How to promote gender equality in your business

Authored By Ms Carly Fordred

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The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Commonwealth) aims to improve and promote equality for both women and men in the workplace. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, a federal government agency, manages application of the legislation by gathering and reporting information to various government and non-government bodies to ensure legislative compliance and to promote workplace gender equality.

In this Tips and Trips, we outline workplace gender equality and relevant legislation; describe some steps that can be taken to promote gender equality; and if your staff count is 100 or more, what the reporting requirements for your organisation may be.  We acknowledge the information provided by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in developing this Tips and Trips.

 

What is the aim of workplace gender equality?

Gender equality is achieved when people can access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are a woman or a man.

Despite many efforts locally and worldwide towards progressing gender equality in recent decades, particularly in areas such as education, women continue to earn comparatively less than men; are less likely to advance their careers as far as men; and are more likely to spend their older years in poverty. At the same time, many men find it more difficult than women to access family-friendly policies or flexible working arrangements.

The aim of gender equality in the workplace is ‘fairness’ - to achieve broadly equal outcomes (not necessarily the same outcome though) for women and men. It is also important to the bottom line of a business and national productivity.

This can be done by:

• providing equal pay for women and men for work of equal or comparable value

• removing barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce

• allowing access to all occupations and industries, including leadership roles, for women and men

• eliminating discrimination on the basis of gender, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities for both women and men.

 

What are the benefits of workplace gender equality?

Gender equality attracts top talent A workplace that is equally appealing for women and men will provide organisation's access to the entire talent pool.  As women are increasingly more highly educated than men, a workplace that is not attractive to women risks losing the best talent to its competitors.

Gender equality can reduce expenses If men and women view an organisation as fair, employee turnover may be reduced which may consequently decrease the high expense of recruitment.  For some roles, replacing a departing employee can cost 75% or more of their annual salary.  

Companies with gender equality perform better There is substantial research that suggests there is a link between gender equality and better organisational performance, with one key factor being that diversity brings together varied perspectives, produces a more holistic analysis of the issues an organisation faces and spurs greater effort, leading to improved decision making.  

Gender equality improves national productivity and competitiveness The World Economic Forum has found “…empowering women … and … reducing gender inequality enhances productivity and economic growth. Over time, therefore, a nation’s competitiveness depends, among other things, on whether and how it educates and utilises its female talent.”

Gender inequality is wasting resources While it is recognised gender inequality exists, Australia is not only missing out on the important contributions women make to the economy but can better capture the substantial economic contribution tertiary educated women offer. Around 58% of Australia’s university graduates are women but only 67% of working aged women are currently in paid work, compared to 78% of men. 

 

For small business, what are some things to be aware of?

Small businesses in Australia employ a large number of employees and face a unique set of issues when it comes to managing and improving gender equality in their workplace.

Out of Australia’s more than two million trading businesses, around 96% are small enterprises with up to 19 employees, about 4% are medium sized enterprises employing between 20 and 199 employees and less than 1% are large enterprises with more than 200 employees.

The key challenges for small businesses trying to achieve workplace gender equality can be classified into two broad categories:

1. Gender pay equity:

• limited awareness of gender equality and pay equity within small and medium enterprises

• negotiation skills amongst women contributing to pay inequity within small and medium enterprises

• competing priorities in a challenging, often difficult economic environment.

 

2. More specific small business management issues, including:

• lower turnover rates

• higher impact of parental leave costs

• challenges in implementing flexible work options

• limited or no HR resources

• limited resources to develop gender strategies and management systems

• limited data collection systems and processes.

 

Some suggestions for helping to make your workplace more gender equal

• Set up a Diversity Working group – this group can review existing data, practices and policies and recommend changes or improvements including business targets

• Develop regular and ongoing communication within the business in addressing and prioritising business requirements in relation to gender equality

• Effectively use concrete measures such as the pay and remuneration in a workplace and the composition of the workforce by gender and age to improve business people management practices

• Investigate and adopt suitable talent and diversity strategies

• Continually review all people management and HR practices and policies to maximise benefits 

 

Is it relevant for your business to provide an annual report as per current legislation?

A ‘relevant employer’ is a non-public sector employer with 100 or more employees in Australia for any six months or more of a reporting period, 1 April of one year to 31 March of the following year. The six months do not have to be consecutive months. All employees (by headcount and not as full-time equivalent) should be counted. This includes full-time, part-time, casual and temporary employees of the employer (including all of its subsidiaries employing employees in Australia). Independent contractors should not be included in the headcount. 

The 2017-2018 reporting period under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 commenced on 1 April 2017 and reports for this period are due between 1 April 2018 and 31 May 2018.

More information is available at the following website: https://www.wgea.gov.au/report

 

Summary

Gender equality in the workplace is designed to achieve balanced outcomes for all employees along with the removal of barriers to the full and equal participation in the workforce giving access to all occupations and industries, including leadership roles, for women and men.  Well designed and managed gender equality programs not only lead to outcomes of improved productivity, they also assist in better attraction and retention of employees.  Gender equality is achieved when people can access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are a woman or a man.

 

Needing advice and help?

For support and assistance on developing workplace gender strategies or policies, or you need help with reporting, please contact hranywhere, part of AB Phillips, Monday to Friday between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm AEST by phone on 1300 208 828 or email

Please note that the above information is provided as comment and should not be relied on as a substitute for detailed professional advice from hranywhere or professional legal or financial advice on any particular matter. Where you would like additional information and support about the content in this document please contact hranywhere.