The fact that there is something called the Workplace Gender Equality Agency is scary enough. If I had time, I would find out how much this superfluous piece of interfering nonsense actually costs. My guess is around $35 to $40 million per year. I think there are about 70 staff, virtually all women (where’s the equality in this?, I ask).
But here’s the bit I really love: the director thinks that all this mandatory reporting (which is completely inaccurate and why any researcher would not touch it with a barge pole) is actually helpful to companies and that the agency provides confidential benchmarking documents to companies which can then be used to .. improve gender equality.
(And if Helen Conway, Director of WGEA, understood anything about economics, which she clearly does not,she would realise the participation and productivity are not the same thing. Forcing more women into the workforce would probably lower productivity because the most productive have the strongest incentives to participated.)
PLEASE … why would any sensible business person use the services of ideologically and ill-trained public servants for any sort of advice?
And as for all those surveys of business declaring they really love the reporting and find it really really useful, again PLEASE. These surveys will be filled in by the twinks in the HR department, almost always women, who can make work for themselves by virtue of these government requirements. And let’s face it, most people who work in HR departments are really oxygen thieves as far as the business is concerned, many of them of whom would not be there were it not for all the regulatory claptrap with which companies must comply.
Here’s the apologia from Helen:
It is universally accepted Australia must increase productivity, and long-term fiscal challenges will put more pressure on the public purse.
Increasing female workforce participation is one of the key levers we can pull to grow our economy. Goldman Sachs and JBWere have calculated closing the gap between male and female employment rates could increase GDP by 13 per cent and the Grattan Institute says increasing female workforce participation by 6 per cent could add $25 billion to the nation’s bottom line.
The present female workforce participation statistics reflect a market failure. The lack of women in senior positions, low participation rates for women from 25 to 44, and the large proportion of women working part-time – double the OECD average – all point to an inefficient use of our female talent. Despite the World Economic Forum ranking Australia equal first for female educational attainment, we have slipped to 52nd for female labour participation.
To correct this imbalance and encourage more women into work, we must help employers translate their good intentions on gender equality into action that will increase the number of women in the workforce. Company-specific, standardised gender reporting data is a critical part of the picture.
From this year, reporting to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency will be based on gender equality indicators including gender workforce composition, pay equity and flexible working arrangements, and will be focused on outcomes.
This output data will give an unprecedented picture of gender performance in Australian workplaces, allowing the agency to develop a customised, confidential benchmark report for each organisation that reports to us. This will be a powerful business intelligence tool. Employers will be able to compare gender performance with their peers, identify areas to improve and track the effectiveness of gender equality strategies over time.
It has been suggested gender reporting will divert resources from implementing initiatives to improve female workforce participation. On the contrary, the benchmark reports will enable employers to target their efforts where they are most needed so they are not wasting resources.
Importantly, there is strong support for this new framework. Of the 2522 employers surveyed by the agency last year, about 90 per cent supported the new reporting requirements. Almost 80 per cent said benchmark reports would be valuable or very valuable.
It was also suggested data to be reported to the agency duplicates existing data. Incorrect. Unlike existing data, the agency’s reporting data will give employers relevant organisation-specific information they need to create solutions that will drive change. Macro-level workforce indicators generated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics won’t cut it. While such data helps paint a broad national picture of the gender equality problem, it is of little relevance to an individual employer and highly unlikely to compel change – something painfully obvious given the lack of progress to date.
Other data sources are incomplete, not suitably specific and not standardised, so not useful to individual organisations.
Non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees are required to report to the agency. Despite suggestions organisations at the lower end of this scale will find reporting an undue burden, the agency’s assessment, after relevant feedback, is that this is not so. A PwC report last week indicates a readiness and willingness by small and medium enterprises to report – likely be easier for smaller than larger organisations.
Gender reporting is not red tape. But it is important employers get a return on their reporting commensurate with the effort of reporting. This means achieving an appropriate balance in the matters to be reported and providing valuable data in return. This is what the benchmark reports are all about.
Make no mistake: if we fail to equip employers with the information they need to improve workplace gender equality, we limit our nation’s future growth. But it is my hope we will look back on this time as the watershed moment where Australia began treating workplace gender equality as the economic imperative it is.