Equal pay opportunities in focus this September

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Australia is a global leader in many social issues.  Gender equality isn't always one of them.  Its seems staggering that here we are in 2015 and we still need to have an official 'Equal Pay Day'

You may not have heard of it but it's happening this Friday.  Why this Friday you may ask. Well this Friday is 65 days after the start of the new financial year and 65 days is (not coincidentally) the number of extra days the average woman would need to work each year to earn as much as her male peers.  65 days!  That's staggering isn't it?

While the message of equal pay and opportunities is getting louder, it seems very few businesses are willing to take it seriously. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the national pay gap fell just 0.4 per cent in 2015 to reach 17.9 per cent.

That means it is still at levels similar to those experienced in the 60's and 70's.  Those were the days portrayed in Mad Men!

DCA CEO Lisa Annese explained what this means for women today.

"The current gender pay gap means women are earning just over 82 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earn, down from an average of 85 cents, eleven years ago," she said. "It's pretty depressing that we still find ourselves in this position in 2015."

Annese added "Frustratingly, a lot of organisations appear to be dragging their feet when it comes to investigating exactly what's going on in their organisations - only one in four reporting to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency had conducted a gender pay gap analysis," she continued.

The DCA findings also show that having a child will result in an average 17 per cent lifetime drop in earnings for women.

The reasons for this staggering disparity are many and complex.  The Diversity Council of Australia has rafts of research papers and articles covering the subject.  Their archives are well worth a read. Not all of their conclusions and findings are as intuitive or obvious as you would think.

Reasons such as differences in negotiating style and unintentional bias are cited often.

So in the lead up to equal pay day I thought I would pose a question.  Why don't organisations with a zero gender pay gap advertise it more?  Why isn't it a differentiator they use to their advantage?  If the search for talent is so fierce why isn't it something that is used as a tool to attract top resources?

The flip side of the question is, why don't candidates ask about the gender pay gap within individual companies?  Do you know how many candidates have asked me that question in my 17 years in the recruitment industry?  Zero, that's how many.

So why isn't this a hotter topic during the recruitment process?  Why aren't HR departments of progressive companies publishing and advertising this information for all to see?  Why aren't candidates looking for progressive companies asking about the gap?

Here's our figures:

  • We employ a 50/50 male/female mix
  • We employ 50/50 male/female mix in senior management positions
  • We have a 50/50 male/female mix at Director level

Comparing male and female salaries with those of their peers shows us that overall female employees earn 8 per cent more than their male counterparts.

Returning mothers earn 5 per cent more than the average salary of other female employees and 11 per cent more than the average salary of their peers.

For the record all of the above has occurred by accident rather than by design

What are your figures?  What do they say about your company? Could they differentiate you from your competitors?  Could they be a valuable asset in your search for talent?

So, let's spend some time on national equal pay day considering the part we can play in bringing down this unforgivable disparity.  Maybe the part you play is as simple as asking a few small questions.

By Simon Moss