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Three steps to closing the gender pay gap

Earlier this month, we heard news from the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) that there has been only a tiny improvement in the gender pay gap – narrowing by 0.5 percentage points from 20.8 per cent from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. And, on average, men still take home $25,679 a year more than women.

The pay gap is a historic issue that stems from out-dated views about female job commitment and roles within the workplace.  This outlook can take the form of subconscious bias, or outright prejudice.  We all know by now that there are numerous benefits to having a diverse workforce and promoting women in leadership.  The main issue is no longer explaining why the pay gap needs to be closed, but how quickly it needs to be closed.

According to Skillsoft’s Mind the Gap report, released in July this year, when asked what more their organisation could do to support diversity and inclusion, the primary response from ANZ employees was to ensure there is no gender pay gap (34 percent). The message from employees is clear – this shouldn’t be so hard, and organisations just needto get it done.

Here are three steps all organisations, large and small can take to close the gender pay gap and create a fair workplace.

Fix it quickly

While it may seem obvious, boosting the pay of women where needed is an efficient way of immediately addressing the gender pay gap – calculate your organisation’s gender pay gap and raise female employee salaries accordingly.  At the same time, review salaries across the organisation to ensure that all employees – regardless of gender – are being paid fairly based on their experience and contribution.  The act of immediately equalising pay not only helps to directly close the gender pay gap, but also shows your employees that you are being proactive and fair about the issue.

Hold yourself accountable 

Proactively report on your organisation’s gender pay gap. Analysing and publishing your gender pay gap data can encourage greater accountability and understanding. By quantifying and analysing this, companies can begin to understand the narrative that has contributed to the pay gap and tackle any longstanding biases or strategies that promote unfairness.

Eliminate bias and advocate for women

Finding out why these biases and pay gaps exist in the first place is important if the issue is to be resolved for good, and part of the solution comes down to an overhaul of internal attitudes.  This can be achieved through:

Training: Unconscious bias training for managers and decision makers who are involved in the pay and promotions processes is integral to closing the gender pay gap.  Those in the manager’s seat need to be aware of the factual benefits of diversity and ensure they are not just awarding pay rises to those who bargain for them – usually men.

Succession planning: A recent Skillsoft whitepaper noted that 92% of women feel that there is a lack of female leaders.  If, from your gender pay gap analysis, you’ve found that men dominate your leadership team and your pay gap is wide, a strong succession planning strategy can help ensure that, in years to come, your boardroom is the picture of gender equality.

Hiring practices: On average, women are offered less than men for the same roles.  Closing the gender pay gap means ensuring women and men are on an equal footing from the start.  For entry-level roles, refrain from offering variable pay.  For those coming in with previous experience, ensure that an individual’s salary is calculated based on their skills, and expertise, rather than their current wages, which could be influenced by past biases or inequities.

Overall, closing the gender pay gap requires a long-term strategy, but there are a number of changes that can be made today.  Although immediate rectifications should be made to narrow the gap, the true change will come by assessing and overhauling internal biases towards women.  With employees’ patience running out, now is the perfect time to start assessing your organisation’s outlook on equal pay.

Rosie Cairnes is the Regional Vice President APAC at Skillsoft.

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Rosie Cairnes

Rosie Cairnes

Based in Sydney, Rosie Cairnes is regional vice president of BlackLine’s Account Management Organisation for Asia Pacific. She has more than three decades of IT industry sales, regional business development and management experience working for organisations including SmartForce, SAI Global and SkillSoft, and is passionate about helping organisations leverage technologies to accelerate workforce capability, productivity and performance.

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