To see real change when it comes to decreasing the gender pay gap, there are practical, workable steps businesses can take without having to commit significant investment to the issue.

At the recent Michael Page event, “Closing the Gap: An open discussion around progress in equal pay”, executives shared their experiences and insights from their own organisations.

Ryan Atkins, HR Director at Philips offered a reasonable starting point for any size company or business: “In terms of what is measured and what is done, there are various things you can do that won’t cost any money. Look at your data. If you’ve never looked at your data, you will find bias all the way through it.

“Go through every promotion, every end of year review – collate it and you’ll be able to see where the issues are so you can share it with management and say, ‘We have these biases at work and we need to create structures and processes to continuously protect us from them’.”

Atkins said the heath technology company takes into account female participation at application stage: Is it going up or down? Why? Is its employee value proposition working or not?

“We also look at women in shortlists and the women who are hired – all very easy to measure,” he added.

“We do some other work around looking at end of year reviews and looking at the different scores cut by gender: Is there a difference between a man who gets a 3 overall and a women who gets a 3 overall? And we found that there was – men were getting a bit more, on top of already generally being on a higher base than women.

“So what we do now is we put a piece of the annual remuneration pie aside and identify underpaid high performers – who are statistically going to be female – and give them a pay rise before the manager receives their bucket to distribute. By going in early and raising the bar a bit, your organisation can start moving forward.”

Jane Hansen, Group Head of Talent and Diversity at Lendlease said a key internal focus for the multinational construction and property company is around the diversity of thought.

“If you think about diversity in its broader sense, it’s actually about having difference,” she said.

“And part of the way you overcome your biases, whether they’re conscious or unconscious, is by having a diverse group of people who are entitled to decision-making and whatever it is your organisation is focusing on.

“So if we need to get down to the root of it all, this has to be a primary consideration in ‘how we do things’.”

Atkins added: “Have data-points, proof-points, role models and stories to tell.”

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Importantly, Libby Lyons, Director at Workplace Gender Equality Agency underscored why attempts to close the gender pay gap often failed.

“There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay,” she said.

“Equal pay is something women first won the right to in Australia in 1969. We won the right to be paid the same wage as a man for doing work of similar or equal value. Prior to that, it was enshrined in legislation and different workplace acts that men were actually allowed to be paid more than women,” she clarified.

“The gender pay gap, on the other hand, is the difference between the average earnings of a man and the average earnings of a woman across an organisation or an industry or the nation.”

Lyons explained the gender pay gap takes into account other crucial factors:

  • There are generally more men in management than women, so looking at the pool of managers as an example, men out-earn women by the fact that there are more of them.
  • There are more women in the lower-paid, lower-valued jobs in an organisation or an industry or across the nation.
  • Women work part-time at three times the rate of men.
  • Women are discriminated against when it comes to pay and being granted a pay rise when they are on parental leave or work part-time.
  • For every hour of unpaid domestic work or caring that men do in Australia today, women do 1 hour and 46 minutes.


“You’ll often see an organisation announcing they’ve closed their gender pay gap. But if we look more closely, what they have done is close their ‘like-for-like’ pay gaps, which means they are now paying women and men the same amount for doing the same work or work of equal or comparable value,” Lyons said.


“All they’ve done is give women the same right that we earned in 1969 – 50 years ago. They’re just honouring that right to pay women the same as men.”

RELATED: 5 reasons it pays to have women in the workplace

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