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What can we do to close the gender pay gap?

Recently we reported ‘The gender pay gap hits a record high’, with a disparity of wages between men and women that has not been seen in the time that the ABS has been collecting data (since 1994).

So what is the solution to solving this issue? It seems a consensus cannot be reached as to how to bring equal pay for equal work in line for both sexes. As this article Pay gap in Australia higher than in Middle East reports, the discussion often turns to women being less likely to ask for a pay rise or seeming demanding when they do. Whilst this is no doubt true, Dr Rae Cooper, an Associate Professor in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School, blames the lack of transparency around bonuses and the lack of flexible jobs – including at the top end of the ladder. Bonuses are one of the biggest contributors to the gender pay gap, says Dr Cooper, with unconscious bias coming into play when managers reward employees.  “There’s a lot of evidence that we tend to reward behaviour like our own, and we tend to reward the people who are like us. It’s called sociability. So there’s a bit of a bias there that is part of the problem.”

The Lean In community, Tips for Managers (Tip #7), advises making negotiating a norm. If you communicate to everyone in your organisation that its important to negotiate for themselves, then women are more likely to do it when given explicit permission to do so.

On the flip side, recently the interim chief executive of Reddit, Ellen Pao, has banned salary negotiations. With her stated goal to eliminate the persistent disadvantage that women have at the bargaining table. In an ideal world this might actually be a solution but many have argued that this strategy will take away an important tool for women to achieve equal pay if they can and want to negotiate. Maybe we need to teach women to be better negotiators…

An even more radical view is exposed in this article How to solve the gender pay gap? Here’s an idea: Cut men’s wages, the author suggests that if men took a pay cut that would even the playing field. “If we want to rally the needed support to solve the problem, we should stop focusing on raising women’s pay, because clearly that hasn’t worked”. Although the author is being somewhat bold in his thinking, and we know this would never happen, it is food for thought in the equal pay gap debate.

If we start to question obvious biases in our own organisation then maybe we can push the debate to the forefront.

If you’d like a confidential discussion about how to raise the issue in your organisation please get in contact with us at or call 02 9660 4526.


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