Figure 1: Recommendations Roadmap from the Filling the Pool report
After examining the gender equity figures for Perth and Western Australia and then comparing them to other states, it was clear our performance was woeful.
According to data from the federal government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the gender pay gap in WA is the largest in the country at 25.3 per cent. Queensland is not far behind at 22.8 per cent, which NT is at 18.9 per cent and SA is at 16.7 per cent.
Among the remaining states, NSW is at 16.7 per cent, Victoria is at 14.3 per cent, Tasmania is at 11.7 per cent and the ACT has the lowest gap at 8 per cent.
Of concern for the country as a whole is the gender pay gap in Australia has grown over the past decade from 14.9 per cent in 2004 to 18.2 per cent.
FILLING THE POOL
Filling the Pool was a research project with a scope of work we did specifically concentrated on Perth and Western Australia's corporate sector. From it we have produced a recommendations roadmap toward greater progression and retention of talented women in Western Australia.
By interviewing 173 people from the top to the bottom of corporate life, we now better understand the local conditions. This has given visibility to both the barriers and enablers so more women survive and importantly thrive in corporate life, so as to 'fill the pool' with female talent.
The roadmap of 31 interlocking recommendations we took from the research provides a clear pathway to achieve gender equality in terms of pay and representation, with government, corporates and their leaders, along with women themselves all having an important role to play.
Pleasingly, whilst the research was parochial in its scope, it appears the recommendations are applicable to varying degrees throughout Australia.
UNDERREPRESENTED AT THE TOP
Gender inequality does not just exist in rates of pay; it is visible in terms of the high number of female graduates alongside a small number of women in decision-making and influencing roles.
Females now make up 55 per cent of the graduate pool in Australia, yet women are under- represented at the top, holding just 3.4 per cent of CEO positions, 15.3 per cent as company directors and 4.7 per cent as company chairs.
In WA, these figures are worse, with the state having half the national average of CEO's, fewer than half the number of female directors and under one third the national average of female chairs.
The Committee for Perth took interest in these figures because in conversations about the region's future so few women were at the discussion table. In our view, more women needed to get into and stay in senior and executive level roles.
The Australian Institute of Company Directors is on record saying directors are drawn from people with CEO experience, so if we can't get more women into senior roles and ultimately appointed as CEOs they won't make it into the boardroom, either.
Hopefully the Committee for Perth's recommendations roadmap can help make that journey for talented women easier.
Marion Fulker is CEO of the Committee for Perth and an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia.