Glenn Bartholomew: When this move was first suggested, it was said that despite companies being able to identify gender pay gaps, they weren't really doing much to fix it. Is that fair?
Claire Braund: That's absolutely fair. This has really come out of the excellent review into the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. There were ten really key recommendations that came out in 2021, one of which was publishing the data around the gender pay gap and of course, the Labor Party committed to implementing all 10 of those ahead of the 2022 Federal Election.
GB: This name and shame approach has been introduced elsewhere, I think also in the UK. Did it work? Did the gap get smaller?
CB: In some instances in the UK the gap did get smaller. Of course, some people and some organisations are shameless, in which case they have no regard for it. So of course we have to be mindful that just because we're publishing it doesn't mean that someone's going to do something about it.
Interestingly, Women on Boards adopted the same approach back in 2009 when we started our Boardroom Diversity Index, where we published the names of companies that did not have females on boards or had very low representation. And we used to get calls from those organisations, from the company secretaries saying, ‘can we get off your list?’ The answer was fairly obvious in how to do so.
This issue is more complex, but I think what it really does is give - particularly graduates going into the workforce - it gives people changing jobs, it gives them the opportunity to look at the WGEA data, which is Australia's most magnificent gendered data set. It's probably the best in the world. It gives them the chance to look at that and say,
"I'm not going to ‘ABC’ Company because they pay women significantly less than they pay men and I can't see career progression there. But I will go to company ‘XYZ’ because I can see that whilst they have a small gender pay gap that is declining over time and they're doing something about this. So my prospects as a female engineer, banker, lawyer, whatever, will be better at this organisation". So it's going to become a bit of a talent war.
GB: Indeed away from the shame, it might have cost them some real good recruits. Is it the case that some big employers here are now perhaps rushing through some pay rises to women to avoid being on the bad list next year?
CB: I suspect it's probably put a reasonable focus on this when it hasn't in the past. Of course, these companies have always reported the gender pay gap, but the WGEA hasn't been able to release the data.
The critical thing that's happening is the data is going to be made public. So all of a sudden there's going to be a level of oversight and a level of scrutiny that hasn't been there previously.
We all know that the national gender pay gap is 13.3%. We all know industries and sectors where it's probably higher, but when you get it down to individualised company level, that's when you can start to have some traction in creating programs and putting pressure on organisations to make that change. And I suspect, much as they did with the issue around women on boards, they're going to start to try and get ahead of that. So they perhaps ward off any undue criticism if they are seen to be getting on top of this, particularly where there's been an entrenched pay gap for a long period of time and where nothing has happened. And that's really where the WGEA has exposed that. We've known about the gender pay gap, we've known about it for 10 years and it hasn't been fixed.
So that's one area. But I think the other thing that's really interesting is that the reason women have a huge gender pay gap is because, of course, superannuation balances for women are particularly low. Women in Australia retire on a lot less than men. And so what we can do to fix that is, of course, raise their income levels to be at parity with men. So over time, that gap reduces when you look at the disparity between male and female superannuation.
And so I think this is a really good move, because in 10 and 20 years time, given we have still the same super regime in place, this will start to fix it slowly. So I think this has been a really positive move and I think it's a case of, we know there's a gender pay gap, we know why it happens. Let's not repeat that mistake.
GB: You’ve had some success with your campaign of the nation's top 50 companies promoting women to senior roles. But as I understand it, as you move lower down the listed company ranks, the progress drops off. What we want to see is it going across the board. That's the challenge and the time starts now, unless you end up on the shame list. Claire, we'll talk again. Thanks a lot.
Companies With Gender Pay Gaps on Notice