Australia is about to start reporting on the gender pay gap. How will your organisation shape up in the public eye?

On International Women’s Day 2022, hundreds of organisations around the world posted their typical feel-good “we love women” content in honour of the occasion. What could go wrong?

Enter the Gender Pay Gap Bot.

This Twitter bot retweeted business’s posts about IWD and added their gender pay gap, exposing employers who said they valued women but didn’t put their money where their mouth was.

Yeah. It’s a bit embarrassing to announce you’re naming a plane after a “fearless female” while on average paying the women who work for you 58.9% less than men.

The lesson here? What your organisation puts out there shapes your reputation and your employer brand. Posting “female-friendly” content isn’t enough - and will backfire if you have a gender pay gap that is about to become public knowledge.

Does your organisation have a gender pay gap?

On 27 February 2024, the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) will publish the gender pay gaps of organisations with 100 or more employees.

Australia has a significant gender pay gap - in 2023, women (on average) earned 13% less than men. The good news is that on a wider scale, things are starting to change. In 2021, Australia ranked 50th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report - but by 2023, we’d skyrocketed to 26th. Quite an improvement but still a way to go.

Publishing pay gap data is another step towards achieving gender equality. As a collective, we can probably agree that it’s a good idea. But for individual businesses, this news may be a little intimidating - perhaps even more so for the individuals working in HR management who are likely to be shouldering the responsibility of some prickly conversations.

So, whether your gender pay gap data is cause for celebration or some embarrassment, here are the next steps you should take.

My company definitely has a gender pay gap… eek! What now?

First step - don’t panic. Panicking leads to hasty decisions, and the last thing you need right now is to try to slap a quick fix together that can do more reputational harm than good. Instead, acknowledge the need to make a change and back it up with a realistic plan. This can help your organisation gain respect and trust. Here’s what you could do instead:

1. Plan for the long term

You know that old Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”? That’s going to be your new mantra. You can’t instantly change your gender pay gap, but you can put together a plan for how you’ll increase gender equality in your organisation. Set some realistic, measurable KPIs - and where possible, consider bringing your people on this journey with you by sharing your goals with them and holding each other accountable.

2. Prioritise the everyday actions

The gender pay gap is symptomatic of wider societal attitudes and structural inequalities impacting women in the workforce. Of course, it’s not on you to change all of these, but think about the influence you can have within your own workplace. Maybe it’s taking a look at your flexible work options for women with caring responsibilities or mums who need to knock off early for school pick-up. Or it could be reviewing your parental leave policy to ensure it feels fair to expectant mothers. Critically, embed meaningful changes in your regular workflow rather than knee-jerking over a particular day or event.

3. Authenticity is key

Clearly and concisely share the journey you’re on and the progress you’re making. Your people and your wider audiences will initially be wary, but they’re unlikely to immediately riot. Build trust by owning your mistakes and following through on your resolutions.

We’re nailing gender equality. What should my plan be?

If you’re already nailing gender pay parity, well done! Does that mean you can rest on your laurels? Never!

Don’t let this opportunity sail past you. It’s likely that many of your talent competitors aren’t in the same boat, and this could be a point of differentiation for you. The key is to communicate this in a way that showcases your perks and organically builds your employer brand.

Think about the opportunities for the women in your organisation to tell their stories. Consider writing themed stories about their unique journeys and experiences, or include messaging around your proud gender balance in your job ads. Subtly incorporating this message into your employer brand storytelling shows current and future talent that you’re a great choice.

The main takeaway for everyone?

This may be an earthquake for some Australian employers, but it won’t be the end of the world. We’re looking at it as an opportunity to address some long-standing issues and start making meaningful changes to address the gender pay gap.

Want to shape your culture and share your story? We’d love to give you a hand. Get in touch and we’ll show you how.

Tahlia Robinson

About the Author

As Employer Branding Australia’s Commercial Marketing Storyteller, Tahlia Robinson communicates our fantastic, imperfect organisation’s story to the world. With a background in PR for non-profits, she specialises in connecting organisations with their audiences in positive, meaningful ways. Tahlia is keenly interested in accessibility, activism, and keeping up with current trends on social media (while constantly wondering if she’s too old to be on TikTok).

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