Yolanda Beattie is Public Affairs Executive Manager at the Workplace Equality Agency in Sydney. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency is an Australian Government statutory authority proactively driving positive gender equality in Australian workplaces by collaborating with business and other key stakeholders to develop best-practice solutions and inspire change. Yolanda joined the organisation in January 2013, before which she held communications and public affairs roles at Honner Media, Insurance Australia Group, Macquarie Real Estate Capital and SAITeysMcMahon.
“…we know that most employers don’t set out to pay women and men differently. But gender biases mean gender pay gaps between women and men doing the same or similar work can still arise…”
Yolanda, we got in touch as we picked up on the great work you’re doing at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in Australia. Please can you tell us more about your role and what it entails?
I manage the public affairs team at the Agency which seeks to educate and influence positive change in Australian workplaces by promoting public discussion and acceptance of gender equality, building strong relationships between the Agency and key stakeholders, developing public campaigns around gender equality and positioning the Agency as a centre for informed advice on gender equality issues and research.
How does Australia compare to other developed countries with regards to gender diversity?
The World Economic Forum recently released its Global Gender Gap Report 2014 which ranked Australia 24th out of 133 countries. Australia ranked equal first for female educational attainment but 51st for female workforce participation highlighting that Australia isn’t making the best use of its highly educated female talent pool.
What research have you undertaken and what are the headline findings you’ve discovered?
2014 was the first year that Australian organisations with 100 or more employees were required to report to the Agency in a standardised format. This has provided us with an unprecedented dataset that paints a detailed picture of gender equality in Australian workplaces. It will also set a baseline against we can measure our progress over time.
The data clearly shows that women struggle to get past the lower levels of management, that the gender pay gap widens considerably when discretionary pay is taken into account, and that employers are failing to take a strategic approach to gender equality.
Do you share your research findings with other governments?
We make all our findings publicly available via our website.
What are the ways in which government can encourage Australian employers to address the gender pay gap?
When we hear about the gender pay gap, it’s usually referring to a national figure, and employers don’t see how this is relevant to their business – we know that most employers don’t set out to pay women and men differently. But gender biases mean gender pay gaps between women and men doing the same or similar work can still arise.
As the government Agency charged with addressing this issue, we see education and public awareness as key, in addition to providing the tools and resources to enable employers to address pay equity in their organisation.
We spotted your ‘Daughter Water’ campaign online and we loved the tone and style. Please can you tell us what the campaign is all about and who came up with the idea?
Thank you! We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to the campaign and are thrilled with its success, especially the support we’ve had from business and industry groups. The campaign was inspired by research that found that when male CEOs had daughters, the gender pay gaps in their company shrink. So we created Daughter Water, a drink that purports to help CEOs have daughters.
We sent bottles of Daughter Water to approximately 3,000 CEOs who told us they haven’t done a gender pay gap analysis in the hope that it will help them have their own light bulb moment, and make pay equity a priority.
We worked on this campaign with advertising Agency, DDB.
Do you find that positive reinforcement is the best way of encouraging employers to get on board with regards to gender diversity issues?
I think employers are more likely to get on board where they can see benefits to their business. That’s the reality of living in a commercial world. The positive reinforcement is an added bonus.
What are the commercial benefits for businesses with a diverse workforce?
Research has shown a diversity of viewpoints leads to better decision making which in turn has been linked to improved organisational performance. An inclusive culture also enables employers to access a broader talent pool and reduce turnover.
What projects do you have coming up for 2015?
We have another exciting project launching in 2015 called the Equilibrium Man Challenge. This will be an online documentary series that will track the progress of a number of men as they seek to adopt flexible working practices.
Until now, flexibility has been seen as a solution to the ‘female problem’ of caring. But men also desire flexibility at work, and if we can get more men pursuing flexible work options, then flexibility is more likely to become a workplace norm.