Over time, society continues to make steady progress on the age-old issue of gender inequality. Despite this, however, the current gender pay gap in Australia remains at a significant 22.8%, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). In addition to this, only 56% of employers report to have taken action on identified pay gaps.

Whilst the issue of gender inequality is widespread, affecting people at all levels and within all disciplines, it is shown to be notably prevalent in the finance and accounting sector. Chartered Accountants ANZ’s 2021 Member Remuneration Survey highlights the growing discrepancy in male vs. female salaries of accountants, with female accountants in ANZ reported to earn, on average, 27%-34% less than their male counterparts.

The issue of gender inequality continues to have wider ramifications for businesses. There’s a misconception that focussing on this issue in the workplace will only be beneficial for employees who are directly impacted. However, looking at the bigger picture, ongoing gender equality in the workplace is proven to have a significant positive impact on overall business health. WGEA have linked gender equality with increased performance, productivity and economic growth.

So, considering the business benefits associated with gender equality, why aren’t finance businesses doing more to fix the issue?

The underlying issues

According to WGEA, “The gap between women’s and men’s earnings is a symptom of a broader cultural problem in workplace”. Some of the factors contributing to the issue include conscious and unconscious discrimination by senior management when making hiring and pay decisions; the lower social and financial value given to traditionally ‘female’ jobs; and women’s disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work.

These cultural issues are deeply woven into the fabric of our society; with many organisations unconsciously following the same ways of working that have been set in place for many years. It may feel like an insurmountable challenge for businesses, however large or small, to buck that trend and make drastic changes to the way things are done. However, whilst these issues aren’t going to change overnight, it’s important to consider the action we can take, both in the long and short-term, to promote and normalise gender inclusivity in the workplace.

Flexibility = Inclusivity

A lack of flexibility to accommodate caring responsibilities, especially for women in senior finance roles, has been shown to be a key issue contributing to the gender pay gap. Conversely, flexible working conditions are a key indicator of workplace gender inclusivity and equality in the workplace.

An unexpected upside of the COVID pandemic has been the promotion and normalisation of remote working, to the extent that a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, declared that “in 10 years, ‘remote work’ will simply be ‘work’”.

And whilst both men and women alike have reaped the benefits of working with this element of flexibility, it has acted as a leveller of the playing field, giving female finance professionals an opportunity to balance their work life with home responsibilities, without compromising or limiting the full scope of their role (a particular issue we hear from our senior female finance candidates).

Moir Group’s approach

At Moir Group, we are passionate about inclusivity and care; and believe that workplace diversity and employee job satisfaction are two essential ingredients to maintaining a high performance team.

Within our business, we are strong advocates for equal pay, regularly reviewing and comparing salaries across our organisation to ensure remuneration is fair and appropriate, regardless of who is performing the role.

Also, connected to this, is our ethos that flexible working conditions yield excellent long-term outcomes. Our business has been leading the charge on flexible working for a number of years now (long before COVID first reared its head); with the majority of our female-dominant team working in job-share partnerships.

As COVID hit, we (along with many others) experienced first-hand how a business can continue to operate with its entire workforce working remotely. This led to us making changes in how we work moving into the future. We currently have one member of our senior team working interstate and are now keen to add to this, currently recruiting for finance recruitment consultants (or accountants looking to pivot in their career), who have a desire to work flexibly.

Others taking action

Another example of an organisation leading the way on flexible working is New Zealand firm, Stem Rural Accountants. A recent article by Acuity Magazine reported how Stem took significant steps towards a “fairer and more productive workplace” by introducing a six-hour working day.

On this, Martin Pipe, the Co-Owner and Director of Stem commented, “People are able to pick up their kids, go to appointments and exercise – all in working hours – but not disturb their focused work day. Men and women can share caring responsibilities, which reduces negative career impacts women face when they work part time”.

Chartered Accountants ANZ are also taking steps to address the gender issue with the wider finance and accounting community, releasing a new playbook, ‘Narrowing your gender pay gap’. This outlines a clear ‘agenda for action’, that enables both individuals and employees to take steps towards making their organisations more diverse and inclusive. As CA ANZ’s CEO, Anislie Van Onselen says, “we are determined to be vocal, to track, and to fix this issue as part of our broader strategy”.

A final word

In a high-demand environment, candidates are now commanding better flexibility in their chosen role; whilst businesses increasingly understand that job flexibility and high performance are not mutually exclusive concepts.

From our perspective, the current climate of turbulence is a great opportunity for businesses to take stock of how they operate. Ones that get on board with the trend of increased flexibility are set to reap a number of long-term benefits, including better staff retention, increased productivity and the fresh perspectives that diversity brings to organisations.

 

Are you looking for a fresh challenge? How about a role with genuine flexibility and a great workplace culture? Moir Group is currently hiring for a number of finance recruitment positions. If you’re a professional recruitment consultant or a finance professional looking for a change, we would love to talk to you. Read more about working with us or contact us for a chat today.

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