In August of this year, Sydney Morning Herald announced that “JB HI-FI admits it has a bloke problem”. Whilst Australian corporate legislation asks that all big businesses publish annual reports on the representation of women in their workforce. Whilst about 39% of general JB Hifi staff are women, the number of women in management and executive positions rests at a measly 4%. This is a 1% decrease from previous years, and despite attempts from management to actively resolve the issue, the company claims to have hit a brick wall.
The issue particularly affected regional areas, with JB HI-FI reporting that it has no store managers in rural areas. But these dismal figures are not in spite of JB HI-FI actively setting objectives to increase the number of women working within the company, as well as to ensure the equal pay of female employees.
Despite having developed strategies to create flexible workplace practises, research into gender pay disparity, actively appointing women into male-dominated roles across the company and restructuring employee hierarchies in stores, the number of women present in high-paid management roles at JB HI-FI has actually decreased further.
Management at JB HI-FI argue that the stable management of senior positions within the company has led to a low turnover of senior positions traditionally held by men. However, this issue is not only faced by JB HI-FI. Many corporations worldwide are struggling to introduce women into executive positions of power. Having an equal representation of women within higher ranks of businesses is important to not only create a sense of equality and diversify the opinions and ideas of management, but its sets an example for newer generations of women entering the workforce.
Thus far, corporations continue to struggle to come up with a solution to this problem. How can the gender pay gap be diminished when active attempts at resolution aren’t working? Is there an inherent problem that everyone is missing, or are women still feeling apprehensive and insecure about assuming responsibility after so many years of being told they couldn’t?
Is the answer to hire on merit, to create more flexible working hours or to restructure employees in order to make room for more women? Several other big name companies such as Fairfax, Primary Health Care and OZ Minerals are all amidst trialling different variations of these strategies. Immediate progress cannot be measured, so unfortunately, any developments in relation to this problem will take some time.
Perhaps there needs to be a more open dialogue between female employees and executive boards of companies. A solution could be to develop national and international research to extensively understand female perceptions of management positions, the gender pay gap, equality and their general attitudes towards feminism. Where a personal contextualization of the issues is understood, HR and company boards can attempt more personal, proactive and direct ways to encourage women to take leadership at work. It is clear that there are underlying issues yet to be discovered. Once these are discovered, women can truly be granted a professional voice.
WORDS BY CYNDALL MCINERNEY.Not sure where your career is headed? Looking for a change? Try PropellHer’s video mentoring platform and find out what a difference mentoring can make to your career!
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