In recent years the gender pay gap has become a popular topic of contention, and after a considerable amount of media coverage, it seems that Australian employers have at last started to take action. However, despite their well-intentioned efforts, it is clear to me that very little has actually changed, and evidence suggests that within the real estate that the situation is in fact worsening.
A recent article published by Dynamic Business highlighted how an increasing number of employers are choosing to take action on gender equality – yet the numbers show that women continue to earn far less than their male counterparts, and are vastly underrepresented in top level management positions. Women like myself who work in the real estate industry take home on average only 78% of the earnings of our male colleagues, and it is one of the few industries where the pay gap is actually increasing.
According to the WGEA report, Gender Equality Insights 2017: Inside Australia’s Gender Pay Gap, the real estate industry has experienced a widening of the pay gap by 3.7%. This has jumped from 25.6% in 2013-2014 up to 29.3% in 2016-2017. Currently, the industry is experiencing a significant gender pay gap of around 29%, with men earning more than $131,000 annually to a woman’s $92,735 for performing the same role.
While the benefits of having women in leadership roles are widely recognised, there appears to be a strong lack of understanding as to how we can combat this issue and make for a more inclusive workplace. From my many years of experience working in a heavily male-dominated industry, I firmly believe that the way to overcome wage inequality is for each business – no matter how big or small – to take ownership of the issue.
In my opinion, here’s how business owners can do their part in improving the future prospects of female employees and work towards closing the gender pay gap.
Offer flexible working options
Flexible work options are an important first step in evening out the gender pay gap. While we as a society have made great strides in moving towards more balanced parenting practices, it is widely accepted that starting a family can slow women from advancing in their careers as quickly as men, and women are still required to take a considerable of time amount off work. Without the right support, returning to work in a fulltime capacity can be challenging, but by offering flexible working options, you can support them in retaining their position and provide them with the opportunity to continue to advance in your company.
Base salaries on experience and expertise
As an employer, the responsibility falls on you to implement fair and equal pay for all of your employees. Salaries should be based on experience, expertise and education – not on their gender, or what they were paid in a previous position. I believe that in order to truly make an impact on reducing the gender pay gap, employers must avoid offering new employees a salary that is based on their last role. It is well documented that women are less inclined to negotiate for a higher salary than men, and going off their previous wage alone will only serve to further perpetuate the of gender pay gap cycle.
Look at your policies
Do your policies reflect your commitment to gender equality? Consider reviewing your policies and focusing more on the steps you intend to take to bridge the pay gap within your business. At Stockdale & Leggo, we have recognised that ending gender equality is not going to be an overnight fix, but something that takes time and careful planning. We have set a long-term goal of achieving a 50/50 gender ratio split in our franchises by the year 2020 (we are currently at 20/65) and while we still have significant work to do, we are well on our way as a result of the female friendly policies we have put in place such as role sharing for mothers, working from home and part-time opportunities which align with school hours.
Choosing to ignore the gender pay gap carries some serious risk, and failing to act can be a real detriment to your team. As an employer, the last thing you want is to alienate vital members of your team. By taking steps to bridge the gap you show your staff that you’re committed to equality, and you’re likely to soon see some great overall benefits to your business.
About the author
Anna Thomas is the Chief Operating Officer of major Australian real estate network, Stockdale & Leggo. She was recognised as a Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist in the Corporate and Private Award in 2016, a 2017 Finalist in the Real Estate Business Awards ‘Industry Thought Leader of the Year’ Award and a Bronze Stevie winner in the Woman of the Year category in the 2017 International Business Awards. She is also the Founder and Brand Ambassador of the ‘Empowered Women in Real Estate’ initiative, a community empowering women to believe in themselves and step forward into leadership roles.