Gender diversity

Women Break Through The Glass Ceiling To Find Another One

Breaking glass ceiling news for women managers at every level. (And it isn't pretty).

By Jamila Rizvi

Gender diversity

Breaking glass ceiling news for women managers at every level. (And it isn't pretty).

By Jamila Rizvi

Think that the gender pay gap is 16 percent? Not so fast, my friend. A new report released today dives deep into the data underlying Australia’s narrowing gender pay gap. What it reveals about women in management doesn’t make for happy reading. Here’s hoping that the boss ladies among us have already downed their morning coffees. If not, prepare to snort it out your nose.

The causes of the gender pay gap are multiple and varied (for a refresher course on this go here). There’s out-and-out discrimination, sexual harassment, differential industry salaries, and the disadvantage that flows from having children, performing broader caring roles and domestic duties, which all contribute to the problem. A primary driver, however, is that women do the bulk of low paying, insecure work in our economy, while men are more likely to hold jobs at the top.

What we’ve learned today is that even women at the top echelons of their professions, are paid less than their male counterparts. Research from Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) shows that the highest paid men in Australia earn around $162,000 more than the highest paid women. While we can expect women to hold an equal number of management roles to men within the next twenty years, all of us will be dead before parity is achieved for CEOs.

For all the talk of gender equality taking time because women need to “move through the pipeline”, the report shows that men are still paid more at every level of management. Author of the report, Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells says that “for those women that do make it to the top, we are seeing an added glass ceiling. Women in top-tier leadership positions are taking home smaller pay packets compared to their male counterparts. Simply breaking through the glass ceiling doesn’t provide women with the same wage opportunities”.

Even above that shiny glass ceiling there are equality battles to fight…

Despite the sobering statistics, there is also some good news in the report. For too long employers have thrown up their hands in despair, as if they can do nothing to address the absence of women in management. As it turns out, the power to make change is securely in their hands. There are a range of practical steps employers can take to boost the number of women in management positions.

Companies that had flexible work arrangements, particularly where those arrangements were coupled with a requirement that they be reported to the company board, had 13.6 percent more women managers. Those with employer-funded parental leave schemes of 13 weeks or more halve the number of women managers who will depart the company during that dime. And employers that take steps to provide on-site child care improve the likelihood women managers will return to work after taking parental leave by almost a fifth.

WGEA Director Libby Lyons says that “these findings reveal that if you change the working conditions available to employees, the choices women can make change too… The evidence is there, and we must keep pushing hard to break down the barriers women still face in Australian workplaces.”

Interestingly the report also found that companies with a woman CEO – which is exceedingly rare amongst the ASX200 – have 8.6 percent more full-time women managers. That suggests once and for all the old adage about “women being their own worst enemies” is utter bollocks.

Women are standing ready and eager to take on leadership roles in the corporate world. Graduating from universities in higher numbers – and with better results – than men, they are pushing harder for management roles than ever before. If Australian companies just matched their enthusiasm, we’d be well on our way.