5 Things Employers Can Do Today To Better Support Women In The Workplace
More women are entering the workforce each year. In fact, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the workforce participation rate for women increased to 60.6 per cent at the end of 2018.
Yet there is still an uphill battle for career progression.
In general, data shows that women earn less than their male colleagues, and that, men have a much stronger presence across most industries in leadership and senior management positions.
Women who are mothers can also face disadvantages, with difficulties finding the flexibility they need and substantially lower superannuation balances than male coworkers when they retire.
Progressive employers, together with their HR and payroll teams, are now choosing to do more to support women in the workplace. Here are five things they can start with today.
1. Reduce The Gender Pay Gap
Perhaps the most fundamental challenge facing women in the workplace is the persistent discrepancy in pay between male and female employees who are doing similar jobs.
Each year the pay gap is narrowing, but there was still a significant discrepancy of 21.3% at the end of 2018, according to Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
What can employers do? For existing female staff, progressive employers can audit their payroll and perform a pay gap analysis. If any discrepancies are found, an employer can then find ways to put processes in place to ensure the problem does not persist for new hires.
For example, this could include processes that eliminate asking women what they were paid in their last job, in tandem with the implementation of pay ranges for positions that can be used when negotiating salaries. Another approach is to have set wages regardless of external factors.
But what if you find women within your business are already being paid less than their male coworkers for the same roles? Many organisations who have uncovered pay gaps within their existing workforce have set in place strategies for eliminating these gaps over time.
While there is often a perception that this may impact the business bottom line, in fact attracting and retaining quality talent - male or female - through equal pay measures can be a contributing factor in building an engaged workplace where all employees feel valued, and motivated.
2. Provide Economic Security
Employers should consider paid superannuation to female staff during their parental leave for the same reason, with resulting benefits for women including improved long-term economic security.
For a number of reasons - including broken working patterns and casualisation of the workforce - by the time women reach retirement age, their super is significantly less than men at retirement age. Australian Superannuation Funds Australia statics show both the incidence of having super and average account balances are higher for men than for women. For example, in 2015-16 men held around 61.2 per cent of total account balances compared with around 38.7 per cent for women.
Offering a parental leave scheme that supports women taking maternity leave while raising a young family is one way to not only attract and retain good talent, but to address economic security.
3. Champion Career Progression For Women
Even in today’s modern workplaces, women are still less likely to progress into managerial positions than their male colleagues.
The percentage of women CEOs at ASX 200 companies is currently only 7%, an increase from 5% a year ago. All around Australia, there are fewer women in senior management positions than men.
There are a number of things employers can consider to address the imbalance.
For example, there are many companies who have chosen to actively set targets for women in leadership positions, in an effort to benefit from diversity. The success of these programs so far has depended on buy-in from people already in positions of power in the company.
Another way to simulate progression is by providing bonuses based on meetings targets in performance reviews.
Companies have also started adding sponsorship programs to support women in the workplace and career development. These programs emphasise helping women to overcome barriers in the workplace. By pairing them with a senior manager who can vouch for them for future opportunities and promotions, it aids in the chance of progress.
4. Adopt Family-Friendly Policies For Men Also
While women are assumed to be the default primary caregivers of children, the reality is that men would be more likely to choose this path if supported by their workplace and culture.
At present, men generally are only able to have two weeks of paid paternity leave as part of the Dad and Partner scheme. Only a very small percentage of men access this government scheme.
With men having access to very little paid time off from the workplace, it greatly impacts their ability to be able to participate fully in raising a family. Another side of this is that it makes it more difficult for a woman to return to the workplace sooner and continue with her own career progression.
Australian companies are starting to realise that flexibility for all parents - women or men - is becoming an important factor in creating modern and engaged workplaces.
5. Offer Flexible Work Schedules
Many companies who say they offer flexible work schedules and work-life balance in many cases are not as flexible as they sound. For example, letting women work from 10 - 6 instead of 9-5 might be well received by employees, but is not truly providing a flexible work environment.
Instead, flexibility means allowing employees to adjust their work schedule, without any disincentives, or penalties, to be able to react to anything life throws their way - sick children, elderly parents who need care, going to a school play, or whatever the case may be.
This is as long as employees still produce results and get work done.
What benefits does this provide to employers? By focusing on the work and performance of an employee rather than how many hours they sit behind their desk, employers will be making them feel valued and increasing their satisfaction so that they stay around longer.
By doing these five things today, your company can start to unlock more of the benefits of fully engaged women in the workplace, while supporting them holistically in work, life and career.
#BalanceForBetter #WomensDay #GenderEquality #IWD2019
Written by: Mohamed Derie
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