Opinion: How to close Australia’s gender pay gap

by Colin Brookes14 Nov 2017
By Colin Brookes, President and Managing Director, SAP Australia and New Zealand

Eliminating the gender pay gap is a simple process when you stop and think about it.

If you find disparity in pay among employees who have the same level of experience and perform the same job, get rid of that disparity. OK it’s not as easy as simply flipping a switch but it’s not rocket science either.

Despite this, the gender pay gap is still prevalent in business – sitting at 15.3 per cent in Australia.

And disappointingly, it has hovered between 15 per cent and 19 per cent for the past two decades. To put this into context the gap is the equivalent of more than $250 a week based on the average salary.

Addressing the issue not only makes sense from an ethical standpoint. It’s good for business too. Research suggests closing the gender pay gap entirely in Australia would boost long-term labour productivity growth by 5.7 per cent.

Action is required. Because recognising all Australians equally for their contributions is an important part of setting the baseline for a successful and prosperous country.

Putting words into action
Closing the gender pay gap is an incredibly important undertaking for us at SAP – and part of a much larger strategic focus on boosting diversity and inclusion at our company.

To give an example of how we live these values, SAP recently signed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) Pay Equity Pledge. As part of this we ensure starting salaries for females and males are on par for similar roles based on experience and skill set.

We’ve also increased awareness of workplace flexibility to accommodate care responsibilities to ensure time out of the workplace does not impact career progression, and we continue our annual pay equity review during compensation planning.

Through these commitments, we have been awarded WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation status for the last two years. And in the past 12 months we’ve reduced SAP’s gender pay gap from four per cent to two per cent.

However, we’re not happy until this gap is zero – and it is a priority for the business to achieve this.

Four steps to closing the gender pay gap
Based on our learnings to date, here are four ways to promote gender equality in the workplace:
 
  • Ensure positive change is led from the top – Senior leaders must be invested in closing the gender pay gap, and be seen to personally back the initiatives promoting it. This can be demonstrated through regular communications sharing successes and new offerings, or simply living the values that have been outlined by pledging support to industry initiatives. We’ve taken this a step further at SAP Australia and New Zealand with our entire leadership team forming part of the diversity and inclusion council.
  • Foster a new way of thinking – A barrier to resolving gender pay inequality is unconscious bias, with previous ways of working and structures dictating how we approach the issue. To counter this, educate employees around the stereotypes and issues they need to be aware of so they don’t impact decisions. This can be achieved through learning modules and training, or briefing hiring managers.
  • Build the business case – Demonstrating the positive impact of closing the gap on business outcomes encourages wider uptake and participation. Similarly, it helps identify your strengths and weaknesses in promoting gender equality so you can offer support where it is most needed.
  • Track your progress – Identifying the impact and uptake of your offerings is essential. Stating aims and objectives at the outset also keeps the business accountable and maintains focus. This step helps the business track return on investment and successes to date, which enables you to constantly update and expand initiatives to ensure they remain effective.
It’s a priority for me to promote gender equality in Australia, helping drive positive change by taking an active stance within the business community.

Eradicating gender pay inequality, and building a diverse and inclusive workforce needs commitment from an entire business – not just the HR team. Change starts at the top, and I strongly encourage other leaders to drive this within their own organisations, putting intention into action to help deliver Australia’s future success.

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