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The stats from the latest Gender Equality Agency report are in, and they sadly do not represent both genders equally within Australian workplaces. Reporters from the ABC: Emily Clark and Rhiannon Hobbins, have discussed these statistics at length and explored what needs to be done, in order to improve gender equality in workplaces for the future. A copy of their article is written below:

“A new study has found that women make up just a quarter of those employed in the key management positions of Australian companies.

As well as an under-representation of women in management positions, the findings revealed the average full-time earnings of men were almost 25 per cent more.

One-third of Australia’s workforce was included in the data, with more than 11,000 employers reporting to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) on more than 4 million employees.

WGEA director Helen Conway said the results of the Gender Equality Scorecard were “ground-breaking” and proved gender equality needed to become a priority.

“It doesn’t matter how you look at it, women are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to climbing up the management tree,” she said.

A glass ceiling was evident at the first layer of management where women comprised 39.8 per cent of employees, but the number fell to 31.7 per cent at the next level of management – senior managers.

From the senior management level, female representation steadily declined with women comprising 27.8 per cent of executive and general manager roles in Australia, and 26.1 per cent of key management personnel (KMP) positions.

At the top management level, chief executive, women held 17.3 per cent of positions.

One-third (33.5 per cent) of employers had no KMPs who were women, and 31.3 per cent of organisations had no other executives or general managers who were women.

“There are significant cultural and structural barriers in workplaces that stop women from moving up,” Ms Conway said.

“One of the main cultural barriers is gender bias.”

Ms Conway said there was a belief new mothers should be able to do some work but it was often not career-advancing work.

“Often women come back from parental leave and there is an assumption made that they won’t want career-advancement work, that their only priority are family priorities,” she said.

“Flexible work means more than giving new mothers poor-quality part-time work … it should focus on outcomes. So employers should say, ‘these are the outcomes we need from you, we don’t care how you get there’.”

Ms Conway said as well as more opportunities for women to move up the ladder, increasing the number women in the workforce would increase productivity and overall organisation performance.

“It makes sense to improve GDP by improving female workplace participation,” she said.

The G20 acknowledged the potential of gender equality recently by committing to close the workforce participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025.

“There is a strong economic case for organisation to increase female participation,” Ms Conway said.

“If you increase diversity in a workplace you improve innovation, decision making and organisational performance.”

Largest pay gaps in financial and insurance sectors

The report revealed women’s average total remuneration across all industries and occupations was 24.7 per cent less than men.

The figure was highest in the financial and insurance services sectors at 28.4 per cent and 36.1 per cent respectively.

Ms Conway said organisations needed to make flexible work “business as usual” without it being a disadvantage to career advancement so women could move up the management ladder and have the same access to discretionary pay as their male counterparts.

“There is a good business case for gender equality in Australia,” she said.

Strategic direction towards gender equality needed

Less than one quarter (24 per cent) of organisations have undertaken a gender pay gap analysis and less than one in 10 (8.8 per cent) of organisations have set a target to lift the number of women around the boardroom table.

Ms Conway said a purposeful strategic approach was needed to make lasting change within organisations.

“Organisations are not taking a strategic approach to gender equality. We are finding those that are trying have disconnected initiatives that are often ad hoc and are not going to lead to sustained change,” she said.

“Taking a strategic approach needs to come from the top. The leaders need to be driving the change for it to last and we’re not seeing that happen.”

Ms Conway said flexible work arrangements, paid parental leave and initiatives to prevent sex-based harassment and discrimination in the workplace were all enablers of gender equality.”

These statistics reveal that there is a clear gap between females entering into the workforce and acquiring these high level managerial positions and it is a gap that VM Learning aims to bridge with their ‘Women As Leaders’ program.

The program now has a key focus on addressing these recent statistics, by developing specific strategies for dealing with barriers for women in management. It also aims to make the program more relevant to the individual by analysing current opportunities within the job market and what they mean for both women overall and the individual.

Having this ability to personally connect and relate to the individual participants makes VM Learning’s ‘Women as Leaders’ program so unique and worthwhile.

The Women and Leaders program will start again in 2015, with the first public workshop held in February. Please call 07 3215 8888 to book now and take part in bridging the gap between male and female leadership positions in the workforce.