Recent studies show gender disparity at an all time high in the workplace based on industry principal managers.

Article by Women in the Workforce /
October 9, 2017 /
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Women have faced universal discrimination throughout history in many varying aspects of life. In more recent and local terms, the workplace has been the breeding ground for inequality and discrimination.

Just in the past few weeks we have seen renowned TV host Lisa Wilkinson step away from her role as presenter on Channel 9’s Today Show because her wages were not meeting those of her male counterpart Karl Stefanovic.

But where do we draw the line for gender disparity in the workplace Australia wide?

Statistics released by the ABS on the 25th of August 2017 as part of the Management and Organisational Capabilities of Australian Business – 2015-16 report, examine the percentage of women in principal manager positions based on specific industries.

These positions include only the highest executive roles in Australian businesses. The data concluded that, in total, women held just 20% of these positions industry wide.

For such a staggering imbalance to be a feature of a 2017 report, the question arises of how much has been done to bridge the gender inequality gap?

Melbourne University School of Social and Political Sciences lecturer Lauren Rosewarne offers her perspective : ‘The reality is this is a disparity women know well. Move towards equality aren’t just going to happen naturally if we are seeing data like this in 2017.’

The specific industries, in particular, that saw the most inequality were construction and mining with 95% and 94% being males holding principal manager positions.

Women’s underrepresentation in the leadership positions is further enhanced by the fact that they comprise almost half of the workforce at 42.6% and only 20% in total managerial roles.

These figures dwindle even less when they are concerning chair positions and CEO roles as seen in the the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, whose 2016 report shows women hold only:

2% of chair positions
6% of directorships
4% of CEO roles

A recent survey conducted by The Thomas Reuters Foundation sought the responses of over 10,000 women from 19 of the G20 countries about their quality of life in the workplace and any possible discrimination they were facing when thinking about advancing in their career.

45% of Australian women surveyed stated that in their experience men have better career opportunities than women.

These statistics beg the question – why are women afforded less opportunities and why are they the subject of workplace discrimination?

Stanford University researches suggest that unconscious gender bias that assigns certain attributes to respective genders could be a leading cause.

The study found people generally associate men in the workplace as being ‘driven’, ‘determined’ and ‘innovative’ where women were seen associated with being ‘collaborative’ and ‘helpful’.

Local student Harriet Mavin recalls being underestimated in her job role and belittled to feel as though she was not capable of the other male students working with her.

‘Despite having the same qualifications as the men here, the employer’s still make me do the coffee runs and often only assign me to group tasks.’

Where there is less opportunity to advance in one’s career there is less chance to be earning the same money. A federal agent has recently told Parliament the gender pay gap is expected to remain in Australian workplaces until 2067.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency boss Elizabeth Lyons was asked during Senate estimates hearings how long it would take for the gap between men and women’s pay to be closed in Australia.

She told parliament: ”Paying women more for the same position will cost the business more but there’s plenty of evidence that workplaces with more women in senior positions are more successful companies overall.”

Further affirmation of Australia’s poor performance in closing the gap is found in World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap report. Where Australia ranked 46th globally and 42nd for Economic Participation and Opportunity.

So – what do all these statistics mean? Achieving equality in the workplace has been on the feminist agenda for decades but an entire nation’s cultural attitude shift is what Lauren Rosewarne suggests must be made in order for any significant changes to occur. ‘Attitudes need to change. We need to adjust our thinking about the value of women, about the value of their economic contributions.’