Gender inequality at play in the workforce

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New research from Westpac highlights how gender inequality is playing out in Australian workplaces.

The bank’s 2016 Women of Influence Report reveals a gap in the number of women that say they have experienced inequality compared to the number of men that believe that have witnessed female inequality at play.

The report, which surveyed more than 2200 workers across Australia in May, found 52% of female respondents believe they have experienced some form of gender-related inequality in the past five years in the workplace, compared to 41% working men that believe they have witnessed inequality directed towards their female colleagues.

“Women are more likely to believe they have witnessed every type of gender-related inequality (57% of working women have witnessed some form of workplace inequality directed towards their female colleagues),” Westpac notes.

However, men were increasingly likely to assist if they felt they had witnessed gender inequality at play, with the report showing 74% of men said they stepped in to address the situation, with most common actions including offering support or assistance to the victim (31%), voicing concerns to management (22%), and warning others in the workplace of the behaviours witnessed (21%).

“It is encouraging to see that so many people are recognising subtle sexism and gender inequality in the workplace; however more direct action is needed, such as reporting the incident to human resources,” says van Onselen.

Interestingly, the gender pay gap was not found to be the most common form of inequality Australian women feel they face in the workplace – instead, the top response was being expected to do the caring/housekeeping duties even though it is not part of their job description (25%), followed by being given less interesting job tasks/duties (17%) and being the target of jokes/innuendo (15%).

“Gender inequality comes in many different forms; it is more than just a salary – it is a form of subtle sexism,” says Ainslie van Onselen, Westpac’s director of women’s markets, inclusion and diversity.

“Despite the significant positive steps we have made in improving gender equality in Australia, women remain the main contributors of unpaid work at home, and when they’re in the office it appears they’re also being expected to undertake the housekeeping duties too.”

A higher proportion of women in senior management believe that have experienced a gender-based salary discrepancy (29%) compared to women in mid-level management (21%), mid-senior level employees (11%) and women in entry-level positions (8%).

The report also reveals male workers around Australia perceive their female bosses as performing more poorly than male bosses across every single metric, including business knowledge, achieving results, productivity, communication skills, making a positive change in the workplace and overall performance.

Male workers rated their male bosses 6% higher overall – Westpac highlights this is especially prevalent in ‘allowing colleagues to realise their potential’ and ‘making a positive change in the workplace’ (male bosses rated 9% higher).

“Feedback from women suggests Australian workforces are continuing to use gender stereotypes and expectations in employment, which are contributing to the underlying cause of gender inequality,” says van Onselen.


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