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A gender peace, not a gender war

Maria Ta

Grattan Institute estimates that a 6% increase in women’s workforce participation could increase the national GDP by $25 billion.

The United Nation’s definition of gender equality[1] refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. It is important to recognise that the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities should be given to all regardless of gender.

Gender equality is not a women’s issue nor is it a men’s issue. It is a human rights issue and our issue.

As simply put by Alex Sloan, 2017 Canberra Citizen of the Year and guest speaker for AIM’s 2017 Great Debate, “In the middle of her Year 12, when she’s never worked harder, can someone tell me at what time do I tell my daughter she can expect to be paid 8.2% less than the male student she’s sitting next to in class?”

The myths and truths of the gender “ambition gap”

Data from the Department of Education reveals Australian female graduates are outnumbering males at record levels, with almost 45,000 more women completing tertiary qualifications in 2014 than men[2]. However, the pipeline of talent is by no means an answer to the gender imbalance that currently exists in the workplace as women are still being underrepresented on boards, senior leadership roles and being paid less.

Are women less ambitious than men? Is motherhood lowering their career goals?

The Boston Consulting Group has recently analysed an employee survey data from two global BCG data sources, comprising more than 200,000 respondents[3]. Their research shows that women start their careers with just as much ambition as men in regards to their aspirations for leadership positions or promotions, however, with time women’s ambition levels do vary, not based on family status but rather on the employing organisation. The issue is, therefore, not unsolvable.

The problem lies in the everyday experiences of women at work because ambition is not a fixed attribute but is nurtured – or damaged – by the daily interactions, conversations and opportunities that women face over time.

Ambition is and can be influenced by company culture. When both male and female employees feel that gender diversity at their organisation is valued, there is no ambition gap between genders. Conversely, at organisations where both genders of employees report the least progress on diversity, an ambition gap opens between men and women.

The myths and truths of gender pay gap

There is not a country in the world where women make as much as men for the same work. The average Australian woman has to work an extra 66 days a year to earn the same pay as the average man even though women are now better qualified[4]. So, what are the causes of the persistent pay gap? Why aren’t women’s qualifications getting the same recognition as men’s in terms of pay?

Across the industries, the average pay gap is 8.2% as per AIM’s Gender Pay Gap Report, even though the overall gap has decreased slightly over the past two years, at current rates it would take another 170 years to close the global pay gap between men and women.

Does the pay gap reflect the career choices women make?

The simple answer is no. A recent study from Cass Business School, the University of Warwick and the University of Wisconsin shows sex discrimination continues to be the single largest factor contributing to the gender gap.

In addition, a piece of interesting evidence of “devaluation”[5] has surfaced from the same study illustrating that a higher proportion of women in an occupation leads to lower pay as the value of this work is being discounted merely because it is performed by women. In other words, women are paid less than men simply because they are women.

The rise of women does not require the fall of men

In the quest to achieve gender equality, organisations are encouraged to take positive steps to benefit all employees, not just women. Creating a culture that enables more women to be ambitious does not put men at a disadvantage. In fact, Grattan Institute estimates that a 6% increase in women’s workforce participation could increase the national GDP by $25 billion.

Organisational culture shapes the day-to-day experience of employees in a thousand small and large ways – the attitude of managers, the evaluations and career advice people receive, the comments they hear, and many other seemingly minor, everyday factors.

Below are some steps organisations can take to start closing the gender gap in Australian leadership and management landscape:

  • Start fostering the right culture
  • Promote a flexible working environment
  • Encourage open communication – transparency is key!
  • Involve everyone in the journey, celebrate both effort and outcomes
  • Build a gender-diverse leadership team with the right role models

How to get involved in the conversation

As part of AIM’s commitment to celebrate and promote the importance of diversity and equality in the workplace through a series of signature events, AIM’s Great Debate is proud to once again provide a safe and open platform to address issues that are still appearing in today’s organisations.

This year’s topic for the Great Debate is: ‘Equal pay will close the gender pay gap’

A combination of passionate and talented speakers for the event include:

  • Alex Sloan, 2017 Canberra Citizen of the Year and ABC veteran journalist
  • Virginia Haussegger AM, Award-winning Journalist and Head of the Gender Equality Initiative ‘50/50 by 2030 Foundation’
  • Arabella Close AIMM, Co-founder of fEMPOWER and freelance writer
  • Yassmin Abdel-Magied, 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year
  • Amanda Blesing, Author of Women in Leadership
  • Dr Saraid Billiards, Head of Strategy and Engagement at Science in Australia Gender Equity

The Great Debate offers an opportunity for us to voice our concerns, raise awareness and open the conversation around gender equality in the workplace

the essentials

What: The AIM Great Debate 2017
When: Friday 23 June from 12pm-2.30pm
Where: The National Convention Centre, 31 Constitution Avenue, Canberra
Purchase tickets and find more information here:


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Maria Ta

Maria Ta is a marketing enthusiast with a passion for social change. Maria works at the Australian Institute of Management; a peak body committed to helping people become better managers and leaders. Passionate about making a contribution to positive social change, Maria aspires to start her own social enterprise one day to support women and children but for now she volunteers at St Vincent De Paul and helps raise awareness for the importance of the for purpose sector. Maria holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of New South Wales. More about the Author

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