Date posted: 16/02/2022 8 min read

Accountants should act on gender pay gap

New ways of working can create a more inclusive workplace, narrow the gender pay gap, attract talented professionals and prompt growth.

In Brief

  • Women accountants earn 27-34% less on average than their male counterparts in Australia and New Zealand.
  • CA ANZ has made a commitment to shed light on the gender pay gap and foster a more diverse and inclusive environment.
  • The new playbook ‘Narrowing your gender pay gap’ provides guidance and an action plan for businesses to identify and improve on their shortcomings.

When Stem rural accountants in New Zealand introduced a six-hour working day to attract more parents to the firm, it created a ‘life changing’, fairer and more productive workplace, narrowed the gender pay gap and gave it a significant edge over other employers.

“They love it,” says Martin Pipe CA, co-owner and director. “People are able to pick up their kids, go to appointments, exercise – all in working hours – but not disturb their own focused work day. Men and women can share caring responsibilities, which reduces negative career impacts women face when they work part time.”

Stem’s experience is just one example featured in a new playbook by Chartered Accountants ANZ that shows what firms and organisations can do to narrow their gender pay gap and urges members to play their part in introducing employment practices to create fairer, more inclusive workplaces.

Uncomfortable numbers

CA ANZ’s 2021 Member Remuneration Survey, as well as others in previous years, revealed uncomfortable numbers. In Australia, female accountants earn 27% less than men on average, while in New Zealand women earn 34% less than their male colleagues.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” says Chartered Accountants ANZ chief executive officer Ainslie van Onselen. “We are determined to be vocal, to track, and to fix this issue as part of our broader strategy for chartered accountants to be a more diverse and inclusive profession.”

Chartered Accountants ANZ chief executive officer Ainslie van OnselenPicture: Ainslie van Onselen, CEO Chartered Accountants ANZ.

“We are determined to be vocal, to track and to fix this issue.”
Ainslie van Onselen, CEO Chartered Accountants ANZ

Just being aware of the gender pay gap is not enough, van Onselen says. The new playbook, Narrowing your gender pay gap, lays out an agenda for action so individuals, employers and the profession as a whole can act to make their organisations more diverse, inclusive and innovative places to work.

Calling out doubters

The playbook addresses misconceptions that the gender pay gap does not exist; it’s too expensive to address; or that it’s up to women because they choose to have career breaks, work flexibly, don’t negotiate well or don’t speak up for themselves.

The playbook suggests organisations should conduct their own gender pay gap analysis to provide solid data to work with and it provides directions on how to achieve this.
Women may have lost out on compounded salary increases and bonuses over the years, so leaders must look for factors that contribute to the gender pay gap in their organisations, which may be complex and many.

One factor, for example, may be unconscious gender discrimination and bias in the hiring and promotion of women. They also may face “flexism” – a form of discrimination against those who work flexible times and miss out on opportunities – or they could be working part time and face a ‘part-time penalty’, earning less than men overall.

Gender diverse businesses outperform businesses where women are not well represented, research shows.

There is also a clear business case for organisations to close their gender pay gaps. As well as being the right thing to do, research shows that gender-diverse businesses outperform businesses in which women are not well represented.

Companies in the top quarter for gender diversity are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability, a survey by McKinsey & Co shows. Closing the gap improves your organisation’s performance, workplace culture, makes you a more attractive employer and ultimately boosts your bottom line.

Flexibility and job sharing

The playbook offers a detailed checklist and suggests actions to close the gap. It also includes examples of organisations that have assessed their gender pay gaps and taken concrete measures to change their work culture and practices to make them more inclusive.

Sharesies, a financial company in New Zealand, adopted a job-sharing model for its CEO function to enable the executives to balance work with their parenting and personal lives.

When the CEO went on parental leave, two of the six co-founders shared her role. “They decided that the new ‘3EO’ model was working really well and decided to implement the structure permanently,” says Anna Liumaihetau Darling, Sharesies head of People Experience.

CA ANZ itself has taken its own measures to address the gender pay gap. This includes developing a hybrid flexibility model for employees called ‘3-2-1’, which allows them to work up to three days remotely and two days in the office, including one with their team.

“Closing the gender pay gap takes years and is multifactorial,” says Roshni Kapoor, CA ANZ’s general manager, People and Culture. “It’s really complex and requires a variety of interventions, thought and unwavering attention from leadership. At CA ANZ, we’re trying to do that.”

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