Despite progress "we still have difficulties with women in leadership and we still have a very significant problem with the gender pay gap". Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) Director, Helen Conway told a CEDA Queensland audience.
She said "clearly disadvantage and discrimination prevail".
The EOWA women in leadership census, conducted every two years showed in 2010 "virtually no improvement, since the census had stated in 2002," she said.
Since 2010 "there has been some improvement, but the fact is the figures are still pretty poor," she said.
The current gender pay gap of 17 per cent means "women would have to work an extra 63 days a year to match what men earn," she said.
"I do believe the critical mass of the population supports equality...emotionally people accept that there should be an equality of opportunity, but those good intentions are simply not being translated into action.
"Why are intentions not being translated into actions? It's clearly because people don't think gender diversity is an important business issue.
"There is clear evidence that if you have diversity of thought processes, in decision making bodies, you get better decisions and those decisions will lead to better outcomes - including financial outcomes," she said.
"Women and men think differently, approach things differently, and that's the value...it's the different approaches that men and women bring to decision making that leads to better decisions."
"The fact is that we do have, across Australian workplaces, some key impediments to women moving forward," both structural and cultural, she said.
"We think there are three key steps, and this is not rocket science. If you wanted to achieve any business objective, these are the steps you would follow.
"But these are the steps that are not being followed in relation to gender equality."
The key steps for making change outlined included:
Ms Conway said the EOWA, as an independent regulator for the private sector, would continue to operate with a light touch regulation approach and work cooperatively with businesses to achieve gender equality goals.
Ms Conway outlined changes proposed in the new legislation, which is yet to be passed. The new legislation proposes a new name for the agency, The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, to reflect the focus on gender equality.
It also stipulates a move to online quantitative rather than qualitative reporting against gender indicators and continuation of measures which see non-compliers excluded from government grants and government procurement.
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