Businesses which introduce strategies to dismantle structural workplace gender inequalities often have higher levels of employee productivity and satisfaction, according to the Diversity Council Australia.
Its CEO, Lise Annese, explained that gender equality should be seen as a business tool to increase business and individual performance as well as customer diversification and market penetration.
However, equality is eluding women when it comes to pay.
Australia’s full-time gender pay gap is currently 14.1 per cent, and has remained between 14 per cent and 19 per cent for the past 20 years.
This slow rate of improvement shows that executive teams need to be encouraged by HR to embrace workplace gender equality, said Annese.
“Employers who implement equality policies will experience benefits when it comes to productivity as well as attraction and retention of talent,” she said.
“Benefits apply to all staff (not just women) as well as the organisation’s bottom line.
“Women in flexible roles (part-time, contract or casual) appear to be the most productive members of our workforce.”
“They are also ten times more likely to be effective.”
“Employers must proactively dismantle the structural, societal and workplace inequalities that enable this inequality,” she said.
Diversity Council Australia’s Share the Care report outlines one reason the gender pay gap is still prevalent is women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care.
“Domestic work, lack of workplace flexibility, and time out of the workforce after having children are key drivers of the gap,” Annese said.
After having children, women undertake more household management than men, even if they are working full time.
However, fixing this inequality is more than having some men step up and do more.
HR professionals can help to tackle gender inequality in order to see benefits of increased employee and business performance. Strategies include:
- Adopting targeted programs to recruit women
- Pay gap analyses
- Flexible work policies to attract both men and women, including:
- offering options including paid parental leave, or introducing ‘shared care’ parental leave so all parents have equal paid leave and can access this flexibility
- assistance with childcare (on and offsite)
- incentives to encourage mothers to return to the workplace following parental leave
5 ways HR can encourage gender equality
1. Take stock of your workplace: Look to see if women are being represented equally at the leadership level, and if there is a pay gap.
“Ask yourself, is gender bias, discrimination or sexual harassment affecting attraction, retention and progression of women?” Annese said.
“Collecting and viewing human resource information and data will help to better diagnose your workplace for gender inequalities and bias.”
“We need to move away from the idea that women are the problem that need to be fixed”
2. Objectives for change: Set measurable and visible objectives to close the gap.
“It is critical that business divisions and individuals are held accountable for achieving them, otherwise change may never be realised,” she said.
3. Be gender conscious: Initiatives that acknowledge the issue will achieve better results than programs that ignore gender.
“Gender conscious recruitment programs aimed at women, women’s leadership development, or the introduction of gender targets are great,” said Annese.
4. Change the workplace rhetoric: Often solutions to gender inequality say women need to ‘do better’ to achieve more.
Eliminating this rhetoric and raising a workplace culture that empowers rather than hinders women is key.
“Asking women to step up in a system that is already biased against them is never going to work.”
5. Preventing sexual harassment: According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, in 2018, 23 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men have experienced sexual harassment at work in Australia.
HR professionals should “ensure there are effective voice systems to enable staff to speak up and be rewarded, not punished or marginalised,” Annese concluded.