Is the Gender Pay Gap Real? - balancenow

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  • 17 May
  • by Tim Keith
  • Reward

How can women be paid less than men for the same or similar work when it is 2017?

It’s a great question we should be asking ourselves and each other. In modern society that kind of discrimination should have ended long ago. The gender pay gap is an ongoing serious problem, that shows little improvement over time. The ongoing issue plays out in part due to perception, part because of ingrained bias and part ignorance of the facts.

In our WOW Insights we asked the question on pay equity and interestingly 61% of men thought there was no pay gap, whereas 61% of women thought there was.  Men still make up the majority of leadership positions in Australian business. That says something, doesn’t it?

The facts are unambiguous. Annual data obtained by WGEA shows that in 2015/16 across over 4 million employees and 12,000 employers the current pay gap is 16% with men earning on average $13,588 a year more than women.

Differences in pay can manifest in numerous ways:

  • Pay Components – 1) Fixed or permanent pay, 2) Variable or bonus components of pay, and 3) Total pay where a gap exists in one or both fixed and variable components of pay and collectively leads to lower overall remuneration.
  • Measurement – 1) National, 2) Industry, 3) Organisational, 4) Business Unit, and 5) Team variances

Additionally, WGEA data and research shows that the current pay gap exists due to three significant reasons:

  1. Male dominated industries are generally higher paying
  2. There are more men than women in higher paying leadership positions
  3. Systemic bias exists both conscious and unconscious

In fact, Lean In says this bias on pay can start in the home at an early age. Parents often place greater value on the chores boys typically do (like taking out the rubbish) than on chores that girls usually do (like setting the dinner table). As a result, boys spend less time on household chores but make more money than girls.

How do you know if you are being paid fairly?

The answer usually is that you can’t.  Australian businesses typically have opaque pay structures and rules.  Behind this veil of secrecy lies the inbuilt systemic bias. This needs to change. Greater transparency promotes higher engagement and teamwork, leading to higher productivity and business returns.

While several websites such as Glassdoor, or experienced recruiters, along with your companies’ intranet site can provide some information on salary they do not have the detail to give you confidence in the fairness of your pay.  We understand that it is difficult, and often fraught but we recommend you approach your people leader and ask them some questions around remuneration at a suitable time.  You can be sure most of the male employees already have! Additionally, you could look to your female colleagues to join you in the conversation. This will ensure any discussion is focused on fairness, not you as an individual. You might like to try something like:

Government data in Australia shows that on average women are paid 16% less than men in similar roles.  Can you please check that I am being paid the same as my male counterparts for doing the same job?  If I am not being paid fairly can you please help me find a way to get paid appropriately for my work?  Wouldn’t you expect the same for yourself?

What Can Organisations Do?

Solving the gender pay gap is firstly about establishing the facts. Every year organisations with more than 100 employees are required under legislation to report their remuneration statistics by individual to WGEA.  Within this report, the data will show any pay differences.  Companies with < 100 employees should look to obtain the same data by job role/function, level and gender from within their salary systems.

Once you have the data, and any pay gaps are exposed, the key is the action you take and how you do it. As business leaders we understand that in a cost constrained environment this is difficult. However, like other business imperatives the gender pay gap cannot be ignored.  For answers on working through the data and some options on how to make the change to remove any gender pay gap please Contact Us.


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