Business and Professional Women Australia appreciates the opportunity to contribute to Australia’s representation at CSW 55 on the priority theme of:

“Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work”.

BPW Australia has long defended the rights of women to engage fully in the workplace. For over 70 years the organisation has made representations at National Wage Cases, and lobbied for inclusion of women and girls in apprenticeships and trades. Most recently it launched the Equal Pay Alliance that has support from both public and private sectors to urge action on the 18 per cent gender pay gap.

Women continue to lag behind men in both pay equity and representation in senior management and decision making roles. Such inequity sees women failing to maximise their full contribution to Australian society thus depriving us of their knowledge and expertise; such inequity has lasting and detrimental effects on their lifelong economic well being.

Facts on the gender pay gap

Australia currently endures an 18 per cent wage gap nationally; in Western Australia the gap is 24 per cent. This gap is at its highest since August, 1994

A 1% decrease, rather than the 1% increase witnessed, in the 2009 gender pay gap of 17% to 16% would have increased GDP per capita by approximately $260 which equates to approx. $5,497Million or 0.5% of GDP

Pay inequity reveals systemic discrimination and continued under-valuation of women’s work

Single mothers and working families lose thousands of dollars annually to the wage gap

Australia continues to have a highly gendered work force

Australia women continue to have a lower workforce participation rate then its OECD equivalents. The impending skills shortage combined with an ageing workforce demands that women increase their employment participation

Australia has only 10.1 percent of female directors on the boards of the top 200 companies

Women hold only 4.1 per cent positions in line management roles

Education alone has not seen women have equal access to full employment. Despite graduating in record numbers (52%) they continue to receive less pay

What has been done?

Australia will introduce its first national paid parental scheme on 1st January 201l – a policy that is at least a start to bringing in more family friendly workplaces It is a basic scheme that will need to be extended but will at least demand some adjustment in employer and employee attitudes toward the interaction of work and  and family commitments

The ASX will from 1st January 2011 have to report on the number of women they have on their boards and in senior management. There is however no penalty applied other than to have to give an account as to what endeavours they have applied. This will need to appear in their annual report but to date there has been little if any reaction to the lack of women in such roles. Thus far it was hoped that EOWWA’s endorsement as an employer of choice might act as sufficient catalyst but this has not worked.

OFW has recently announced 70 scholarships for women to participate in the AICD company directors course.

What still needs to be done?

Women in Australia are now more educated and more qualified then ever before but still face barriers to full employment: action is required to ensure that women and girls:

  1. are educated about gender equity
  2. have access to quality and affordable childcare
  3. have access to flexible employment conditions that allow for caring responsibilities and such flexibility must be available to both men and women
  4. are advised by employers of their entitlements around caring responsibilities
  5. are afforded quality training in the workforce regardless of part-time or full time status
  6. are actively enouraged to apply for more senior roles with open discussions around job sharing or part time engagement at senior roles
  7. are advised of apprenticehips across all trades and industry, particulary those in non traditional areas such as manufacturing and developing areas such as the green economy.
  8. in non traditional trades are encouraged by employers, through peer support networks and mentoring, to pursue their careers to the highest levels

BPW Australia urges the Australia government to examine the recommendations from the Making It Fair report on Pay Equity (2009) particularly:

  • Amending the Fair Work Act 2009 and sex discrimination legislation to make equal remuneration for men and women employees for work of equal or comparable value the explicit object of the legislation.
  • The Federal Government elevate pay equity as a clear objective of modern awards.
  • The Australian Industrial Relations Commission reporting to the Committee prior to the finalisation of the awards on how pay equity principles have been achieved.
  • Amending the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to make it mandatory for employers who are repeat offenders discriminating on the basis of pregnancy or a carer’s responsibility to be required to attend counselling or an approved training course.
  • Government leadership strategies including an annual pay equity audit reporting for all government agencies.
  • Minimising ‘red tape’ for business.
  • Establishment of a Pay Equity Unit with education, research and enforcement roles to focus approaches to address the gender pay gap.
  • Removal of the exemption from the payment of the nine per cent superannuation charge for employees who earn less than $450 per month.

 

Whilst BPW Australia appreciates this CSW 55 theme we stress that such focus must not ignore the fact that despite record levels of education for women in Australia our gender wage gap is worse now then in 1994. Women and men are leaving universities in reasonably equal numbers and enter professional positions in reasonably similar proportions but women are failing to close the gap. A closer partnership must be formed between employers and employees, with our governments taking the lead, if women are indeed to have truly equal access to employment. If such partnerships are not developed we will continue to have reports such as those from NATSEM (March 2010) that shows that simply being a woman accounts for 60% of the difference between men’s and women’s earnings.