “said both political parties should be seeing childcare as a top policy issue if they were ‘fair dinkum’ about helping women stay in the workforce and support more choices in the childcare industry. ‘It’s crazy that you can deduct expenses for laptops, iPads and cars, but receive no tax breaks for family day care or in-home care, especially in emergencies,’ she adds.” [Source] 

    Promoting the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Women Business Owners Poll, Ita Buttrose commented last week that “businesses are mad not to have more women in decision-making roles and has urged them to pay for nannies to ensure their female staff don’t fall off the career ladder. ‘I am a great believer in packages that include some support for the mother, whether it is a nanny or a housekeeper or whatever,’ she said. ‘You might not get the shares, or you might not get the car, but you balance one out against the other. Of course companies can do it. Women who want to continue their careers and have families should ask for that package from their employer and the workplace needs to think about how they are going to offer it.’ [Source]                                                      

    Further illustrating this issue, another respondent to the sphinxx poll commented: “Issues to do with availability and cost of childcare plague our mothers group. So much so that two teachers, a HR professional and an IT Manager have decided they cannot go back to work. That is four highly skilled women now removed from the workforce because childcare in Australia is too complex and cost prohibitive. And this is just one small group – there are many more. If the government is honestly trying to address female participation rates in the Australian workforce and fix the skills shortage, they will look at childcare as a matter of urgency.” [Source]

    What do you think? What has your experience been? Leave your comments below …


    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

  3. Would YOU Go the Full Monty for a Good Cause?

    November 15, 2011 by Jenna

    Our guest blogger this week, Mary Turnbull, seriously considered it …

    Who hasn’t had a grand delusion at one time or another?

    As part of my “staged retirement” I’ve been hanging out (both literally and metaphorically) with a group of fantastic Inner West women who many might consider should live quiet, demure and retiring lives, but who are determined to continue to make a splash!  We meet regularly for aqua aerobics exercise (good for the bod) and lots of laughter, good food and drink at other times (good for the soul). 

    One of our group is battling the debilitating condition, Multiple Sclerosis.  Over coffee several months ago we were joking about doing our own Calendar Girls calendar – and donating the proceeds to MS. 

    Thanks to the tenacity and sheer cheek of the aqua girls the calendar has become a reality.  Whilst some of us were perfectly willing to go the full Monty we were fortunately talked out of that by more circumspect professionals who worked tirelessly and voluntarily in the production of the calendar – inspired by the glamour years of the 1920’s. 

    There comes a time in life when clothes are one’s friend!!  None of us ever looked like this before, and are unlikely to do so again – time and a great deal of make-up were involved!  The transformation was made possible by many talented people giving up their Sundays over two months – including students from the Napoleon Perdis Cosmetic Academy, Robert our creative designer and hairstylist, photographer Alice Sarginson from Sun Studios, and graphic artist Susan Oliver who subsequently worked her magic on design and layout. 

    We owe a final debt of gratitude to Spicers Paper and F H Booth and Son Printers, as well as to Marrickville Rotary Club – who together enabled the printing of 1500 high quality calendars.  

    As a result of so much time and effort voluntarily expended every cent of the $16 per calendar sale will go to help MS sufferers in ACT, NSW and Victoria. 

    We may be a touch past our prime, but this Grand Delusion is a source of enormous pride to us all. 

    To help MS sufferers in a very practical way, click on this link or on the image below to buy our fantastic calendar …


    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

  4. Stereotyping in the Workplace

    July 5, 2011 by Jenna

    This week’s blog post is by guest blogger, Carmen Mackrill, Challenge Consulting’s People Services Consultant …

    I had the pleasure of travelling to Brisbane last week to attend the 9th Industrial/Organisational Psychology Conference 2011.

    Walking across the Victoria Bridge on the way to the Conference and Exhibition Centre, it was hard to imagine that only 6 months ago, parts of Brisbane were completely under water!

    Now, despite the complications caused by the volcanic smoke affecting air travel in and around Australia, with true Aussie ‘can-do’ spirit the conference organisers remained undeterred and the conference went ahead as planned. And what a worthwhile event to attend!

    The principal focus throughout the conference “connecting people”.

    Following last week’s blog post by my colleague Tiffany Whitby on women in the workplace, here I will share my thoughts and impressions of a particularly interesting keynote address on “managing stereotypes in the workplace”, presented by Michigan State University’s Professor Ann Marie Ryan.

    But first, just how prevalent is stereotyping in the workplace?

    Our latest online poll asked: “Have you ever experienced stereotyping in the workplace?”

    Alarmingly, 75% of respondents answered “yes”.

    This is backed up by Angela Priestly in a recent article from the Women & Leadership in Australia e-newsletter*: “stereotyping in the workplace (especially in the legal profession) is ever prevalent and diversity programmes have the tendency to focus on numbers rather than on the wider issue of diversity.”

    In her conference presentation, Professor Ryan reiterated that whilst organisations should have certain strategies in place to counteract or manage stereotypes in the workplace, employees also use their own strategies to protect themselves and their identity from being stereotyped against. Specifically, individuals make a conscious decision to either express something about themselves or not, to counter the perceived effects of stereotyping.

    According to Professor Ryan, individuals use the following strategies:

    1. Concealing their identity (i.e. concealing an aspect of themselves that they perceive will be open to stereotype)

    2. Acknowledging their identity and putting it out there

    3. Avoiding discussion of or acknowledgment of their identity

    4. Disidentifying with a perceived stereotype

    5. Disconfirming e.g. counter stereotyping

    6. Educating others and advocating for their identity

    Professor Ryan emphasised that individuals are most satisfied when they celebrate all aspects of themselves, rather than masking an aspect that they perceive could be stereotyped against. She also referred to a study done by Vignoles et al 2006**, who suggested that individuals “… are motivated to maintain or enhance feelings of self-esteem, continuity, distinctiveness, belonging, efficacy and meaning in their identities”.


    The hard reality is that cost of being stereotyped against because of some aspect of your identity can be high. Advice to both individuals seeking a job or an incumbent job holder on strategies for managing their identity will obviously vary, as their motivation for impression management will differ according to the situation that they are faced with.

    Managers should be aware of the different strategies that individuals adopt to prevent stereotyping, and work with the wider organisation in fulfilling its responsibility to minimise stigmatisation through implementing policies to encourage diversity, diversity training, targeted recruitment efforts, and most importantly creating an organisational culture that embraces the uniqueness of all employees and allows them to bring the strengths of their true identity to the team.

    In the end, those organisations that do breed a culture of high stigmatisation will be the biggest losers, whilst organisations that embrace diversity will ensure success for themselves and their employees.


    * A. Priestly (2010). Diversity: Far from female only. Women & Leadership Australia eNewsletter, May

    ** Vignoles, V.L., Regalia, C., Manzi, C., Golledge, J., Scabini, E. (2006). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 90(2), 308-333.

    Disclaimer: The Fair Work Ombudsman can help people who believe they have been subject to unlawful discrimination in relation to their employment. The Fair Work Ombudsman investigates allegations of unlawful workplace discrimination and may initiate litigation against a national system employer for contravening the Fair Work Act 2009. For more information contact: Fair Work Infoline: 13 13 94 or review the fact sheet

  5. Quit Being a Girl!

    June 28, 2011 by Jenna

    This week’s blog post is by guest blogger, Tiffany Whitby, from the Challenge Consulting recruitment team … (this is not Tiffany pictured here …)

    One of my passions is enhancing the role of women in business; specifically, examining and promoting strategies to ensure women have the opportunity to attain senior and management positions. As such I have actively joined a number of websites dedicated to this subject including; sphinxx, Ruby Connection and also Business Chicks.

    Of the 3, I recently attended a Business Chicks seminar titled ‘Nice Girls Don’t get the Corner Office’ based on the book by bestselling author Dr Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D. The 2 hour workshop was full of tips and helpful ideas to assist women get what they want out of their careers, first of which was her statement ‘quit being a girl’.

    Another one of her tips was don’t use preambles; so I will just get straight to the point with the top 10 tactics every woman needs in her skill set:

    Top 10 Tactics Every Woman Needs in her Skill Set:

    #1. Know your playing field

    – Boundaries, strategies and rules

    – What works in one organisation/industry won’t work in another

    – There are different boundaries for men and women

    Do not put statements into the form of questions, be direct and straight, and if needed add a tagline (which can soften the message)

    – Emulate winning women such as Gail Kelly

    #2. Be crystal clear about what you want

    – Know what you want. Until you have clarity about what this is, you are not going to get it

     #3. Identify your boundaries

    – Know where people can come over and in

    – Define your boundaries

     #4. Be willing to walk away

    We stay in situations to long. If everything has been done to turn around a bad situation and nothing has changed then leave!

     #5. Use headlines and taglines

    The most important thing we want people to know should be the first thing out our mouths (headline). Then use 3 supporting facts/data. Tagline at the end eg. ‘did I answer your question?’

    #6. Manage your emotions

    – If you feel as though you are about to cry in the workplace excuse yourself; crying in the workplace makes people feel uncomfortable

    – Put the tears into words and focus in the problem and solution

     #7. Plan in advance for how you will respond to resistance

    – Let people know you are planning on changing your behaviours and enlist their feedback and support

     #8. Understand (and use) the “Quid Pro Quo”

    – Something in exchange for something else

    – Leverage the relationships you have

    – If you give something, you receive a figurative ‘penny’ to use when you need something – make sure you use them!

    #9. Build your brand

    – Use the WALLET acronym:

    Write it down: write down what you want people to say about you when you leave a room

    Apply actionable behaviours: think about what a camera would be able to see

    Look to the edge: of the playing field

    Let others know about your brand

    Elicit feedback (360o feedback)

    Treat others with abundance (give things away eg. assistance on a project)

     #10. Employ contrast

    – Talk about what you do want and what you don’t want

    Dr Frankel then went on to explain the Top 10 Mistakes Women Make:

    #1. Not ‘getting it’: eg. Don’t wait to be invited for a position, pay rise, something you want. Create tactics and strategies

    #2. Working too hard: within everything organisation there is a baseline to which you should work towards, work up to this and set realistic boundaries with people

    #3. Not setting boundaries: work out what your vision is for what you want and ask yourself: “what is important to me?”

    #4. Striving for perfection: women will often put in 150%, when more often than not a job that is 80% there is good enough

    #5. Ignoring the look and sound of success: Credibility is made up by: 50% of how we look, 40% of how we sound, 10% of what we say. An example is the JFK vs Nixon debate. People say Nixon won for what he said, however JFK won based on how he looked.

    #6. Unclear branding/vision: we trust people who are consistent and likeable. Read the book “Brag! Tooting your own Horn without Blowing It” by Peggy Klaus

    #7. Staying too long in a bad situation: sunken costs (keep putting ‘something’ in thinking a situation is going to get better, when in fact it’s not). We need to understand when it’s time to walk away. Ask yourself the question: “What am I getting out of this?”

    #8. Waiting to be given what you want: Read the book “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide” by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

    #9. Using too many words: cut communication by 30%. The longer we talk the more the message gets diluted.  Queue answer question and then ask ‘have I answered your question?’ Be careful with body language.

    #10. Trusting your financial security to someone else: know where your finances are and where they are being invested. Stay involved with your money!

    Challenge Consulting’s online poll last week asked the question “What is the #1 mistake women make on their way to the top at work?” The results were:

    #1. Waiting to be “invited” instead of asking for a payrise, promotion, etc – 50%

    #2. An unwillingness to self-promote and “toot their own horn” – 29%

    #3. Staying too long in a bad situation – 14%

    #4. Striving for perfection: putting in 150% when often 80% will do – 7%

    With all of this information I have now taken in it is time to put it into practice. As Dr Frankel said, let people know you are making changes, so, everyone: I am making changes … don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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