Response To WGEA 2018 Report: The other Side of the Equation - Closing the parental leave gap for men to speed up change

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) today released their annual data. But Seat At The Table (SEATT), think we are focussing on the wrong thing – it’s men, caring and flexible work that needs our full attention to drive change and shift the dial.

“We can’t keep addressing the same problem in the same way and expect a different outcome.  It’s too easy for business to appear like they are making process, but it’s time they put their money where their mouth is – we need specific actions to drive change. The fact is we are still talking about the big gaps around pay and women in leadership – but we have known about these issues for decades and have been unable to shift the dial – we need to start looking at the root causes and not the symptoms” Amelia Dixon, SEATT Board Director said.

In looking at the WGEA data in Australia, Seat At The Table (SEATT) found that one of the major factors holding women back from leadership in Australia (83% of CEO roles are still held by men) is what we call the “parental cliff” – 95% of primary carers leave is still taken by working women and when they return to work their careers are not accelerating at anywhere near the same rate as men. “We don’t just have an issue with a gap in leadership, women take time out to have children then simply fall out of the leadership pipeline, they are not in place to take a take a seat at the leadership table when the time comes.”

“The WGEA report tells us we need targets, action plans and leadership to drive change – however we keep making it easy for businesses to be good in the gender equality space by not being specific. We at SEATT are asking businesses to put their money where their mouth is to drive long-term sustainable change around gender equality. The change we are calling for requires investment, thought, change leadership and ongoing work – but we know it will deliver results. We can’t change the way women work and earn alone, we need to change the way we all work.”

“The business who champions broader parental leave and flexible work policies - where leave is available, measured and actively encouraged is the business driving change around gender equality. Over the past 6 months we have started working with some employers who are making great inroads in the space and we are hearing, not the ripples, but the waves this change is creating in businesses, homes and the community.” 

“This is not the only lever that will drive change – but it is a clear and measurable action that will propel the trajectory of change forward in Australia and it’s something we can address now.”

And the good news is this change will see a big upside for men. “We have started working with The Mens Project at Jesuit Social Services who have just undertaken research which highlights the gap between what young men want and what they think is socially acceptable. Young men want more access to parental leave but there is enormous stigma as well as structural and cultural barriers holding would-be hands-on Dad’s back. More than 60% of employers in Australia do not offer any paid secondary carers leave. We have a long way to go.”

Key take-outs from WGEA report – all care, no responsibility for Australian businesses

  • Men and women work differently – only 40% of women work full time when compared to 67.5% of men (27% of women work part time, compared to 10% of men).

  • 76.4% of employers promote flexible working throughout organisations, but only 1.6% set targets for mens engagement in flexible work and staggeringly only 5.2% have set targets for employee engagement.

  • Overall, women account for 72.2% of all carer’s leave while men comprise the remaining 27.8%. Women earn 21.3% less than men, equivalent to $25K per year. While women now comprise 39% of managers, there is no movement at the top with only 17% of our CEOs being women (an increase on last year by only 0.6%.)

SEATT recommends tangible actions for businesses to take

  1. Policies for superannuation for people on parental leave

  2. Policies for equal parental leave for men

  3. Policies that provide flexible leave for all

  4. Leadership to drive and encourage take up by changing culture and social norms

  5. Set targets, but not just at the top – manage the pipeline (we need women who are ready to take a Seat at The Table)

  6. Measure, measure, measure – a DNI (Diversity and Inclusion) policy is only as good as it’s results (having one alone is just a tick-box activity)