PM’s department tries to work out why males get top jobs, accidently finds women outperform men. By political reporter Jackson Gothe-Snape.
Australia’s pre-eminent federal government department, Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), can’t work out why men still dominate top executive roles.
Key points:Top department finds women get better ratings than men, full-time staff outperform part-time. “Plausible” executive gender imbalance caused by lower ratings for part-time workers, but other factors remain unknown. 17 per cent of women work part-time, compared to only 5 per cent of men.
Internal analysis, obtained by the ABC under freedom of information laws, checked whether men were getting better performance ratings, which could explain why men might be more likely to receive a promotion. But it discovered women were outperforming men in some parts of the organisation, Women represent two thirds of all PM&C employees, but only two of the nine top executives. A spokeswoman for the department said the paper — completed in the first half of 2017 — had “informed inclusion and diversity actions across the department”, and that it “continues to implement” its gender-equality action plan.
“PM&C is committed to embedding gender equality — this is part of our mission to create a more equal, diverse and inclusive workplace,” she said: The gender pay gap at the department was 86 per cent — lower than the public sector broadly. But the work found the pay gap in the prestigious organisation, “entirely reflects the fact that women are, on average, employed at lower pay classifications than men”
What’s preventing promotion then? The analysis did yield one potential explanation for the executive gender imbalance — it found part-time workers tend to receive lower performance ratings than full-time workers.
“Part-time workers’ lower performance ratings could either reflect bias or actual lower performances outcomes [or some mix of both],”. The report states: “In any case, it is plausible that part-time workers’ lower performance ratings are weighing on the number of women in more senior positions, since family care responsibilities tend to fall more heavily on women.” It did not study the discrepancy between full and part-time workers’ ratings.
A 2017 survey of 5,680 women by the Community and Public Service Union (CPSU) reported access to flexible work was the issue prioritised by more respondents than any other.
17 per cent of women work part-time at PM&C, compared to 5 per cent of men However the report noted the ratings discrepancy between full-time and part-time workers was, “unlikely to fully explain the lower numbers of women in higher-paid positions” Potential factors identified The report identified other “potential factors” for the relative lack of women in senior roles, such as: The likelihood more women are in administrative occupations.
The possibility men have more extensive qualifications or experience older, more-senior cohorts that reflect the male-skewed gender balance from previous decades
Time in the workforce due to career responsibilities.
The research, performed by two staff from the department’s economic policy branch, called for more work to be done to test the importance of these factors. PM&C has pledged the work is continuing, and another performance-related-pay-gap analysis will be conducted in coming months Across the federal public service, the proportion of women in senior executive (SES) roles has increased from 36 per cent to 44 per cent in the past decade, and from 43 to 44 per cent during 2017.
According to the 2017 analysis, men outnumber women at PM&C in only three of the 12 levels of pay: graduates, the most senior (SES band 1), and the third most senior (SES band 3) External Link: PM&C Pay Gap Analysis Gender strategy scrutinised The Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016-19 is designed to achieve “gender equality” in leadership and increased take-up of flexible work arrangements, by both men and women. Progress under the strategy will be evaluated later this year.
A submission by the CPSU to a Senate committee last year described this strategy as a good start, but that it ignored “other structural causes of gender gaps, such as pay gaps between different agencies and bargaining policy that has resulted in agencies seeking to remove conditions supporting flexible work arrangements.
CPSU national secretary, Nadine Flood said the analysis shows the Government was, “not serious about addressing the gender wage gap” “We have seen attempts to remove a range of conditions and rights that support flexible working arrangements and the workforce participation of those with caring responsibilities.” She said: A spokesperson for the Australian Public Service Commission, which provides advice to departments on the strategy, urged public service decision-makers to remain “vigilant” about the issue. “It is the responsibility of leaders, managers and supervisors to be vigilant in making sure employees who work full and part time have opportunities for development and career progression,”
They said PM&C produced its own internal gender-equality action plan in 2016, which included what it described as “ambitious stretch targets”, such as a 50-50 gender balance across the SES cohort. The PM&C spokesperson said women represented 52 per cent of the SES cohort in 2016. This has increased to 56 per cent in 2018. A study from the Government’s behavioural economics team released last year tested whether there was unconscious bias towards men during recruitment. However it ultimately found there may have been bias in favour of women.
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