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Published 08 March 2013 08:10, Updated 01 May 2013 11:26
Pay equality, access to line management roles, unconscious bias, recruitment and promotion and access to training and mentoring are among the issues beyond family-friendly working conditions that help ensure true gender equality in a company. Photo: Erin Jonasson
It seems that every time we talk about gender equality at work, we talk about mothers. That’s understandable because women caring for children have such a battle to have a career and a family.
But on International Women’s Day, it is important to remember that not all women are mothers and not all mothers have children that need caring for.
In fact, according to Optimiss Consulting, 64 per cent of women aged 25 to 54 and working full-time have no children under 18.
So, when employers want to raise the participation and profile of women in their organisations, they have to look further than family-friendly policies. Fixing the entrenched inequality at work is harder than just offering part-time work and flexible hours.
To start with, any organisation that is serious about being a best employer for women should be auditing pay and performance bonuses.
It is very easy to say that your organisation is a “level playing field” if you haven’t done the spade work to find out whether it is actually true.
Research commissioned by Optimiss from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the majority of working women are not caring for children – yet most employers are still relying on family-friendly policies to achieve greater gender equity.
In the age group 25 to 54:
“Having policies for working parents is important and employers should continue to provide options for this group of employees, but this should not be where gender equality efforts end,” says director of Optimiss Consulting, Kate O’Reilly.
“Family-friendly policies do not address many of the issues holding women back such as pay equality, access to line management roles, unconscious bias, recruitment and promotion and access to training and mentoring.”
“Harder, but also rewarding, is the work that will lead organisations to ask themselves the really tough questions that bring about permanent cultural change,” she says.
“These questions include: ‘Do we promote women and men on an equal basis?; ‘Do we have a bias towards men when recruiting for senior roles?; Do we reward men and women differently for doing the same work, when it comes not just to salary but to performance bonuses?’”
Optimiss offers a gender equality assessment tool which has been trialled by companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, Coca-Cola France, Ogilvy & Mather, L’Oréal, Pfizer and PwC.