Published: 31 August 2018

Legislative Council Tuesday 28 August, 2018

Ms  FORREST  (Murchison) - Mr President, I move -

That this House notes:

(1)     The gender pay gap remains as a major impediment to gender equality.  

(2)     The gender pay gap negatively impacts on the wellbeing of women, particularly the financial and social wellbeing, from the commencement of employment to well beyond retirement.

(3)     Progress made in gender equality and equity has contributed to making the world a better place across all wellbeing measures and it is critically important to our future that we all do much more to address and eliminate the gender pay gap. 

(4)     The gender pay gap has narrowed over time but still exists. 

(5)     The gender pay gap is the average difference between a man's and a woman's remuneration.

(6)     According to research undertaken by the Commonwealth Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) using any measure the gender pay gap exists;

         (a)   The national gender pay gap is 15.3 per cent, with women earning, on average, $253.70 a week less than men;

         (b)  The total remuneration gender pay gap is 22.4 per cent;

         (c)   There is a gender pay gap favouring men in every industry and occupational level, regardless of whether they are male or female dominated;

         (d)  As soon as women graduate they earn less than men in 17 out of 19 fields of study and across nine out of 13 industries;

         (e)   Technicians and trades positions have the highest gender pay gap at 26.7 per cent, while clerical and administrative roles have the lowest at 8.4 per cent; and

         (f)   There is a 24.9 per cent pay gap between male and female key management personnel.

(7)    Employers are continuing to act on pay equity with 155 Australian business leaders publicly signing on to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Pay Equity Ambassador program, 38 per cent of employers are analysing their pay data and more than half of those are acting on the results; however, greater awareness and more direct action is required. 

I believe this to be a very important matter to be raised in our parliament, particularly as some members have indicated in past debates a lack of acceptance or perhaps full appreciation of the reality and extent of the gender pay gap.  Unfortunately, some of those members are not in the Chamber now; I hope they are listening in other places.  One reason I brought on this motion is the clear lack of understanding of what the gender pay gap is and how it affects women in our communities. 

Private enterprise and governments around the county and the world are well aware of the gender pay gap and many are taking action.  However, the gender pay gap remains a very real and a significant issue.  It is discriminatory and results in ongoing disadvantage for women throughout Tasmania, Australia and the world. 

The gender pay gap is calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency - WGEA - using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  The gender pay gap is an imperfect measure and it is difficult to find a single figure that captures the scope and complexity of workplace gender inequality.  The conventional measure is based on the difference between men's and women's average full-time base salary earnings and expressed as a percentage of men's earnings.  In Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - OECD - countries, the median wage for women is 85 percent of men's. 

An article published in The Conversation on 2 March 2018 noted that the gender pay gap remains a permanent fixture in Australia, having barely changed in the last 20 years despite changes to educational attainment, participation and legislation prohibiting discriminatory behaviours.  On the 7 October 2017, TheEconomist published an article entitled 'Men, women and work, the gender pay gap', which sheds some light on the reality and basis of the gender pay gap.  It says -

Data from 25 countries collected by Korn Ferry, a consultancy, show that women earn 98% as much as men who do the same job for the same employer. The real reason is twofold. Women outnumber men in positions with lower salaries and little chance of promotion. And men and women are segregated between occupations and industries; those where women predominate pay less.

Just a fifth of senior executives in G7 countries are female. Across the European Union supervisors are more likely to be male, even when most of their underlings are female. Nearly 70% of working women in the EU are in occupations where at least 60% of workers are female. The top four jobs done by American women - teacher, nurse, secretary and health aide - are all at least 80% female.

Occupations dominated by women have lower status and pay. Primary teachers in the OECD earn 81% of the average for graduate jobs. Nurses earn less than police officers; cleaners less than caretakers.

It goes on to say further that gender pay gap would shrink if men moved into female-dominated jobs and vice versa.  This is the argument that then it does not apply, but in areas dominated by women it does.  I will come back to that in a moment. 

The article in The Economist also noted that the proportion of business and management degrees earned by women has grown but the number of women in managerial and senior jobs has not kept pace.  The article states -

The proportion of business and management degrees earned by women has grown steadily, but that of women in managerial and senior jobs has not kept pace. In America about half of college degrees in business awarded since 2000 have gone to women, but the share of senior executives who are female has remained stuck at one in five.

Women used to be less likely to ask for promotion. No longer: a survey by McKinsey in 2016 found that women in corporate America asked at the same rate as men. It also found that women and men were promoted at similar rates, except at the lowest rungs of the career ladder, where women lagged behind. A possible reason is that managers are reluctant to promote women who are starting families, or are likely to do so soon.

The article also refers to what it calls the 'motherhood penalty'.  It goes on to say -

It so happens that the opportunity for the critical first promotion often coincides with wanting to start a family. Data from Britain show that the age at which women's pay starts to fall behind men's tracks the age at which they typically have their first child…

Further in the article, it says -

A recent American study put the motherhood penalty - the average by which women's future wages fall - at 4% per child, and 10% for the highest-earning, most skilled white women. A British mother's wages fall by 2% for each year she is out of the workforce, and by 4% if she has good school-leaving qualifications.

Motherhood is motherhood, but women are being penalised as part of the gender pay issue.  Government policies often shape men's and women's expectations for their careers.  The article spoke to that as well -

Government policies also play a role in men's and women's decisions about how to combine parenthood and jobs. They do more than raise or lower the cost of working for women. They shape men's and women's expectations for their own and each others' careers - and companies' decisions about whom to hire and promote.

Many countries have offered paid maternity leave for decades. When it lasts a year or less, it boosts women's employment. In America, the only rich country without legal entitlement to maternity leave, a quarter of women return to work within ten days of giving birth. But many never return because they cannot bear the thought of leaving a newborn in child care, or because paying for it would wipe out all or most of what they earn.

While the provision may be there, we see this gap being magnified in cases where it is not.  We need to focus on supporting fathers as well as mothers if we want to reduce the gender pay gap.  Under the subheading, 'To help mothers, help fathers too', The Economist article comments -

Even with wisely designed maternity policies, generous child care and Scandinavian rates of paternity leave, women will not catch up with men at work without a broader sheet towards flexible working.  That would also help men to be better fathers.  Fewer now aspire to be just a breadwinner.  Research by the Diversity Council of Australia found that more than a third of young fathers had seriously considered leaving their organisation because it would not let them work flexibly.  Though Australian men ask for flexible working less often than women they are much more likely to be rejected.

We still have some work to do.  If we do not enable fathers to undertake a caring role by giving them access to flexible working times, we are doing both women and men a major disservice.  For the last three years Gender Equity Insights reports have provided significant detail regarding this important matter under the BCEC/WGEA gender equity series.  These reports are available on the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre website.  While the latest report offers some encouragement to Australian businesses, the effective actions are inconsistent.  I will read the key findings of the 2018 report, talking about the whole issue and where progress is or is not being made.

The first key finding is that -

More organisations are taking pay equity seriously.

More Australian employers than ever before are taking pay equity seriously, with increases in organisations with both policies and actions related to gender pay gaps.

In the four years of WGEA reporting, employers with a formal remuneration policy or strategy increased by 10 percentage points, from 48.9% in 2013-14 to 58.5% in 2016-17.  Simultaneously, the proportion of employers undertaking a pay gap analysis increased from 24.0% to 37.7% in the same period.

That is all good, but doing a pay gap analysis on its own is not going to fix the problem.

The second finding -

A re-balancing among top-tier managers' salaries.

There seems to be a re-balancing in salaries between male and female workers that is the root cause of large gender pay gaps, especially among top-tier managers.  This re-balancing has seen male top-tier managers' salaries decrease by almost $4000 on average and female top-tier managers' salaries increase by around $24 000 on average for those organisations that undertook a pay gap audit and took action to remedy the results.  This represents an average reduction in the gender pay gap of around 5 percentage points for top-tier managers in these organisations.

Large adjustments in discretionary pay, mostly paid at the top level of organisations, demonstrates the value of analysing pay gaps and taking action as an important step towards narrowing the gender pay gap.   This recalibration of salaries at the top echelons is starting to bring men's and women's salaries more into line, and is driving a greater degree of fairness in company remuneration policy.

When you see men's salaries decrease by $4000 and females increase by $24 000, you can see where the problem is.  There has been a massive discrepancy.

The third finding - 

Reporting gender pay gap audits to leadership critical in driving down gender pay gaps.

One of the most common actions among firms that undertook a gender pay gap analysis is to report these results to the Executive.  More than 1 in 4 organisations that undertook a pay gap analysis in 2016-17 reported their findings to the Executive and 13.9% reported on pay gaps at Board level 

Combining pay equity actions with accountability at leadership level has proved to be a powerful approach for many companies.  Companies that take actions to correct like-for-like gender pay gaps, combined with a commitment to reporting pay gaps at Executive and Board level, saw a reduction in their organisation-wide gender pay gap by an average of 3.3 percentage points in the last year alone.

That is all good progress.  The next finding -

Pay equity actions more effective in combination than in isolation.

Improved gender pay outcomes are far stronger for companies that combine specific pay equity actions, reinforcing the effectiveness of those actions with accountability through reporting to company Executives and Boards.

Actions to correct like-for-like gender pay gaps are three times as effective in reducing overall pay inequities when combined with reporting to Executives and Boards.

For managers, the power of combined actions is even more apparent.  Managerial gender gaps in total remuneration fell by nearly 13 percentage points between 2015-16 and 2016-17 for companies that combined actions to correct like-for-like pay gaps with accountability at Executive and Board level.  Actions to review performance pay processes are also far more effective when combined with reporting to Executives and Boards, with managerial gender pay gaps in total remuneration falling by 7.3 percentage points between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The final finding of that report was noted under the subheading, 'Mining and finance leads by example', which is interesting when you consider mining to be a very male-dominated area, with finance much the same.  The report found that -

Mining companies offer relatively high rates of discretionary pay of up to 39% above base salary for managers, yet retain low gender pay gaps in total remuneration of 7.4% in 2016-17. Mining also continues to perform well in driving down gender pay gaps. Mining firms reduced the overall gender pay gap in base salaries by 2.1 percentage points between 2015-16 and 2016-17, and in total remuneration by 1.6 percentage points, once compositional differences between Mining and other industry sectors have been accounted for.

Almost two-thirds of organisations in the Finance and Insurance and Mining sectors undertook a pay equity audit in 2016-17, compared to an industry-wide average of around 38%. This commitment to drive greater gender pay equity is bearing fruit. Finance and Insurance companies reduced the average gender pay gap in total salaries between 2015-16 and 2016-17, from 29.9% to 28.5%.

These may seem like small increments but they add up, particularly when we are talking about the higher echelons where the pay is significant.  Progress is being made but it is very slow.  At least many more companies are recognising the need to do something about it.  If these sorts of industries, such as mining and finance, want to attract women, they have to do something about it.

Despite the progress being made, the persistence of the gender pay gap in the Australian labour market is a perplexing issue.  It is difficult to accept that a gender pay gap exists in favour of men across 17 out of 19 fields of study and across nine out of 13 industries, meaning that women are paid less with the same qualifications as men when they complete the same degree on exit from university.  How can this be?  They have done exactly the same degree; they have exactly the same qualifications; and they come out experiencing a gender pay gap across 17 out of 19 fields of study and nine out of 13 industries.  It does not make any sense.

This is not only in the more male-oriented areas, although these are where the largest pay gaps are, with men's undergraduate starting salaries averaging at 15.3 per cent and 10 per cent more than women in architecture and building, environment, and science and mathematics.  What is also perplexing is that there is also a gender pay gap favouring men in health services.  Health services is said to be a predominately female occupation.  It has a 72.7 per cent female workforce and the pay gap in health in favour of men is 9.1 per cent, putting paid to the argument the member for Windermere put that in those areas it does not happen - it does.  This is unbelievable, but it is a reality and it is simply not acceptable.

The related fact sheets on the WGEA website regarding this issue note that gender imbalance in higher education enrolments and course completions favours women.  That is, more women enrol and complete tertiary education.  As I said earlier, seven out of 13 fields of study are highly gender-segregated.  This includes engineering and related technologies, where males comprise 84.4 per cent of enrolments, and education, where females comprise 75 per cent of enrolments.

The proportion of men and women entering the labour market on a full-time basis is relatively high and gender-balanced.  They begin work at a similar level, but gender pay gaps are higher among individuals with postgraduate qualifications, with a pay discrepancy that reflects the national average gender pay gap.  Salary data shows that a gender pay gap exists in favour of men across 17 out of 19 fields of study and nine out of 13 industries.  In economic terms, lower salaries mean women receive lower rewards than men for investing in tertiary education.  You wonder why we have trouble attracting women to tertiary education at times; in 17 out of 19 fields of study they are going to be paid less money as soon as they exit.  We simply cannot deny or ignore these facts.  We must act and remove such discriminatory practices, and call them out when they occur.  That is what I am seeking to do here.

The past decades have seen some advances with intentional policy initiatives targeting a reduction of the gender pay gap between women and men.  As noted, the number of women who study at university now exceeds men and discrimination on the basis of gender is now prohibited in Australia by law.  A plethora of other initiatives, ranging from government tax transfer reforms to general advocacy for workplace gender equity, has failed to achieve any meaningful reduction in the pay gap.  Undertaking pay or equity audits alone is not effective or sufficient.

According to the Gender Equity Insights 2017: Inside Australia's Gender Pay Gap report by Cassells, Duncan and Ong, the consequences of the gender pay gap are both severe and diverse.  At a macroeconomic level, gender pay gaps can depress economic growth and productivity.  At an individual level, it slows down the rate of wealth accumulation by women relative to men.  That reality has ramifications that reverberate across a woman's life, with women bearing exposure to poverty and disadvantage at every age.  Within the context of an ageing population in which women are disproportionately represented, gender pay gaps and gender wealth gaps pose significant risks to the economic wellbeing of Australian women.  They also have important implications for social equity and fiscal sustainability.

The Commonwealth Workplace Gender Equity Agency calculates the national pay gap as being 15.3 per cent.  Using this estimate, the gap of 15.3 per cent indicates that for every one dollar a male employee receives, a female employee receives 85 cents.  Australia's national pay gap has hovered between 15 and 19 per cent for the past two decades.  Between 1997 and 2017, the gender pay gap was lowest in November 2004 at 14.9 per cent, and highest in November 2014 at 18.5 per cent, a 10-year period.

As at November 2017, the gender pay gap by state and territory was lowest in South Australia, at 10.3 per cent, and highest in Western Australia, at 22.5 per cent.  Tasmania's gender pay gap is 10.9 per cent, slightly higher than South Australia's.  Between 2016 and 2017, Tasmania had the second smallest gender pay gap, at 10.9 per cent, after South Australia at 10.3 per cent.

The gender pay gap by industry, as at November 2017, was lowest in public administration, safety and other services, at 6.8 per cent, and highest in financial insurance services at 26.1 per cent, which I referred to earlier as seeing some progress.  The gender pay gap in the private and public sector, as at November 2017, was 19.2 per cent in the private sector and 10.8 per cent in the public sector.

The cold, harsh reality of the gender pay gap, according to WGEA data, reveals that the full time total remuneration gender pay gap is 22.4 per cent, meaning that men working full-time earn $27 000 per year more than women working full-time.  ABS and WGEA data both show a gender pay gap favouring full-time working men over full-time working women in every industry and occupational category in Australia.  As noted by the Australian Human Rights Commission publication, Face the facts: gender equality 2018, women and girls make up 50.7 per cent of the Australian population but women comprise roughly 47 per cent of employees and take home $253 a week less than men.  Australian women have to work an extra 56 days a year to earn the same pay as men for the same work.  Additionally, they spend 64 per cent of their working week on unpaid work, twice as much as men.

This inequality impacts women throughout their lives.  In 2015-16, average superannuation balances for women aged 60 to 64 years were just over half, 58 per cent, of those of men.  Men have an average super payout of $270 710 while the average super payout for women is $157 050, a difference of $113 660. 

Women spend 64 per cent of their working week performing unpaid care work, which is twice as many as the hours of men.  Australian women account for 68 per cent of primary carers, 70 per cent of primary unpaid carers of children and 58 per cent of primary unpaid carers for the elderly, people with disability or long-term health conditions, adding to the challenge of the gender pay gap. 

It is also important to note that across the Commonwealth there has been no movement in the political sector.  Between 2015 and 2018, the current status of women in leadership is still at 17 per cent compared with an increase from 14 per cent to 20 per cent in the private sector in terms of board and leadership positions.  I appreciate the work the Tasmanian Government is doing to address this.  The Tasmanian Parliament is the first state parliament in Australia to have 50 per cent female elected members.  Tasmania also has women holding the positions of Speaker, Opposition Leader, Deputy Leader, Leader and Deputy Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Leader of Government Business in this House, Deputy President, Chair of Committees and Deputy Chair of Committees in this House.  In Tasmania, we are actually doing quite well in the political sphere of parliament.  There is still some work to be done with our boards and committees, particularly the government ones.  I appreciate the Government has a focus on increasing those numbers, but there is still a discrepancy in females as the chairs or senior positions on those boards and committees.

According to the Boardwalk Leadership website, across Australia the percentage of leadership positions held by women across all sectors in the political sector is only 19 per cent.  In the public sector it is 43 per cent and in the private sector, only 13 per cent.  Clearly, more work is needed.  The real question is:  why does this happen? 

A report published by UNSW Canberra in August this year and authored by Sue Williamson and others titled The Role of Middle Managers in Progressing Gender Equity in the Public Sector drew on findings from four jurisdictions:  New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

The main findings of the report are -

  •    Senior executives and the majority of middle managers have a strong, and demonstrated commitment to progressing gender equity in their agencies,
  •     The knowledge of middle managers on gender equity policies in their agency is variable and dependent on a range of factors, including the existence of education and awareness activities undertaken by their agencies and the opportunity to discuss the policies and gender equality strategies.  Some contrasted this with the more active commitment of resourcing of White Ribbon and domestic violence awareness training,

White Ribbon and domestic violence awareness training are good initiatives, but middle managers in our public service need to be sure they have discussions about gender equity and equality in this area as well, otherwise nothing will change -

  •  Managers welcomed the opportunity to discuss how to implement gender equity in their daily working practices, and requested that senior leaders facilitate such conversations.  Managers are also largely committed to having these conversations with their staff …

That is a good point -

  • Many managers are committed to enabling employees to work flexibly, but also seek greater support on how to manage requests and how to manage employee performance, 
  •    A high level of awareness on how unconscious bias manifests in recruitment and selection processes was evident in most of the organisations.  Managers are committed to addressing the operation of biases, but would also benefit from further support in this area …

Conscious and unconscious bias is a big issue.  It is a conversation that needs to be had at all levels.  Even in this place we need to acknowledge our own conscious biases and also knowledge that we all have unconscious biases -

  •  Most managers had a rudimentary understanding of how the merit principle operates in relation to gender equity.  While all were committed to employing 'the best person for the job', conceptions of how merit is constructed and how merit and gender intersect were at a low level …

Mr President, you have to be able to 'walk the walk' as well as 'talk the talk'.  The final finding was -

  • Within each agency, we identified examples of innovative good practices to progress gender equity, spanning the employment cycle.

The report also notes -

There was significant evidence of vertical segregation.  While each jurisdiction has a majority-female workforce, when we remain over-represented in lower employment classification levels and are not proportionately represented in leadership positions.  For example, the Queensland Public Service Commission noted the slow increase in the percentage of women in Senior Executive Service positions, from 29 per cent in 2003 to 34 per cent in 2014, and noted '(a)t this rate of change it will take until around 2045 to achieve gender parity'.  Similarly, women comprised between 35 and 48 per cent of senior leadership in other jurisdictions studied (35 per cent in Tasmania as at August 2016; 37 per cent in New South Wales in 2015; and 48 per cent in South Australia in 2017.

Women are more likely to work part-time due to their caring responsibilities, which further limits their career opportunities.  The South Australian government noted: 'In 2011, the Executive Feeder Group Survey found that the belief that [women] could not access flexible work arrangements as an executive was a significant deterrent to respondents aspiring to executive levels for both genders, but women chose this reason more frequently than men.

Three jurisdictions (Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania) have a gender equity strategy.

The report notes that all jurisdictions commit to -

•           making leaders accountable and visibly committed to gender equality

•           changing workplace cultures and HR processes to overcome biases, and -

Something we all have mentioned -

•           supporting flexible working arrangements for both women and men.

Some members did not fully appreciate this important issue as evidence during previous debates.  One of the reasons for this motion is with particular regard to the employment in the areas with majority female employees, such as nursing and teaching.

This report comments on this particular matter -

However, many participants equated gender equity with numerical parity: that is, they said that gender equity would be achieved when women comprised 50 per cent of senior leaders.  Consequently, many managers considered that gender equity was not a high priority for their departments, or had already been achieved, due to the relatively high representation of women in senior leadership roles, particularly when compared to the private sector.  Comments such as the following were typical:

'It's not something I've come across here … gender is not an issue in this Department'.

The following is the crux of this issue and an important matter we all understand.  I quote from the report -

It could be argued, however, that women holding 50 per cent of leadership positions is not an equitable outcome when women hold around two-thirds of all public sector positions.  Indeed, some managers argued that despite the overall representation of women in the public sector, forms of gender inequity remain embedded in the service, but are often overlooked.  These include: gendered cultures and behaviours, limited opportunities for individuals (mainly women) with caring responsibilities or working part-time, horizontal and occupational segregation and entrenched sex role stereotyping.  In general, managers working in agencies where concerted conversations had taken place around the aims of their respective gender equity strategies were more likely to hold these more nuanced views of gender equity.

The report also noted -

… our research highlights the importance of strong agency leadership in promoting conversations about gender equity, particularly in employment contexts where numerical gender parity (or near parity) may mask more subtle sources of inequity.

I commend the report to all members.  It is very informative and available through the Parliamentary Library.  The report also includes an appendix that provides a leading practice guide that I hope all middle managers will consider and use.

The issue of occupational segregation was also discussed in the 2016 KPMG report, She's Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap.  Occupational segregation refers to the percentage of women and men in major occupational groups.  Occupational segregation has decreased slightly since 2009; however, women still have high representation in clerical and administrative, community and personal service and sales occupational classes.

Of particular note is that 22.4 per cent of women worked in an administrative position compared to 7.3 per cent of men.  Men still dominate the technicians and trades, machinery and labour and STEM - that is science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related occupational classes.  Different occupational classes are also associated with varying rates of pay, with occupations historically dominated by women typically being lower paid.

'Industry segregation' refers to the percentage of women and men in major industry sectors.  Industry segregation has increased since 2009, but men continue to occupy an array of positions in higher paid industry divisions and male representation has increased in these divisions since 2009.  Further female representation has increased in the healthcare and social assistance industry since 2009, and industry that traditionally attracts lower incomes.

Disparity in gender representation in managerial roles across sectors continues to persist.  In 2014, 19.4 per cent of men worked in managerial positions compared with only 11 per cent of women.  This has increased marginally from 15.8 per cent of men and 9.1 per cent of women in 2007.

Workplace and workforce flexibility is important in addressing the gender pay gap.  People often consider this to mean flexible work times and opportunities for women but it also means flexible work times and opportunities for men.  The Economist article I referred to earlier also notes the issue in reference to parental leave.  Parental leave extended to fathers can exist, and does in some places, but it is limited.  Few countries offering parental leave cover two-thirds of male earnings, the amount recommended by the OECD.  Even progressive families, when confronted with the loss of the father's earnings, find themselves reverting to the traditional parenting roles of the 1950s.

Women will not catch up with men at work without a shift to more flexible working that also helps men.  Few men want to be seen solely as the breadwinner.  Although Australian men ask for flexibility less often than women, they are more likely to be rejected when they ask.  That needs to change.  It needs to be part of the solution and consideration of the best outcomes for families.  Flexibility is not only a women's issue.  It is good business practice, with mutually beneficial arrangements where home and business priorities are met.

The gender pay gap is very real and has a lasting and negative impact on women.  There have been some changes in legislation since 2009 that seek to address this very real challenge.  Unfortunately, progress remains slow across all areas.  Some of the changes we have seen include amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, which came into effect on 20 June 2011, and providing protection against direct discrimination on the grounds of family responsibility and increasing accommodation for breastfeeding mothers.  The Fair Work Act created the national workplace relations system, which began on 1 July 2009.  Under the Fair Work system, a right for employees to request flexible work was enshrined in law.  The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 replaced the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999.  This resulted in strengthened legislation aimed at improving and promoting gender equality for both women and men in the workplace.  The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 also established WGEA, which is charged with promoting and improving gender equality in Australian workplaces.  Australia's first paid parental leave scheme was introduced on 1 January 2011, providing government-funded pay for eligible working parents when they take time off to care for newborn or recently adopted children.

There is also greater awareness, thanks particularly to the work of WGEA, with gender equality being promoted across Australian workplaces through a number of key initiatives.  These include the WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation that commenced in 2014.  That is a leading practice recognition program that aims to encourage, recognise and promote active commitment to achieving gender equality in Australian workplaces.  This citation is strategically aligned with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 and recognises that gender equality is increasingly critical to an organisation's success and is viewed as a baseline feature of a well-managed and leading organisation.

More broadly, there has been a push by many public sector agencies and private sector companies to tackle workplace discrimination.  Notably, initiatives including the Male Champions of Change, the WGEA Pay Equity Ambassador and Employer of Choice programs aim to prioritise reforming workplaces by challenging existing structures and ways of thinking that may drive inequality.  For example, the Male Champions of Change challenges the notion that gender equality is reliant on women's activism, and emphasises the need for active engagement by men to drive and accelerate change not on what is a women's issue but on an economic and social issue.  The 26 companies that form the Male Champions of Change are responsible for over 400 000 employees, 170 000 of whom are women.  It is worth looking at the website and seeing who is there.  You will probably know some of them. 

Despite policy and legislative environment improvements that have sought to drive greater flexibility and gender equality in the workplace, the structural and systemic discrimination faced by women remains difficult to address.  The study carried out by Polachek and Xiang in 2014, and referred to in the 2016 KPMG She's Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap report -

… suggested that a significant cause of the discrepancy in return on investment is caused by a complex interplay of social factors and gender norms.

I quote briefly from that report -

Notably, the study highlighted the variation in wage gap was highly linked to demographic characteristics such as marital status, children, and the spacing of children. The gap between single men and women was the smallest, at less than 10 per cent, while the gap between married men and women grew to approximately 40 per cent. Polachek and Xiang suggested that this is due to societal and familial expectations that women take the role as primary caregivers, thus reducing their capacity to dedicate to lifetime work, and the associated earnings growth. Notably, the wage gap grows most prominently during the period in which women generally have children, with the male wage profile growing most sharply at this stage, while the female wage profile tends to remain stagnant.

In the last 20 years the pay gap has reduced by 0.8 per cent - not much, but it has reduced.  Gender discrimination is still the single largest factor impacting the pay gap.  The 'She's price(d)less' report notes that the original KPMG 2009 report found that in 2007, of the hourly pay gap of $1.29 - $17 in today's dollars - approximately 35 per cent was potentially attributable to sex discrimination.  Seven years on, KPMG's latest analysis of the 2014 wave of Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia - HILDA - survey indicated that a gender pay gap persists and sex discrimination continues to account for the single largest component of the gap, and indeed has increased over this time.

Based on analysis of HILDA data, KPMG estimates the gender pay gap on an hourly basis increased from $1.70 in 2007 to $2.41 in 2014, in today's dollars.  KPMG considered a number of data sources in estimating the gender pay gap and hourly wage gap.  The most recent data available from the HILDA survey Wave 14 showed that women earned $29.07 per hour on average while in 2014 men earned $31.48 on average.  This represents an hourly wage gap of 7.7 per cent, or $2.41 an hour, an increase of 5.6 per cent since 2007.  Similarly, data published by the ABS showed an increase in the weekly full-time gap over the same period, from 15.5 per cent to 18.6 per cent.  The most recent labour force statistics published by the ABS for 2014 to 2016 suggests the gap in average weekly earnings reduced significantly to about 16.2 per cent in 2016. 

Taking these latest trends published by the ABS into consideration suggests the hourly wage gap may have declined to 6.2 per cent in 2016.  Applying this trend to the hourly wage gap estimated in 2014 HILDA data suggests the hourly wage gap may have fallen by $2.02 in 2016.  While this is a step in the right direction, there is still work to do to avoid stagnation and even regression. 

A number of factors directly impact on gender equality and, as such, directly contribute to the gender pay gap and need to be addressed.  It is also increasingly recognised that gender equality is critical to an organisation's success.  For gender equality to be realised, sex discrimination must be addressed because this is a key fact contributing to the gender pay gap.  The 2016 KPMG report informs us that sex discrimination as a component of the pay gap has decreased to 35 per cent in 2017 from 38 per cent in 2014.  Other contributing factors are carer interruptions, part-time employment, industry segregation and occupational segregation. 

I hope my contributions have assisted members to more fully appreciate the reality and the impact of the gender pay gap.  It has real and lasting impacts on women and must be acknowledged and addressed.  Ignoring or denying this reality is ill informed and naive.  Major corporations, businesses and industries large and small are acknowledging and seeking to address this across the public and private sector.  It is incumbent on all of us as elected member to do what we can to ensure it remains at the forefront of policy decisions and legislative reform.  As the motion clearly states, the gender pay gap remains a major impediment to gender equality.  The gender pay gap negatively impacts on the wellbeing of women, particularly financial and social wellbeing from the commencement of employment to well beyond retirement.

While progress is being made in gender equality and equity, and has contributed to making the world a better place across all wellbeing measures, it is critically important to our future that we do much more to address and eliminate the gender pay gap.  The gender pay gap has narrowed over time but still exists and we must continue to act on all areas contributing to it.

Let us not forget that the gender pay gap is currently 15.3 per cent, with women earning $253.70 a week less than men on average, with a total remuneration gender gap of 22.4 per cent.  The reality is that there is a gender pay gap favouring men in every industry and occupation level, regardless of whether they are male- or female-dominated.  Furthermore, incredibly and unacceptably, as soon as women graduate they earn less than men in 17 out of 19 fields of study, and across nine out of 13 industries.

There are a number of great initiatives in place, such as the Male Champions of Change that I spoke of, but much more needs to be done, and all leaders, whether elected or in business or industry, need to be proactive in this area.

The broader economic benefits are real and measurable.  The social benefits are also real and measurable.  Ignorance is not acceptable and we must all play a part in addressing this inequity and the issue of inequality.

Mr President, I look forward to other members' contributions.  This is one way of playing a part in this important issue.


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