Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s equal pay report has unsurprisingly created a lot of interest.  It’s a rather blunt instrument, but then again, the sharp ones haven’t shifted the dial enough! 

It’s a blunt instrument because it simply measures the median salaries of men versus women in organisations.  That means it’s not really about pay, what it actually does is highlight gender disparities at senior levels.

A more valuable comparison for pay equity would be between roles at the same level, a same work-same pay comparison.

Nevertheless, given the size of some of the differences in different organisations, there may be a stampede from women for pay increases.  You may be successful, but beware your approach.  In the best analysis of the report I’ve seen ‘There’s a gender pay gap, can I ask for an increase?’ (The Australian Newspaper) Helen Trinca says ‘Not so fast!’

Summarising her key points:

  • Yes, this is great transparency, but it’s not about pay. What the report shows is the disparity in representation at senior levels.
  • She reminds us that paying unequal salaries is illegal – although that doesn’t mean that task differences, ‘market forces’, and performance assessments contribute to different salaries. Nor of course does it guarantee that those differences are unbiased.
  • If you want to use the WGEA data to argue for a pay rise think carefully about what you’re going to ask for, and why. Her advice is to take a look at last year’s abolition of pay secrecy clauses first. If you don’t already know what colleagues are being paid, you can ask them and they can tell you. If there’s a pay gap, there’s an opportunity to redress it.
  • While pay equity is important, by far the biggest impediment to seniority equality is promotability.

Specific work experiences like managing a P&L, commercial responsibilities and managing large teams are vital for promotion into the most senior roles.  Look critically at those above you in your pipeline to identify what experiences they have/they are getting.  If you’re not getting them, work out how you will?  Enlist the support of your organisation to get them, make that your priority.  The right experiences increase the chance of promotion, and with promotions come pay rises.

As more women are promoted into more senior roles, that gender pay gap will start to reduce.  We need to shift the pipeline, by getting more women into it.  Anything else is tinkering around the edges. Read more here about how to shift the thinking about pipelines, and fill yours with equality champions. For other ideas about what you and your organisation can do read my article on Four ways to increase inclusion here


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