Understanding Gender Equity

Impacts and strategies for business success​

Author: Belén Palkovsky

Gender equity, a cornerstone of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), extends beyond the notion of gender equality by acknowledging the unique needs and circumstances of different genders and providing the resources and opportunities necessary to achieve fair outcomes. Unlike gender equality, which treats everyone the same, equity aims to level the playing field so everyone can exercise their rights fully. This concept is crucial for several reasons.

Economically, societies that promote gender equity are more prosperous and sustainable. Companies with gender-diverse leadership often experience better financial performance, higher employee engagement, and a wider range of innovative ideas.

Socially, promoting gender equity helps reduce poverty and improve educational and health outcomes for communities.

From a human rights perspective, gender equity ensures everyone has equal access to opportunities and freedoms.

In Australia, despite significant progress, challenges remain. Women still face wage disparities, underrepresentation in leadership, and gender-based violence.

The 2023 BCEC and WGEA report showed that the gender pay gap was 22.8% in 2022.

Women are significantly underrepresented in top executive roles and on boards of directors, with only 16.7% of board chair positions held by women in 2022.

Additionally, violence against women remains a serious social and public health issue.

Addressing these challenges requires ongoing, informed efforts to promote gender equity through policy changes, education, and support services.

Australian Gender Equity legislation

Since the implementation of the Workplace Gender Equality Act in 2012, Australia has taken significant steps toward promoting gender equity in the workplace. This legislation mandates employers with 100 or more employees to report annually on gender equity practices to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

Key provisions include the requirement for businesses to report data on gender composition, pay structures, and diversity policies; conduct and report gender pay gap analyses; and develop action plans to address discrepancies.

Compliance is closely monitored, with non-compliant businesses facing exclusion from government contracts and grants, alongside potential negative publicity.

Since 2024, the WGEA has published companies’ gender equity reports, enhancing transparency and encouraging compliance through public pressure and stakeholder engagement.

Moreover, despite policies promoting work-life balance, women often face significant challenges in balancing career and family responsibilities, affecting their career progression.

Persistent challenges for women

Recent reports from the WGEA show a persistent pay disparity of about 14%, highlighting insufficient policy implementation to combat inequalities in the corporate environment.

Women make up only 30% of leadership positions in major companies listed on the ASX,, and the persistence of a pay gap means women still earn less than men for the same or equally valuable work.

Work environments that do not adopt effective diversity and inclusion policies perpetuate stereotypes and discriminatory practices.

That’s why creating an inclusive corporate culture requires commitment from leadership, ongoing education, and the implementation of policies that support diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization.

Despite these challenges, some progress has been made.

Employers of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) show faster progress in closing gender pay gaps and implementing supportive work environments.

EOCGE employers have an average pay gap of 17.4% compared to 26% for non-EOCGE employers. In EOCGE organizations, 37.2% of governing body positions are held by women, compared to 31% in other organizations.

These employers also offer longer periods of employer-funded parental leave, with more male managers taking primary carer’s leave. Such progress demonstrates that with the right policies and commitment, significant strides toward gender equity can be achieved.

Creating a fairer workplace

Numerous companies already demonstrate that progress is possible and beneficial for everyone. By fostering inclusive policies, addressing disparities, and supporting diverse leadership, businesses can thrive and contribute to a more equitable world.

Action Steps for Organizations:

Conduct Regular Pay Audits: Regularly analyze and address any gender pay gaps within your organization.

Implement Inclusive Policies: Develop and enforce policies that support work-life balance, such as flexible working hours and parental leave.

Promote Female Leadership: Create programs and initiatives to support the advancement of women into leadership roles.

Foster an Inclusive Culture: Provide diversity and inclusion training to all employees and create a workplace environment that values and respects all individuals.

Monitor and Report Progress: Regularly report on gender equity metrics and set measurable goals to ensure continuous improvement.

Invest in Education and Training: Offer educational programs and professional development opportunities that focus on gender equity and awareness.

By taking these steps, your organization can actively support gender equity, challenge unfair practices, and contribute to a more inclusive and prosperous workplace, with all the benefits associated.

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