Speaking at the launch of the Women, Business and the Law 2016 report at the Australasian Finance & Business Conference in Sydney last December, PwC banking and capital markets leader Julie Coates said the gender pay gap issue begins with a slight difference in salaries at the time of graduation.
“Graduate salaries, after adjusting to factors such as occupation and education, are four per cent less for women than men,” Ms Coates said.
“While that particular difference may seem small, to me it’s especially worrying because this is the stage where workers should be at their most equal. Well educated, working full-time and with much lower impacts of career breaks, yet even at that early stage the difference is noticeable.”
As men and women progress through their careers, more leadership positions are made available to men because the assumption that women take on the family caring role still exists, according to Ms Coates.
“So the lack of leadership roles for women contributes to the gender pay gap and it’s continuing and it’s increasing throughout women’s careers,” she said.
“The pay gap increases with age, peaking when early potential is at its highest. The consequent impact on women’s financial security through their lives is profound. Women have on average 46 per cent less superannuation on retirement.”
Ms Coates believes one way to address this issue is to have targets or quotas for the number of women being promoted to senior roles.
“There is always controversy around targets and the belief that all promotions should be based on merit, but quotas can be effective,” Ms Coates said.
She said the cultural mix of people in senior leadership positions is unrepresentative of society as a whole, which could be blamed by an unconscious bias and the way we have historically defined merit.
“The reality is we have an unconscious bias of our minds that this is what leadership looks like. Sometimes it takes a target to break through that bias.”