Australian retailers will head into 2024 on the front foot when it comes to closing the gender pay gap and employing a diverse workforce, just as the government sends its strongest message yet that the year ahead will be about driving change on gender equity.
This week the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) put Australian businesses on notice that come February 27, WGEA will be publishing employer gender pay gaps for anyone to access via its website.
Companies like Coles and Woolworths are among a number of retailers who will have their pay gaps disclosed, and have already taken steps to support diverse groups of employees via various initiatives.
Indeed, retailers including THE ICONIC, MECCA, Priceline, and Super Retail Group are among those that have also committed to the ARA’s Gender Equality Position Statement.
But where there is still work to be done in closing this gender pay gap for good. Retail industry’s gender pay gap is at 12.6% versus the national score of 13%, based on average weekly wages data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
To make that happen, it’s important to look at senior leadership and how this distorts average pay outcomes.
A significant and influential disparity still exists with only 13.9% of retailers headed up by female CEOs compared to 86.1% with male CEOs, according to data collected by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
As it stands 66% of the retail trade industry is female, with nearly 700,000 people working full-time – the majority of whom are men who are more likely to occupy senior management roles. Of the 650,000 people working part-time, the majority are women, according to ABS data analysed for the Financy Women’s Index.
Despite these challenges, several initiatives and actions have been taken to promote diversity and inclusion in the industry:
- Leadership Programs: Many retail companies have initiated leadership development programs to provide women with opportunities to progress into higher-level roles. These programs focus on mentoring, training, and networking to support female employees in their career advancement.
- Flexible Work Arrangements: Retail companies have started to offer flexible work arrangements that accommodate the needs of employees, particularly working mothers. This allows women to balance their personal and professional lives more effectively.
- Gender-Neutral Hiring: Retail businesses have started implementing gender-neutral hiring practices to ensure that both men and women are considered equally for all positions. This helps break down traditional stereotypes and biases.
- Transparent Reporting: Companies in the retail sector are increasingly disclosing their diversity and inclusion metrics, promoting transparency and accountability in their efforts to achieve gender equality.
Tips for addressing the remaining challenges in Australian retail
While progress has been made, the Australian retailer – big and small – still have work to be done to support gender equality, diversity and inclusion.
Here’s some ideas on closing the gap:
- Lack of female representation in leadership: Through deliberate recruitment drives and accommodative career structures such as flexibility, it is possible to build the number of women in management and the pipeline of future leaders.
- Gender & diverse background stereotypes: Stereotypes continue to affect hiring decisions and career opportunities, limiting women’s and diverse candidate’s access to specific roles within the industry. Unconscious bias training and team building inclusion workshops are often immensely valuable in understanding and challenging the way decision makers think about diversity, equity and inclusion. Blind recruitment drives, and where necessary, deliberate recruitment screening efforts, can also help to builder greater team diversity in future hiring decisions.
- Unpaid labour affecting career progression: Research has shown that too often are women offered accommodations such as flexible and part-time work at the expense of further entrenching gender inequalities. What needs to happen from an employer point of view is that these accommodations need to be equally offered and provided to employees regardless of gender and status. Until we see both men and women as caregivers, this area will continue to hold back women as they ratchet down their careers to justify caring for loved ones, whilst men ratchet up their careers to justify being the main breadwinners.
- Workplace harassment and discrimination: Instances of workplace harassment and discrimination exist in the retail sector just like they do in all industries. Ensuring safe and inclusive work environments is essential to address this problem.
Financy has recently partnered with the Australian Retailer’s Association to support the push towards equality and creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
Financy is proud to ARA members discounted access to IMPACTER, which is an online tool that provides business leaders with a best practice framework and employee validated assessment to improve business performance on gender equity, diversity and inclusion.