Wednesday 8 March marked International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the social, political and cultural achievements of women all over the world. The day is also an important time of reflection, an opportunity to look at what’s been achieved in terms of gender equality and what work still needs to be done.
One of the key areas in which we see a lack of gender equality is in the workforce, on a global level. Unfortunately, in 2017 there is still a clear difference between the way women and men are treated in the workplace and the way in which they are valued. In fact, the World Economic Forum has predicted that the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186 – that’s another 170 years of inequality for female employees.
How Are You Supporting Women in Your Organisation?
- Do men and women in your company receive the same level of pay, when doing work of equal or comparable value?
- Does your organisation have an equal representation of male and female leaders?
- Are you doing enough to support the professional development of women in your workplace?
Is There an Under-Representation of Women in Leadership?
- In Australia, women account for 34% of senior managers and 16% of chief executives in the private sector; in large publicly listed companies, only 5% of ASX 200 CEOs are women.
- Recent research from three separate organisations shows senior female managers earn, on average, $93,000 less per year than their male equivalents.
- High-level female managers earn an average of 5% less than male managers, as reported by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, in collaboration with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
- Women are twice as likely to be told they need more confidence when applying for a promotion or leadership role, compared to their male colleagues. Yet at the same time, many female employees are criticised for being overly assertive.
It’s vital that business leaders take action to address this inequality and encourage a higher representation of female leadership throughout the workforce. Your organisation will also benefit from having more women in leadership roles, as you’ll be encouraging greater diversity of thought and experience – something that is highly valuable in any industry. Alison Kay, global Vice-Chair of Industry at EY, says that after speaking to 350 business leaders, there is "overwhelming agreement that gender diversity is essential to business performance." These leaders also agreed that "more needs to be done to attract, retain and promote women into leadership."
What Can You Do to Promote Gender Equality in Your Workplace?
If you’re a CEO, employer or manager, you’re in a strong position to take action on this issue. There are many things you can do to accelerate gender equality within your organisation, creating positive change on a higher level in the process.
As a start, you should:
- Aim for an equal target of representation of each gender in employment and leadership roles.
- Make sure that women and men who are doing the same role (for example, two engineers or two senior leaders) are paid the same amount of money.
- Ensure female employees are involved in policy and decision-making processes.
- Always be inclusive, making sure women are equally represented in delegations, speaking panels and boards.
For individuals, particularly within the context of the current political climate, reading these figures might feel quite depressing. But it’s not just CEOs and employers who can help to create positive change in the workplace. You also have a voice and the right to speak up about gender inequality and bias when you see it. Use International Women’s Day as a reminder to celebrate women’s achievements across the world and advocate for a more gender inclusive world – every day of the year.