Today is International Women’s Day!

This year we are being urged to be bold in promoting gender equality in the workplace, the home and in the community. Remarkable progress has already been made towards achieving gender equality. However, it is clear that there is still more work to be done. We all share responsibility when it comes to closing the gender gap and improving outcomes for women. So what are the key issues that affect women in the workplace? And what can you do to promote gender equality through offering flexibility?

The gender pay gap

The gender pay gap for full time workers has persistently remained around 17%. What this means is that on average, women take home around 83% of what their male colleagues earn. It is a disappointing statistic and one that has remained within the Australian labour market for more than 20 years, even though discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited and despite a range of other initiatives being introduced.

The reasons for the gender pay gap are complex. However, a recent report by released by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency highlights the stark contrast in the different ways in which women and men engage with the workforce and how they are valued for the work they perform. It has been widely reported that women face a glass ceiling in terms of progressing to senior roles within organisations. However, the report highlights that women also tend to dominate industries and occupations where work has historically been undervalued, such as health care and social assistance. The effects of these so-called “glass walls” has been compounded by structural change in Australia’s labour force, with underemployment increasing as full time role are increasingly replaced by part time or casual work.

Promoting workplace flexibility

Research has consistently emphasised the importance of workplace flexibility in achieving gender equality. But workplace flexibility can also have a range of benefits for an organisation. It is therefore unsurprising that flexibility is becoming increasingly prevalent within Australian businesses. While the exact arrangements will vary, this may include arrangements for when work is performed (i.e. flexible start and/or finish times), split shifts or job share arrangements, or the ability to perform work from home.

As any successful people manager would understand, people are the greatest asset of an organisation. High staff turnover can cost your business dearly. A 2014 study conducted by PwC estimated that staff turnover cost the Australian economy $3.8 billion annually in lost productivity and a further $385 million each year in avoidable recruitment costs. Workplace flexibility can mitigate your staff turnover costs. It can also be a great way to boost productivity. Staff tend to be healthier, less stressed and more loyal when they are able to determine when and how they perform their work.

Promoting gender equality through offering workplace flexibility can also have a range of other organisational benefits. Indeed, the abovementioned report concludes that gender-diverse work teams and balanced representation of women at senior executive levels lead to a better workplace culture, greater innovation and improved performance. This inevitably results in improved working conditions for women, as well as increased productivity and a reduction in the gender pay gap across the organisation.

So on International Women’s Day, let’s stop and recognise the value that the women within your organisation add to your business. Together, let’s celebrate the achievements of women and even consider championing a #BeBoldForChange campaign within your own organisation!

For more information clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.