Women's work

A typical carer earns no more than $40 000 per annum, is a woman over 40, possibly single as a result of separation or divorce, has children and ageing parents.

These carers, mostly women are paid no more than the basic wage, are struggling to retire on an income that enables her the dignity of a daily cup of coffee without counting her pennies much less afford her the dignity of her own home, not her daughter’s home or someone’s couch.

This day started off with a CEO Roundtable attended by CEOs from the not for profit (NFP) sector.

The reality is that the NFP sector is a sector dominated by the working poor, most of whom are women. At senior levels however according to the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, men still dominate, despite the reality that the sector is dominated by women at lower levels.

Is it because women are opting out of higher paid roles, they can’t balance home and higher level work? Is it because they lack confidence? Are women deliberately opting for low paid roles because that’s all they can get? Why aren’t they opting for higher paid roles in other sectors?

In male dominated and higher paying sectors it’s often the non-existent pipeline of female talent, due to the few number of female graduates, that is attributed to few women at the top in senior roles where women may make up less than 25% of the total workforce.

When the pipeline in the NFP sector is full of women, we can’t continue to accept that the pipeline or the leaky pipeline is an issue. When females have been graduating in law and accounting in higher numbers than men for the last 20 years, can we continue to blame women for not getting to the top?

At this roundtable, we explored many of the challenges faced by the NFP sector that is increasingly facing demands to do more with a lot, lot less. Many workforce challenges were also discussed, one of which was an unpalatable reality; the value of women’s work.

 The value of traditional women’s work is valued differently to traditional men’s work.
Women’s work is valued less.

Cooking is valued less than driving; caring is valued less than gardening; cleaning is valued less than welding.

Yes we can encourage women to take on more traditionally male roles that pay more.

Sectors that are traditionally dominated by men are facing significant disruption and unemployment in response to structural labour market demands. Traditional manufacturing and labouring roles are disappearing, fast.

The community services and health sector has grown three times faster, year on year, more than every other sector for the last decade. 80% of those jobs have gone to women.

It’s very hard to not be overwhelmed and impressed by the sheer tenacity of this group of leaders coupled with their commitment to community. I am optimistic that these leaders despite the uncertain and complex environments in which they operate will find solutions that work for women and men, whilst caring for me, you, us and yours.

In the recognition that there was an opportunity to better value the work of women that work within the NFP sector, our CEOs closed with commitments to:

  • undertake a gender pay gap audit for the first time
  • recruit less part timers instead offering more hours to women
  • develop workforce development plans with gender balance at its centre
  • not to benchmark traditionally senior female roles (in HR, marketing, legal) with (inherently biased) market rates
  • develop their own talent internally for senior roles rather than hiring externally.

As a collective they also agreed to strengthen their advocacy for women at risk of homelessness due to weak retirement incomes and to strengthen their commitment to absorbing increased salaries by 2020 as a result of an equal remuneration order whilst not subsidising government procured services.

Gratefully, the working day for me ended with an episode of Employable Me on the ABC; a real tribute and triumph of the diversity that exists in our community and the workplaces that welcome it.

A timely reminder for me also, and for our CEOs for Gender Equity, that the impact of CEO-led actions in the workplace cannot be underestimated and are very powerful in driving gender equity. And more broadly inclusion and diversity.

Changing culture and behaviours at work is a great place to start. These leaders know that change starts at the top and that it starts with them.

CEOs for Gender Equity is grateful to Activ Foundation CEO Danielle Newport for hosting this month's CEO Roundtable.

I joined CEOs for Gender Equity because I want talented people to be acknowledged, supported and rewarded based on their talent and their value to their organisation. A leader’s behaviour casts a shadow on an organisation. Being explicit about intent and expectations gives an organisation clarity and helps to drive momentum and commitment. A clear vision from the top gives permission for the change that is needed. The benefits of achieving gender equity for Activ would be a broader pool of diverse talent and we could retain valuable IP by promoting from within and developing our own leaders of the future. Every organisation needs the best talent to succeed. So many talented members of the workforce are not supported and developed and their insight is lost to us all.

Tania Cecconi

Since 2016, I have been thrilled to work with CEOs for Gender Equity as its inaugural executive director. Working with progressive CEOs my goal is to turn the dial in Western Australia. My job is to help them lead the transformation of their workforce by eliciting and sharing their stories of what works and doesn't work to drive and improve gender equity further.