International Women’s Day is a good day to raise the subject of gender pay disparity with key executives in your workplace. Simply asking the question, ‘what is the gender pay profile for our business?’ can start a long overdue conversation.
While this can help shine a spotlight on wider patterns in the workplace, action needs to be taken to rectify any discrepancies that are found. If it's clear there really is no appetite for this kind of conversation within your organisation, then perhaps it's not the best workplace for you.
The pay gap developed because gender norms influence how the work we do is valued. Women and men have traditionally worked in different industries and different jobs; women spend more time out of the workforce, hampering their career progression; women do a far greater share of unpaid caring and domestic work, and more women work flexible hours. Unconscious bias and discrimination has unfortunately crept in to most workplaces.
There is clear evidence from Graduate Outcomes Surveys that women are paid less than men for the same job at the point of hiring, and that women continue to be rewarded less as they progress through promotions within a company.
The cumulative effect is that women are financially disadvantaged.
At the individual level, there can be an opportunity to discuss pay disparity when a job offer or promotion is in train.
Remind the person you are negotiating with about the prevalence of the gender pay gap.
Suggest that you are confident that (company X) wouldn’t want to continue contributing to a gap and state that you are working on the assumption that the proposed salary is not below that of your male peers.
You might also add that making visible to all in the company their (exemplary) record in ensuring gender pay equity would reinforce what a great workplace it is.
It comes as a shock to most people when the reality of pay discrepancies is revealed. But women doing the same work and performing at the same level being paid less than men is indefensible. Fixing this by paying women at the same level is unlikely to damage working relationships between male and female colleagues, as men aren’t losing out. We need to move the debate away from a zero sum game.
On last year’s International Women’s Day, Energy Australia announced it would rectify the discrepancy it found when it analysed gender pay within its organisation. Energy Australia had been paying women on average $3000 less than men for doing the same job.
They now pay women the same as men for doing the same work. Given this principle was espoused in the federal Equal Pay for Equal Work decision of 1969 and Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value decision of 1972, it is hardly revolutionary.
However, when firms act in good faith to address such discrepancies I think we may find working relationships improve, too.
But a one-off analysis is not sufficient.
Vigilance is necessary. Analyses of remuneration patterns must be ongoing to ensure that old patterns are not repeated, and that wider actions taken to reduce unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions are working.
My own sense is that transparency around remuneration is the best strategy to ensure the gender discrepancies don’t creep back in, and to engender trust in the system. Seeing is believing.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.