The statistics of gender equality in the workplace in Australia reveal some disappointing insights overall, despite progress in some areas. For example, recently we heard the rather disappointing news that the gender pay gap only narrowed by 0.5 percent and that, on average, men still took home over $25,000 a year more than women.
Women and girls make up half of the global population and consequently make up half of the world’s potential, in business and wider realms. Despite the 50/50 split in the human population, this statistic clearly does not correspond with the statistics regarding workplace. By giving women an equal platform we can boost productivity and economic growth, not only in Australia, but worldwide.
Specifically relating to Australian workplaces, we see that the workforce participation rate for women is overall lower than for men, with women at a 61.4% participation rate, and men at a 70.9% rate.*
*Participation rate is the sum of the employed and unemployed divided by total population from age 15 onwards (ABS 2020, Labour Force).
This relates to the fact that women are the more likely to be primary carers. In 2016–17, women took 95% of the primary parental leave used by non-public sector employees. Conversely, 95% of secondary parental leave was taken by men.
Going back to the gender gap pay gap mentioned above, and the small and almost stagnant movement we’re seeing, fresh data from 2020 has revealed that the gender pay gap for full-time annualised base salary stands at 15.5%, and 20.8% for full-time annualised total remuneration. This is based on non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees (WGEA 2020, Data Explorer).
Related to gender equality in the workplace: Let’s talk: Gender equality
In terms of leadership, we’re looking at a huge disparity in boards and governments that have female and male directors. Less than 1 per cent (0.9%) of Australian boards and governing bodies have no male directors. In contrast, 34% don’t have any female directors (WGEA 2019, Australia’s Gender Equality Scorecard).
Although this number has increased over the years, still only 30.7% of directors in the ASX 200 are women (as of Feb 2020).
We have recieved a number of opinions, stories and advice pieces regarding gender equality in the workplace and what needs to change in order to achieve gender equality for all. These leaders span across different business areas and offer different insights into what they believe should be prioritised in the gender equality movement.
“Gender balance goes beyond headcount.”
Monica Watt, Chief Human Resources Officer at ELMO Software, believes that data is the key to achieving balance.
“Having a balance of gender in a business comes down to insights and data. There’s no denying that having a balance of male, female and non-binary employees is hugely beneficial to a workplace, but if a HR team can’t report and keep track of its gender split it also can’t take steps to address any imbalances or needs.
“Gender balance goes beyond headcount. It is about understanding who, how and why you are hiring to ensure you have the right skills and attitudes to achieve strategic outcomes. HR functions must look at the types of candidates their organisation is attracting and consider whether they need to reframe how they advertise roles, how and where they source talent, and the way they communicate their business. The only way to do that is with accurate recruitment reporting and retention data. These insights can help organisations identify where they may be dealing with unconscious bias and take steps to stamp it out.
“Using the right technology, to deliver the right intelligence, can help organisations achieve the right gender balance.”
“Get over the idea that being a feminist is somehow something to be ashamed of.”
Melissa Hobley, Chief Marketing Officer at OkCupid, believes that we have a long way to go if we’re going to change the stigma of the label ‘feminist.’
“In a small town in Indiana, I was fortunate to have a mother who encouraged my sister and I to explore paths far less narrow than the ones we saw growing up. As a woman in tech, I am constantly inspired by outspoken, confident women like her and am full of pride to see empowered women enacting real change around the world. For us at OkCupid that means giving women, and men, the platform to discuss activism, feminism, and gender roles on our app, and we’re seeing a shift in the culture among our own daters. But we still have a long way to go to if we’re going to ever get over the idea that being a feminist is somehow something to be ashamed of. In Australia, over 82% of females on OkCupid consider themselves feminists compared to only 64% of males.
“Feminism does not mean valuing women over men or somehow advancing females at the expense of others – it simply means equality, which applies to every person regardless of gender. At OkCupid, we have a cool opportunity to reflect back the things that people actually care about – from politics to gender roles – and celebrate these as a part of their personal story to find others and match on what matters.”
“We, unfortunately, have just 11% female representation in cybersecurity…”
Joel Camissar, Regional Director, MVISION Cloud, Asia Pacific, at McAfee, reflects on the cybersecurity industry’s stats on women in the workplace and what they’re doing to enable more diversity.
“Gender equality for all organisations, within any industry, must be a priority, and action needs to be taken sooner rather than later. We, unfortunately, have just 11% female representation in cybersecurity—meaning there’s a lot of work to still do, and McAfee is committed to challenging the status quo to ensure equality is not just a box to tick, but a part of everyday operations, embedded into everything we do. Pay parity is a major part of building an inclusive culture, and business leaders need to be at the forefront of this change. In April 2019, it was announced that McAfee became the first cybersecurity company to achieve global gender pay parity—and this is goal should be mirrored in organisations across the nation.
“McAfee also runs ‘Unconscious Bias Training’ to foster inclusion and diversity. All employees undergo regular training based on the latest neuroscience findings. As our brains are wired to gravitate towards people who look and act the same, when we own our unconscious bias, we invite opinions and experiences that are different to our own. This enables people to think more creatively to strengthen opinions and arguments. By removing the likeliness of any unconscious bias, business leaders can provide fair and equal opportunities for employment, promotions, or rewards to all talent across the board.”
“When a talented colleague of mine recently decided not to pursue a promotion because she felt it would be too tough on her husband and daughters, I was left feeling disappointed.”
Jen Marshall, Chief Product Officer at Isentia, discusses the reality of balancing work and personal life as a women that is the primary carer.
“We’ve made great progress in advancing gender equality and that’s something to celebrate, but there is still far more to do. When a talented colleague of mine recently decided not to pursue a promotion because she felt it would be too tough on her husband and daughters, I was left feeling disappointed. She was already working long hours and was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do the job justice while maintaining her family commitments.
“It would be great to see more families being open and supportive of women’s careers and aspirations, by adjusting their routines to accommodate women taking on more senior roles. From Dad arranging holiday care to the kids making their own breakfast, family support is critical for working women. Annabel Crabb wrote in 2015 that “women need wives” so that more women can actively and fully participate in the workplace. I’m proud to say that Isentia has implemented flexible working arrangements which allow employees to work from home or adjust their hours (amongst other things), in order to meet family commitments while remaining productive, valued members of their teams. I’m very grateful for all the company and family support I have access to – I couldn’t do my job without it!”
“Driving awareness of unconscious biases can help balance gender equality, and in fact, help reduce all types of inequality.”
Fintan Lalor, Regional Manager, APAC, at Wrike, tells us what the company does to support women in the industry, including mentoring and development programs.
“Over the last decade there has been a spotlight on equality for many different minorities – gender being one of them. Driving awareness of unconscious biases can help balance gender equality, and in fact, help reduce all types of inequality. The more people acknowledge the biases that perpetuate gender inequalities, the more they will look to close that gap.
“To challenge the status quo, organisations must recognise equity as part of the equation. It is important to empower women with resources to address the gender gap. Initiatives can include mentorships, career development programs, employee resource communities, and a focus on hiring women in executive-leadership positions so women in your workforce have leaders to look up to. In commitment to closing the gap, here at Wrike, we host unconscious-bias trainings globally and our WoW, ‘Women of Wrike’ initiative offers mentorship and training sessions to support women in the industry.”
“The best kind of change is driven top-down from all levels inside an organisation and like culture, needs to be seen as everyone’s responsibility.”
Angela Logan-Bell, Partner and Alliances Manager at Rackspace ANZ, says that it is everyone’s responsibility to foster gender equality.
“Much has been achieved in this area in recent years however, there is still much more that can be done. For me, the challenge is around creating ongoing action that contributes to sustainable change. We need to ask what actions we can take every day that turn the many positive conversations into measurable results. The best kind of change is driven top-down from all levels inside an organisation and like culture, needs to be seen as everyone’s responsibility.
“Recognising the fearless people who have taken the initiative, spoken out, and continued to support and evolve positive gender conversations in Australia is essential. Discussion sessions and elite speaker panels must be left in the past decade though; now is the time for action right through society, organisations and business. In 2020, I hope to see more Australian organisations offering flexible work arrangements, so as to better support working families who are seemingly juggling it all.”
“Some of the most valuable assets that come from achieving gender diversity are the soft skills including leadership and communication skills, empathy, and emotional and social intelligence.”
Jade Meara, Head of Marketing ANZ at F5 Networks discusses the action needed in order to create change, and what F5 Networks is doing internally to improve gender equality.
“For women in the workplace, the soft skills should be celebrated just as much as the hard skills are rewarded. Some of the most valuable assets that come from achieving gender diversity are the soft skills including leadership and communication skills, empathy, and emotional and social intelligence.
“When it comes to the boardroom, gender equality is incredibly important. A robust chain of diverse leaders ensures balanced executive dynamics, skills and a broader range of strategic perspectives. Currently, of the 46 technology companies that make up the All Technology Index, 45 companies are led by male CEOs. It’s disappointing to see only one company has a female CEO. To change this significant imbalance, simply being cognizant of providing equal opportunity to all is not enough. Business leaders need to take action in order to create change.
“F5 launched an internal initiative called F5 Connects Women in 2012, aimed at further advancing the roles of female employees. Through F5 Connects Women, the company is developing robust networks of professional women, working toward a company culture supportive of gender diversity. When diversity and inclusion sit within the culture of an organisation, gender equality naturally becomes part of the company’s ethos.”
“We’re entering an exciting period of history where diversity is expected in boardrooms…”
Nathan Knight, General Manager at Lenovo DCG ANZ says that although it’s now expected to have gender equality in the workplace, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to truly achieve it.
“We’re entering an exciting period of history where diversity is expected in boardrooms, government, employees and even in media coverage. Unfortunately, there’s still a long way to go before corporate Australia can say they have achieved gender equality.
“Business leaders across all industries, and organisations of all sizes, must understand that change won’t happen unless we push for it, rally around it and advocate it to our peers, customers and partner.
“We need to keep the development of our people at the heart of our efforts and offer programs in the workplace that challenge the norm. Only then, will we see balance.
“At Lenovo, we aim to challenge the norm through unconscious bias training for managers, diversity standards for talent acquisition teams, and our Women’s Leadership Development Program that advances high-potential female directors into executive roles.”
“We are already seeing the huge problem of the gender bias of artificial intelligence…”
Eulalia Flo, General Manager of Commvault for Spain and Portugal, talks specifically on the bias we’re seeing in developing technologies due to a lack of gender diversity in these fields.
“In my view, one of the challenges is to attract female talent to the STEM sector. The digital transformation and advances in artificial intelligence are changing our world, and it is essential that women are the architects of this change. In fact, we are already seeing the huge problem of the gender bias of artificial intelligence, as machine learning systems are based on data that perpetuate inequality and prejudice.
“To get more young women to want to take up STEM studies, education from the bottom up is essential. It should move away from stereotypes and focus on boys and girls developing their own personalities, giving them both the opportunity to explore their interest in understanding how the world works, to experiment, to build, to get dirty and wrong, as well as to develop their artistic, emotional and caring skills. STEM subjects can be interesting, creative and rewarding, and, of particular concern to girls, they help build a better world.”
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