We did something extraordinary recently (even if we say so ourselves). It wasn’t easy and it has generated some polarised views. We had to go to ‘court’ for the right to do it and it required a State Commission to pass judgment on it. It went to the basis of what we really mean by equity. We decided to pay our female staff more superannuation than their male counterparts – a further 1% of their salary to be precise.
On the face of it this is discrimination in its own right which is why we required clearance from both the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) and the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland.
So why do it? Well I believe it’s the right thing to do. There is an argument by some that the pay differential doesn’t really exist because men and women are generally paid the same for the same job. The broader consideration of this is that women, in general, have considerable time away from the workplace either in the form of maternity and/or carers leave, or returning as part-time or casual workers. Coupled with this, women are over-represented in low paid and part-time/casual work.
The ability therefore for women to accrue sufficient superannuation to secure a comfortable retirement is placed in jeopardy as a result. Compounding the equity impact is the reality that time away from the workplace affects promotion potential.
Working outside the system means the grip on networks, the prevailing political landscape and knowledge of potential opportunities is compromised.
We know from research that the informal system is the exoskeleton through which upward progress is made in business. If you are not on the inside you are by default on the outside. The route to seniority or partner is made so much harder, especially when returning from having a baby and having to balance competing demands (skills borne out of necessity, by the way, that are of huge value in the corporate world).
So if you are a believer in gender equity in the workplace and want to do something substantial about it, consider levelling the playing field by paying your female staff more superannuation. They will return this appreciation of their contribution in the workplace in ways that far out-weigh the additional cost.
If you are a small corporation and think this is only possible in the large corporate world think again. We are a small to medium enterprise. We value the contribution of our female team members every bit as much as we do our men. To do so in a meaningful and authentic way is what counts. I can’t think of a more robust endorsement of the importance of equity in the workplace than assisting women to return to work in the most flexible manner possible and making-up in some small way for lost time out of the labour market.
Not all agree of course. When we commenced our differential superannuation contributions this April we became the third company in Australia to do so. It’s an important issue. The Australian Human Rights Commission thinks so and so do we. Wouldn’t it be super if this became standard business practice?