2010 Projects » What Business Wants: A project assessing SME’s

Since the inception of the Equal Pay Day campaign in August 2008, it has become clear to Business and Professional Women Australia (BPWA) that there is growing negativity to the notion of pay equity. This led to the formation of the Equal Pay Alliance in 2009. Subsequently, the community response to the release of the Making It Fair: pay equity and associated issues relating to increasing female participation in the workforce report highlighted the fact that community and business sentiment is increasingly cautious about the repercussions of implementing change that would address pay inequity.

For a copy of the report click here:  What Business Wants Report for S4W-Final Report

BPWA believes that we must be instrumental in providing quality information to government and other relevant organizations about how small business with less than 100 employees, SMEs, can embrace these recommendations of the Making It Fairer report. Such businesses employ thousands of women in Australia therefore it is imperative that we drive and implement appropriate structural change for small business in order to achieve pay equity  and better assist women’s lifelong economic security. Hence a proposal was submitted and successfully funded by Security4Women (S4W) with the support of BPWA to investigate this important issue further.

This investigation was conducted in two stages. The first stage reviewed the literature in relation to pay equity and small business. The second stage used this review to inform and develop consultations with small business to investigate their attitudes and collect data on current practice in relation to pay equity. Further, the consultations were to garner small business’ view on the issues raised in the literature.

There is little research, internationally and nationally, into the attitudes of SMEs to gender equity. However, the review of the literature revealed multiple issues and included compulsory gender representation gender segregation, part-time and casual work, diverse working arrangements, negotiation skills, career expectations, women in leadership roles, education, work-life balance, paid maternity leave, gender equity auditing and gendered corporate culture.  The qualitative data from the consultations exposed a general lack of awareness of many of the issues, in particular of gender equity auditing.  However, many SME’s recognised the existence of strong male oriented influences in recruitment, workforce gender segregation and corporate culture.  All participants saw the benefits of greater flexibility in diverse working arrangements specifically in retention of skills and acknowledgment of family commitments. One key problem identified was the lack of negotiation skills that women display and consequently their career expectations. It was believed that an underestimation of the leadership capabilities of women in the workforce and the difficulty in transition to management was problematic.

 The consultations with small business confirmed the Making it Fair report.

 The following recommendations were made.

    1. Private sector companies employing 50 or more people should be required to report to EOWA, or the proposed Pay Equity Unit within Fair Work Australia, on their gender equity strategies, performance, pay and outcomes. However this recommendation requires the proviso that reporting would need to have minimal administrative impact and could possibly be collected from existing reporting mechanisms.
    2. Training and education should be provided to SMEs (50-100 employees) relating to the benefits of diverse management teams and diverse working practices.
    3. Incentives should be provided to employers for providing training, such as communication and negotiating skills, to enhance women’s career opportunities.
    4. Greater transparency with respect to remuneration via the abolition of confidentiality clauses in employment and remuneration packages for SMEs
    5. The literature review suggests that further research is required in Australia investigating the influence of government funded work/family programs on gender pay inequity
    6. That investigation is undertaken into the effect of, and possible influence, of gendered corporate culture on gender pay inequity in SMEs.
    7. The recommendations made by the Making it fair: Pay equity and associated issues related to increasing female participation in the workforce report (as relating to gender pay equity in SMEs) be supported by BPW Australia.