What Business Wants: A Project Assessing SME's attitudes and approach to gender equity in the workplace and female participation in the workforce

Suzanne MacKeith, Sandra Cook, Trish Williams

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


    Since the inception of the Equal Pay Day campaign in August 2008, it has become clear to Business and Professional Women Australia (BPWA) that there is growing negativity to the notion of pay equity. This led to the formation of the Equal Pay Alliance in 2009. Subsequently, the community response to the release of the Making It Fair: pay equity and associated issues relating to increasing female participation in the workforce report highlighted the fact that community and business sentiment is increasingly cautious about the repercussions of implementing change that would address pay inequity.BPWA believes that we must be instrumental in providing quality information to government and other relevant organizations about how small business with less than 100 employees, SMEs, can embrace these recommendations of the Making It Fairer report. Such businesses employ thousands of women in Australia therefore it is imperative that we drive and implement appropriate structural change for small business in order to achieve pay equity and better assist women’s lifelong economic security. Hence a proposal was submitted and successfully funded by Security4Women (S4W) with the support of BPWA to investigate this important issue further.This investigation was conducted in two stages. The first stage reviewed the literature in relation to pay equity and small business. The second stage used this review to inform and develop consultations with small business to investigate their attitudes and collect data on current practice in relation to pay equity. Further, the consultations were to garner small business’ view on the issues raised in the literature.There is little research, internationally and nationally, into the attitudes of SMEs to gender equity. However, the review of the literature revealed multiple issues and included compulsory gender representation gender segregation, part-time and casual work, diverse working arrangements, negotiation skills, career expectations, women in leadership roles, education, work-life balance, paid maternity leave, gender equity auditing and gendered corporate culture. The qualitative data from the consultations exposed a general lack of awareness of many of the issues, in particular of gender equity auditing. However, many SME’s recognised the existence of strong male oriented influences in recruitment, workforce gender segregation and corporate culture. All participants saw the benefits of greater flexibility in diverse working arrangements specifically in retention of skills and acknowledgment of family commitments. One key problem identified was the lack of negotiation skills that women display and consequently their career expectations. It was believed that an underestimation of the leadership capabilities of women in the workforce and the difficulty in transition to management was problematic.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationMelbourne
    PublisherA Report for Security4Women by Business and Professio
    Number of pages31
    ISBN (Print)978-0-9807095-4-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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