2012 Projects » Pay and Gender Workforce Pay Equity

Lifelong economic wellbeing is at the core of economic Security4Women. Gender pay inequity has a lasting impact on women and their families and the gender pay gap is worsening – currently at 18%. An initial study funded by eS4W – What Business Wants – highlighted the paucity of awareness and lack of suitable resources for SMEs to address gender pay equity. This sector employees more than 1.5 million women but has to date been overlooked in the pay equity debate as the focus is on businesses with over 100 employees. The What Business Wants report clearly identified the need for better tools for the small business sector (20-100 employees) to both educate and help identify barriers to achieving gender pay equity.

In January 2012 eS4W released their “Attitudes to Gender Pay Equity in Small Firms”  report.  Below are the Key Findings and Recommendations.  For a full copy of the report click here

For a copy of eS4W’s Position Paper click Helping small business close the gender pay gap_paper

Key findings

As a result of the exploration of the Pay Equity Audit Tool it was found that this tool was not suitable for small business.

Coming from the interviews were a number of key themes that contributes to an understanding of attitudes in smaller firms towards pay equity. These themes were:

  1. There is a lack of knowledge about gender pay equity within SMEs;
  2. That in SME’s there is both ‘traditional’ attitudes of managers in relation to women’s and men’s work and more inclusive attitudes as a result of changes in the economy;
  3. That gender-segregated labour pools from which employees are recruited contributes to pay inequity;
  4. That awards hold back pay inequity between award covered, lower paid employees;
  5. The lack of negotiation skills amongst women (especially those who were not considered to be covered by an award) contributes to pay inequity;
  6. That individualised ‘rewards’ are given to high performing or ‘meritorious’ employees; and
  7. That the owner-manager’s values, attitudes and previous work experience is important in terms of their treatment of women.
  8. That managers and owner managers of SMEs generally have a noncommittal attitude to applying a gender pay audit to their firms.


  1. Training about and resources for HRM needs to be provided for smaller firms with a focus on recruitment and selection processes, job analysis and job descriptions, developing performance management systems and reward systems and pay equity.
  2. Further research into attitudes to gender pay equity in otherAustralianStatesand Territories, based on these findings, be undertaken to describe how widespread these attitudes are and to what extent they require a national response.
  3. Curricula within schools and beyond, perhaps using role models, is developed to encourage the ‘de-gendering’ of career and employment thinking and therefore open up recruitment pools.
  4. A strong, effective and up-to-date modern award system and national employment standards be maintained to ensure a basis for the terms and conditions of employment, including, base pay rates, job requirements and other ‘rewards’ associated with particular jobs.
  5. The award system needs to be a national system to remove any confusion for employers about understanding their obligations to employees.
  6. Training in negotiation skills be embedded in VET and tertiary curricula as a valuable employability skill, with a special emphasis on these skills for women and girls.
  7. A simple ‘what is merit’ cheat sheet and checklist be developed for smaller firm owner-managers that can be referred to when decisions about pay, promotion, and rewards are being made.
  8. A webpage is developed where smaller firm owner-managers can upload their gender pay equity ‘stories of success’ as text, video or vignette. These stories can communicate to other smaller firm owner-managers insight into ways pay equity can bring about a range of business benefits. This webpage could be part of the EOWA, ES4W, COSBA or equalpayday.com.au website.