Gender equality and diversity in the workforce

March 6, 2018

Are we there yet? Gender equality and diversity in the workplace has featured prominently in the national conversation in recent months. So what better time than now to investigate the truth about gender diversity in business today?

Astute Ability Finance Group recently conducted a survey of male and female respondents from three traditionally testosterone-dominated industries – mortgage broking, professional sports, and motor trade.

It is little surprise a consensus view exists that there have been significant positive changes made. More women now hold board and management positions in once male-dominated industries and are increasingly being recognised with industry awards and nominations. But is the good old boys club a relic of the past, or is the pathway to the top still easier for men than women? Our female respondents reported a general rise in respect from their male peers; however one declared: “There’s still a lack of trust in our abilities.”

So, will the scales of gender equality in business ever be balanced? According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) latest 12-month study concluded in March 2017, men out-earned women by an average of more than $26,000 annually across all industries in Australia. Notably, the Financial and Insurance Services industry still has the highest pay gap. Men earned 31.9 percent more than their female counterparts on average for the period surveyed, compared to a 22.4 percent discrepancy across all occupations. Our respondents resoundingly agreed that there is still work to do to bridge the pay gap and boost the number of women in leadership positions.

Organisational psychologist, Paul Flanagan, reviewed the raw responses to the survey conducted by Astute Ability Finance. While noting men have also benefited from a better work-life balance because of increased gender diversity, he stressed the importance of a sustained and vigilant commitment from management to ensure further positive change.  “Gender and diversity targets are good, but they’re the easy part,” he said. “It’s critical that leaders are committed to, and involved in, the change. Businesses must also have people programs in place that enable the change. Great examples are leadership development or mentoring and coaching programs that are designed specifically to support the necessary workplace shifts at the employee level.”

For women hoping to break into male-dominated industries, the advice from the professionals we surveyed is to engage in networking and to seek out mentoring and support. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be heard, but also be willing to listen. Believe in your abilities, be yourself and always share, celebrate and brag about your wins. For business owners and management, more can be done to build awareness about careers for women and attract more female applicants, while also ensuring the right culture exists for women to continue to thrive in 2018 and beyond.

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