Calls for quotas for Asians on company boards and in the upper echelons of the public service would provoke ridicule. Arguments that corporate Australia needs to harness Asian perspectives to better compete in the `Asian century’, and that Asian people are unfairly underrepresented in the senior managerial ranks of the largest companies would be dismissed as weak at best.
Yet the same sorts of arguments motivate the depressingly fashionable trend toward quotas for women in the workforce. Since 2011 both the government and the Australian stock exchange have introduced rules requiring companies to encourage greater female representation at the executive level, so far stepping short of recommending hard quotas.
The public service has gone further, though. Treasury in Canberra intends to have women make up 35 per cent of its senior staff by 2016, and this week it emerged the Reserve Bank has considered an `aspirational’ target of ensuring women fill 40 per cent of its senior ranks, despite an internal review showing no bias against women in promotion given their levels of experience.
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People keep asking me does gender matter in politics? If this week’s news about the gender pay gap in managerial jobs is anything to go by, not as much as it does in management.
I’ve always believed that there is no more basic principle of fairness than equal pay for equal work. Yet it was no surprise to anyone that Macquarie University research highlighted in this week’s The Age found female managers are an average of $13,500 a year worse off than their male counterparts.
The research took into account that women managers work in lower-paid sectors such as health and community services and clock up slightly less hours than male managers. Even accounting for these factors, the work of a woman manager comes at a $13,500 discount.
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