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Greater job flexibility, better child care access needed to address WA's gender pay gap, report finds

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Author: 
Kagi, Jacob
Publication Date: 
3 Jun 2015
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Western Australia has the nation's largest gender pay gap and urgently needs to implement greater job flexibility, more meaningful equality targets and better access to child care, a new report has found.

Think tank Committee for Perth has today released the final version of its Filling the Pool report, which identifies causes and ideas to fix workplace gender inequality in the state.

The state's 25.3 per cent gender pay differential is more than 7 per cent above the national figure, despite a slight improvement in the gap in WA over the past decade.

The report found that a wide range of factors were responsible with a "systemic bias" hampering equality in the workplace.

"[The pay gap in WA] is predominantly caused by male dominance in higher paid industries such as the mining sector, male dominance in higher paid operational roles and their predominance in senior roles," the report stated.

"A systematic bias in the remuneration of females was widely reported by interviewees and uncovered in all organisations which had conducted gender pay audits."

Gender gap embarrassing and concerning, committee says

The committee's chief executive, Marion Fulker, said the size of the differential was both embarrassing and concerning.

"It is certainly more profound [than the rest of the nation] and that is something for which we should hang our heads in shame," she said.

"One of the very telling results of the report is the fundamentals that exist in other cities and states for women to succeed in the workplace are absent or somewhat eroded here in Perth.

"We've got the least number of childcare places in Australia, we've got people migrating to Perth without extended families ... and often women haven't had a discussion with their spouse about who is going to manage the children."

Ms Fulker said deeply worrying examples of discrimination were raised in the compiling of the report.

"Things like sexual discrimination and harassment which have been illegal for some time but are now just more subtle," she said.

The report found that, at the current rate of change, it would take more than 300 years to have an equal number of male and female chief executives.

Among West Australian organisations the report examined, primarily ASX-listed companies, just 1.6 per cent of CEOs were female while just 6 per cent of directors were women.

Ms Fulker said while many employers did offer flexible working conditions, those would have to be available more broadly to facilitate workplace equality.

The report also recommended organisations adopt gender equality strategies and put in place guidelines that involve women in the recruitment for vacant positions, with at least one female on every shortlist for an advertised job unless there was a reason that was not possible.

The report encouraged women to help to address inequality by working on their self-confidence, starting with an end goal in mind and acting as role models to females in less senior positions.

"Another key recommendation is for government to bring this issue to light because the levels of inequity for women and girls in this state is not good," Ms Fulker said.

Pay gap a 'disgrace': mining company chair

Erica Smythe is the chair of a WA mining company and has worked in the industry for 40 years.

"What disturbs me the most in Perth ... is for the last 25 years we've had an equal number of women graduating from universities in finance, accounting and law, yet the record of our professional service providers [when it comes to wage equality] is a disgrace," she told 720 ABC Perth.

"What is it about the way partners are rewarded or the way the system works, what is the unconscious bias?

"[It's] time to stand back and really look at what's happening there."

Ms Smythe does not have children but lobbied hard for childcare facilities at her workplaces.

She also said Perth had a boys' club culture of rewarding mates.

"There's a lot of unconscious bias," she said.

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-Reprinted from BBC News

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Entered Date: 
3 Jun 2015
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