IS HR DOING ENOUGH TO ADDRESS GENDER INEQUALITY?
In respect of gender inequality and pay gap, in the context of Australian workplace, it can be said that several researches have also concluded the fact that the wage gap is steadily rising (Ryan, 2017). In this regard it must be noted that “Research by Canberra University’s NATSEM shows that since 1990, the gender wage gap barely shifted, stuck between 15 and 17 per cent, and even more worryingly, steadily increasing over the past decade from a low of 15.1 per cent in February 2005 to the current high of 17.5 per cent” (Young, 2013). In Australia it has been practically predicted that women’s lower incomes impact on the ability to save for retirement with figures from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia “showing women’s average upper balances are 43 per cent less than men’s” (Young, 2013). It has been discussed in a thorough manner that if the HR policies in Australia would have been poised then the gender inequality would not have been able to influence the wage gap that is increasing steadily between working Australian male and female. Moreover, in Australia it has been seen that industries and jobs like healthcare, education, human resources and administration where pay is lesser, women get more chances and scopes (Sabell, 2017). Moreover, there are some lowest paid industries like accommodation, food service and retail trade and in such sectors huge employment of women has been observed (Young, 2013). This is also a pointer to the fact that the income inequality between Australian men and women is sustaining. It must also be noted that “Unpaid responsibilities at home also have an enormous impact on women’s paid employment and as a consequence our wages, with close to half of Australian women – 46 per cent – currently working part-time and women comprising 70 per cent of all part-time workers. And over two thirds of carers of elderly people and people with disability are women” (Young, 2013). Moreover, the fact that the HR is not doing its best to keep up the pay equality between male and female employees in Australia is evident from the fact that “The 2016-17 workplace data release by Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA)…found more employers are taking action to address pay gaps and gender imbalances that persist across the economy” (Hilton, 2017). According to WGEA Director Libby Lyons (as cited in Hilton, 2017), in Australia men are out-earning women in every industry across all occupations and this is not about the choice of women; rather, it is a truth that there is a gender gap favouring men in almost every occupation be it be of a manager, a scientist, a butcher a baker, or even a television presenter. According to the data acquired from the agencies between the period of 2015 and 2016, the female workers encounter a 23% discrimination in regards to remuneration which if shown in figures comes to $27,000 while the average full-time pay checks are compared between male and female employees. It is shocking to know that even the female dominated industries are not free from this discrimination. Disparity is also visible in the placement hierarchy as women are found to work mostly in casual and part-time position and usually not chosen to work in management positions, for an instance, only women CEOs are rare and only 16.3% are found while the role of manager is imparted only to 6%. In Australian work culture a prominent segregation is visible which shows that male workers prefer to work in the construction and mining industries while the females dominate the health care and education sector.
Men demand higher flexibility at job as they hardly worry about taking up caring responsibilities at home. Women have a much higher tendency to work part time, in fact, three times more than men because they have to balance between their career and family responsibilities and hence have to face much higher struggle to prosper in career. Since, it is not possible to offer management positions to part-time employees, women are naturally disqualified from the said positions. Hence, it can be said that gender discrimination is a burning issue that dictates the workplaces in Australia. Both male and female employees do not enjoy similar rewards neither the female employees can boast of equivalent access to resources and opportunities, although the theoretical mandate speaks of equality. Parameter and activism that encompasses Australian workforce lack equality for women and it has a long drawn history that reveals that advancement to gain equality have been sluggish, less appointment of women in management roles as well as the persistent gender gap regarding pay scale have been in vogue in almost all the industries, even in those where women are the majority like the health care and the education sector. Women are almost barred to enter in sectors like transport, mining, construction and manufacturing sectors and hence, these arenas remain to be under the control of men. Currently, many researches are being conducted to attain gender equality, various regulations have been implemented to offer the female employees equivalent stature as their male counterparts and restrictions have been mandated to curb the practices that affect gender parity yet the expected result is hard to achieve. Focus should be enhanced in organizational strategies to improve the situation and every organization needs to undergo some phase of sustainability to progress in the unique journey of gender equality but change is definitely possible if effort is honest and genuine. The pivotal question for the HR and diversity practitioners is this meticulous oversight and apprehends which workplace regulations are best to invoke diversity and gender parity particularly. The WGEA’s Gender Strategy toolkit have been implemented keeping focus on the existing practitioner framework for mobilization in gender equality and at the same time it shows the complications of applying a equalised work-frame and generate out suggestions for the next advanced step for making a place for impartial workplaces for both male and female employees.
There exists an inaccurate logic that the hunt of merit may rationalize a scarcity of female leaders which often grounds the argument that if the fairer sex achieve the adequate level of merit, they will definitely achieve the leadership opportunities too. This logic corresponds to view that women should make a move to meet the talent demand of the industry and adjust to the clichéd mould of leadership. But this conceptualization of merit has its shortcomings too. Primarily, it becomes a compulsion to prove merit and secondly, it also overlooks the conventional nature of the way people recognize merit as merit is usually perceived as per the beholder. There is no standard parameter to judge merit and leaders prefer people identical or almost similar to themselves that determines the benchmark for leadership which is called “benchmark man” which has been typically described as a non black, physically potent, person with heterosexual orientation who is neither too inexperienced in age nor too old. The typical conceptualization of a leader needs to change immediately in order to bring change in the work culture and foster gender parity. The conventional masculine attitude is threatened when explicit attention if put to bring gender equality which may hasten some negative actions by these change in work culture. To explain in simpler terms, if a person is compelled to engage in training and awareness programs, it might instigate the unconscious bias to come to the surface which may hasten the suppression of gender equality in the workplace.
Leaders and HR practitioners should be more active in formulating and implementing strategies that would ensure gender equality in terms of workplace treatment (Silas-Havas, 2017). It must be noted that until and unless the HR leaders are going to address the wage gap that is expanding on a continuous basis, in Australia and in many other such countries the issue of gender inequality will persist. It should also be noted that in the context of gender wage gap, Australia is emerging as the leader primarily due to the fact that the leadership and the HR of the majority of Australian enterprises have not taken proper initiatives and steps to address the issue of gender pay gap that has been the outcome of treatments that promotes gender inequalities (Livsey, 2017). The gender pay gap that his the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earning, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2017) has been explicitly shown in the statistics and annual reports of Australian enterprises. The gender pay gap that has devoured the economic sphere of Australia is the direct result of mishandling of situations and conditions by the HR and the organizational leaderships. But it must also be noted that there are several factors that instigate and trigger gender inequality which eventually get transformed into gender pay gap (Australian Government, 2018). Discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decision contributes to the widening of the gender pay gap (Miller, n.d.). Along with this, sectors that are female dominated actually are low waged in comparison to those that are in high demand of men. It has also been noticed that in works that are unpaid and involve care-giving and domestic work, lack of participation of men also transfers the burden over the female shoulders, making it possible for the gender pay gap to increase on a wider basis. It has also been observed in different Australian organizations that there is a dearth of proper arrangement to include care-giving scopes that again contributes to the lesser participation of women and their lower compensation. Lack of workplace flexibility is yet another reason why male are dominating the workplace in terms of fair wage and salary (Weissmann, 2012). For care-giving reasons women have to spend more time out of the work and this also expands the gender wage gap in a continuous manner. Quite pathetically though gender pay gap is the story ingrained in economies of almost every nation, Australia, as has been observes, is gradually leading the field and this is also because of the apathy of the Australian HR practices towards addressing and mitigating gender wage gap problem. It must also be noted that “Australia’s national gender pay gap has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades” (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2017). Though there has been a decrease in such a wage gap since May 2016, the percentage has only been 0.9% (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2017). Also, embodying the apathy of the HR policies to address gender wage gap problems it must be stated that between 1997 and 2017 the gender gap has been the lowest in November 2004 (at 14.9%) and the highest in November 2014 (at 18.5%) (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2017). Hence, it can be said that gender pay gap is a burning truth in Australia and the Australian HR approaches should be held liable for that.
In conclusion, still today it has been observed that in Australia men earn more than women in same organization. This can be considered a proof that there is gender inequality in Australia and the HR has not yet done enough to address the issue. Men and women working in the same job role are earning unequally, and this is what has been found in the context of Australian workplace. Though it is the duty of the HR to ensure wage and pay equality; disruption caused by gender inequality is actually widening the income gap between men and women in Australia.
Hilton, J. (2017). Is HR doing enough to address gender inequality? Retrieved January 27, 2018, from https://www.hcamag.com/hr-business-review/leadership-development/is-hr-doing-enough-to-address-gender-inequality-244874.aspx
Livsey, A. (2017). Australia's gender pay gap: why do women still earn less than men? Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/2017/oct/18/australia-gender-pay-gap-why-do-women-still-earn-less-than-men
Miller, K. (n.d.). The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
Ryan, P. (2017). Women paid $26,527 less than men per year — but gender pay gap narrowing. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-17/women-paid-$26,527-less-than-men-per-year-but-pay-gap-narrowing/9159468
Sabell, H. (2017). 2017 Trends in Human Resources Jobs. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://collegeforadultlearning.edu.au/2017-trends-in-human-resources-jobs/
Silas-Havas, E. (2017). HR Roadmap: The Path Toward Gender Equality in the Workplace for 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.jibe.com/blog/building-a-road-to-gender-equality-in-the-workplace-for-2017/
Weisssmann, J. (2012). Why are Women Paid Less? Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/10/why-are-women-paid-less/263776/
Workplace Gender Equality Agency (2017). Australia’s gender pay gap statistics. Retrieved January 27, 2018, from https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/gender-pay-gap-statistics.pdf
Young, N. (2013). Gender pay inequality is still holding Australia back. Retrieved January 27, 2018, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-16/young-gender-pay-gap/5026096