Glass ceilings fall when workplaces are on board

Women have had to navigate their way through visible and invisible barriers for centuries to achieve equal standing in society and our workplaces.

These barriers have also obstructed our societies and economies and their ability to progress and reach their full potential by holding half the talent pool back.

The latest report released by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, examines these barriers, as well as gender pay gaps across occupations and industry sectors using five years of the extensive WGEA reporting data, covering more than four million Australian workers each year. There are positive signs the progress women have made over the last five years will continue.

For example, women are progressing into full-time management roles at a faster rate than men. If the current patterns continue, it will take another two decades for women to have equal representation in full-time management roles. For lower-tier managers, this could be even sooner, with parity just over 10 years away. And while top-tier management positions are the most under-represented by women, they have the fastest growth rate.

But while women are progressing into management and leadership roles, this does not mean they will be paid the same as their male peers.

At every management tier, the report finds the spread of salaries available to men is much wider and higher than those available to women, indicating an additional glass ceiling.

The highest paid 10 per cent of men will earn a total salary of at least $600,000, compared to the highest paid 10 per cent of women who will reach only $436,000.

Rental, hiring and real estate has the highest glass ceiling, where the pay gap of those on the highest pay is 35.6 per cent. This is closely followed by the retail and finance and insurance sectors.

This report, the fourth in a series, finds that if our workplaces and policies aren’t designed well, we run the risk of wasting this talent. Employer-funded paid parental leave schemes covering more than 13 weeks halves the share of female managers who stop working during PPL relative to those who access only the federal government PPL scheme. And workplaces that provide on-site childcare reduce the loss of female managers during PPL by almost one-fifth.

The research investigates the role of workplace environments and policy initiatives in progressing women in the workforce, breaking through barriers and narrowing the gender pay gap.

There are valuable findings about the role flexible workplace policies, employer provided on-site childcare and employer-funded paid parental leave have on retaining and progressing women managers and leaders.

If the work environment is set up well, women will progress, women will lead, and ceilings will fall.

Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre