After a week of soaking up the TED 2011 conversation in the US – I’m back at the office all fired up for International Women’s Day wondering why there are not more women on boards. Previously I’ve written about the concept of legislation to have 50 per cent of board roles filled by women by 2020 and also the gender imbalance when it comes to equal pay.
Of course, affirmative action has its detractors. A legitimate criticism is that it politicises life chances and focuses blame on race or gender. But when I read studies by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), that give the principle reason for gender inequality in pay is employers discriminating against women for “simply being female”, something needs to change from the top, from leadership. More women on boards would lead this shift.
How can we expect women to stand up for pay equal to their male counterparts when so few women sit on the boards of large organisations? The number of women who are the founders of serious sized enterprises in Australia is not large. Take a look at the BRW Fast 100 or even the BRW Rich list.
Other differences between men and women such as women’s choices of careers, jobs and work hours, consideration of caring responsibilities, women’s work motivations, bargaining power and appetite for risk, as well as discrimination against women that occurs in the workplace, all impact heavily on the gender pay gap.
NATSEM found that removing the effects of being a woman from the wage gap would increase the average wage of an Australian woman by $1.87 per hour or $3,394 annually. Which means a change from the top could see Australia adding $56 billion or 5.1 per cent to total annual GDP.
It is important as we celebrate this day that we keep agitating for change at the most senior levels. We still have such a long way to go.