Analysis and Commentary

Gender discrimination and disadvantage rife in manufacturing

Analysis and Commentary

By Peter Roberts

The story of the moment is not so much the Covid-19 pandemic, but the discrimination, disadvantage and in some cases abuse that women suffer every day in Australian workplaces.

This situation is disgracefully endemic in what should be Australia’s model workplace – the federal Parliament.

Lack of opportunity, bullying, belittlement, unwanted sexual advances and even rape appear to be common in the Parliament, so why not in our own backyard in manufacturing?

We know for certain some of this happens in manufacturing – especially the under-representation, the gender pay gap and the lack of advancement to leadership positions – from the official statistics.

The problem begins even before work. Despite having similar performance levels at school women choose STEM education at a lower rate than men.

In 2017, for example, boys accounted for 79.2 of STEM subject completions at school compared to 20.8 per cent of girls.

This flows on to the STEM workforce where only 27 per cent are women, while in engineering only 12.4 per cent were women in 2016.

Women earn less than their male counterparts.

The gender pay gap in engineering is 11.0 per cent, in science 12.4 per cent and ICT 20.2 per cent.

And women are less likely to get to the top in their chosen professions.

In academia 31 per cent of academic and research workers are women but only 14.5 per cent of professors are women.

The story is the same in business with the Chief Executive Women (CEW) ASX200 census showing there are only 10 female CEOs of ASX 200 companies, the lowest since the census began.

(In @AuManufacturing, Serena Ross (pictured) wrote on the experience of being a female CEO in manufacturing in November)

The story is the same in other C-level fields – only 16 per cent of CFO’s for example are women.

The census found only 30 companies of the 200 had 40 to 60 per cent women in their executive leadership teams.

The top performing manufacturing company in the 200 is vitamin manufacturer Blackmores where women make up 55 of the executive team.

Of course the problem of the under representation of women goes right to the top.

Of the 11,000 organisations from which the WGEA annually collects gender data, around one third currently have not a single woman on their boards.

So we know women are under-represented in manufacturing, paid less, promoted less and become leaders less often than men.

What we do not know is the extent to which the appalling behaviour of men towards women in Parliament also applies in manufacturing – let’s hope it is far less common. Let’s hope it is uncommon.

But let’s end on a positive note.

In 2020 the federal Workplace Gender Equality Agency established that companies who appointed a female CEO increased their market value by five per cent — worth nearly $80 million to an average ASX200 company.

Increasing the number of women in other key leadership positions by 10 per cent or more, meanwhile, increases a company’s market value by 6.6 per cent or an average $105 million.

So to manufacturing leaders – have a good look at your organisation and ask whether women are treated fairly and with respect – and what can be gained by taking affirmative action to increase female representation in your organisation.

Picture: Serena Ross

Subscribe to our free @AuManufacturing newsletter here

Share this Story
Analysis and Commentary

Stay Informed

Go to Top