“There is no one lever you can move that will solve the gender pay gap,” said Elizabeth Broderick (pictured right).
“Part of the solution is for employers to step up and say, ‘one of the values we have in this organisation is equality and therefore it is our responsibility to make sure we pay men and women equally for work of equal or comparable value’.”
Speaking in conversation with veteran journalist Anne Summers at an event hosted in Sydney on 7 May, Ms Broderick said there was nothing easy about securing equal pay for women.
“It is an intractable issue,” she said. “It is complex and it is hard [because] women are not promoted to the same extent as men, women are in what we call occupational segregation – in lower-paid employment – and they trade off money for family-friendly work conditions.”
“Not only that, the more senior you become, the research shows you are more likely to have gender pay gaps that are even greater.”
The national gender pay gap sits at 18.8 per cent but at senior levels pay gaps can be up to 50 per cent.
Halfway through the evening, Ms Broderick and Ms Summers were joined on stage by two participants in the Male Champions of Change (MCC) strategy, CEO of Qantas Alan Joyce and Macquarie chairman Kevin McCann.
The MCC strategy, launched by Ms Broderick in 2010, invites business leaders to pledge to advance gender equality within their organisations and to act as public advocates on the issue.
“[It is not enough] to rely on an individual woman – a woman who needs that job, who needs that income – to put her hand up and say, ‘oh look, I’m sorry but you are not paying me the same’,” Ms Broderick said.
“What we know will happen is that over time she will be most likely ostracised and known as a troublemaker.”
The responsibility falls to business leaders of major corporations to take up the issue of gender equality and effect change within their organisation. These large companies can then use their leverage to influence smaller groups in their supply chain.
As a company, Qantas has $16 billion in purchasing power and does business with 30,000 individual suppliers.
“We now have a procurement policy that says diversity is important to Qantas ... and if [our suppliers] don’t have an approach to diversity, then we will look at that as part of the purchasing decision,” Mr Joyce said.
“What we believe is that if suppliers are embracing diversity, they are better suppliers.”
Ms Broderick said transparency was crucial to empowering talented women to seek out employers of choice.
In Europe, for instance, there are countries that oblige businesses to publish the differential pay rates of men and women. Such initiatives motivate companies to close pay gaps, while making it possible for women to make informed decisions about where they work.
Mr McCann said the tax policy associated with home-based childcare did not support women looking to enter leadership positions.
“I find it incredible that in 2015 women can’t include as a work expense the fact that if you aspire to leadership, you need home-based childcare,” he said.
“Community childcare just doesn’t work because if you have a leadership goal you are going to be asked from time to time [to work] long, inflexible hours and you are prepared to do that – but you do need someone at home to care for your children.”
Ms Broderick agreed that women and men with caring responsibilities should have access to flexible working arrangements.
“Work and care should not sit at opposite ends of one hard choice,” she said. “Caring is the most important work that any of us do every day. It is the ultimate expression of humanity. We have to have workplaces where people can both work and care.”
The question of the night came from a young woman in the audience, who asked the panel to discuss the intersectionality of feminism and how Indigenous women can smash glass ceilings and take up positions of power, such as becoming the CEO of Qantas.
“If a gay Irishman can be the CEO of Qantas, one day there will be an Indigenous woman that will be the CEO of Qantas,” Mr Joyce said to roaring applause.
Pictured left to right: Anne Summers, editor/publisher of Anne Summers Reports; Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas; Kevin McCann, Macquarie chairman; and Elizabeth Broderick, sex discrimination commissioner.