Global gender pay gap –  who does it best?


It wasn’t too long ago that the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) released the workplace gender pay gap statistics, showing Australia has actually gone BACKWARDS compared to 2004. Even more shockingly, the World Economic Forum has predicted that it will be 100 years before the gender pay gap is finally closed. Others have predicted even longer.


But what actually causes the gender pay gap?

Historically, it was often put down to differences in education, occupation, industries, or women being more likely to work part-time.

According to the Ministry for Women New Zealand, these factors only explain around 20% of the current gender pay gap.

The other 80% is caused by factors such as conscious and unconscious bias, which impacts negatively on women’s recruitment and career progression, as well as differences in men’s and women’s choices and behaviours.

One prevalent behaviour I have seen amongst the 32,000 women I have mentored over the last 12 years, is women not negotiating for higher salaries.

According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report for 2017, Australia is currently placed 35th in the world for gender equality – a shocking statistic for a first world country with a strong economy!

Hence, I have taken a look at a few of the top countries in this latest report that are successfully closing the gap, and I’ve explored what learnings we might be able to take from some of them.


Iceland – ranked world number 1

I’ll start with the most obvious one, the country that has topped the list for the last 8 years.

Iceland have recently also taken a radical and admirable step in 2018, to make it illegal for employers to pay women less than men for comparable roles.

This applies to employers with 25 or more employees, who must seek an independent certification every 3 years to demonstrate that they meet the equal pay requirements.

If they fail to do so, they can be fined up to 50,000 Iceland Krona ($600 AUD) per day.

Iceland have been trailblazers for gender equality since a mass protest in 1975, paving the way for other countries to follow in its path.

The country has vowed to eliminate the gender pay gap entirely by 2022 in just three years.

Not only are Iceland drawing eyes from the rest of the world due to its innovative approach to gender equality, but they also have a strong economy.

In 2017, Iceland topped the OECD list of fastest growing economies out of 35 countries (Australia included).

I’ve been saying it for years but I’ll say it again, it really is time to take a leaf out of Iceland’s book!


Rwanda – ranked world number 4

Yes that’s right, you haven’t misread; Rwanda – one of the poorest countries in the world beats the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and many more when it comes to gender equality.

What makes their 4th place ranking even more surprising, is that Rwanda actually features on the UN list of 48 least developed nations in 2017.

So how are Rwanda shaming so many other countries when it comes to closing the gender pay gap?

In terms of health and survival gap, Rwanda is ranked 1 due to having fully closed the gap for the first time in 2017.

In terms of economy, Rwanda have one of the highest rates of female labour force participation in the world.

Sadly, the roots of Rwanda’s high level of female participation goes back to the horrific genocide in 1994, where over 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered, and women were forced to take up roles usually undertaken by men. As a result, women spoke up and demanded a fairer deal.

Thanks to a quota stating that at least 30% of politicians must be made up of women – Rwanda regularly tops the list for female political participation. They currently are ranked 3 for political empowerment and have 61% female politicians.

Overall, Rwanda has closed 82% of its gender pay gap since its first year of being ranked in 2004.

Whilst they’ve still got a way to go, there’s no doubt we can learn something from Rwanda. Women spoke out and this resulted in a real shift, Australia only has around half the percentage of female MPs, at 32% in 2016.


New Zealand – ranked world number 9

Topping the list for east Asia and the Pacific region, New Zealand are clearly doing something right.

The current gender pay gap in New Zealand is 9.4%, down from 16.3% in 1998.

So what are New Zealand doing right?


One indicator could be a recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

In the report, it was found that women in New Zealand gain more tertiary qualifications than men, and female-owned new enterprises outperform male-owned enterprises.

How long will it be before Australia catches up with Rwanda, Iceland, New Zealand and the other multiple countries who are ahead with gender equality?

Australia has managed to improve its ranking from 46 in 2016 to the current position of 35, and are ranked 3rd across Asia Pacific after New Zealand and the Philippines.

It’s commendable effort but we need to accelerate progress as there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender parity in Australia.

One of the first steps organisations can take towards closing the gender pay gap, is by offering gender-specific career training and mentoring for their female employees.

Speak to us at emberin today to find out more about our female career mentoring program, which helped moved the number of women in senior roles at Telstra from 6% to 31% in just 2 years.

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