Throughout history, commerce has always impacted society. Migration, import and export laws and even the creation of new social classes were all triggered by progress in business and trade.
Today, our society is slowly trying to reach a state of equality between men and women. Could this be an area where businesses can affect change?
There are hurdles. For example, StatsNZ reports that the gender pay gap in New Zealand sits at 9.3%. And while that has reduced significantly from 16% in 1998, the number has stalled in the past decade. Also, IML ANZ’s National Salary Survey report has seen a steady pay gap rise to almost 15% for leaders at the C-suite level.
Another area where businesses can do more is around performance assessments and recruitment. Research has found that common rating scales used to assess work performance, could be skewed in favour of males. In addition, Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) also reports that for many roles in various sectors, “women must send out substantially more applications to receive the same number of interview invitations as equally qualified men.”
Looking at it from that lens can make the goal of achieving equality appear monumental. But like all great tasks, it may be useful to focus on the elements that make up the larger goal – the smaller bites of the proverbial elephant.
Spearhead social change from within your business
Consider the recently enacted whistleblower protections under Australia’s Corporation’s Act. These amendments followed a recognition within the business community that those who speak up need protection. The reforms were a result of the private sector coming together to try and take steps to rebuild trust – an essential element for any business that wants to retain customers.
So, creating the change we need might be more accessible than you think. After all, the employee remuneration, performance ratings and recruitment are entirely normal, ordinary business activities that leaders can influence.
Little steps could be all it takes. Plus, these steps can be carried out by leaders in companies, both large and small. Some areas of change could include:
- Ensuring equal pay for equal work through robust policies
- Reviewing how performance assessments are carried out and removing
- Adopting best practice in your recruitment process to avoid any gender bias
Push for equality to benefit all
The apparent business benefit of role modelling gender equality is that you’ll improve employee engagement and in turn, productivity. However, there are advantages beyond the company’s bottom line.
It is estimated that if the gender employment gap was closed, Australia’s GDP would rise by 11%. In New Zealand, pay and employment equity means the shortages of labour and skills will be addressed, labour markets will function better and which all feeds economic growth. Not to mention that the equal treatment of women in society would also lead to a reduction in community issues such as domestic violence and other anti-social behaviours.
Challenge your thinking through thoughtful discussions
Making changes within your business can undoubtedly nudge us closer to real gender equity. But more is required than small moves. Mindsets need to shift, and real dialogue must happen.
American Sociological Review: Scaling Down Inequality: Rating Scales, Gender Bias, and the Architecture of Evaluation: https://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/default+domain/10.1177%2F0003122419833601-free/full
Employment New Zealand: Gender pay gap: https://www.employment.govt.nz/hours-and-wages/pay/pay-equity/gender-pay-gap/
Ministry for Women: Gender pay gap: https://women.govt.nz/work-skills/income/gender-pay-gap
Victorian Government: The benefits of gender equality: https://www.vic.gov.au/benefits-gender-equality