Speech by The Hon Tanya Pibersek MP

EOWA Business Achievement Awards, Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney

Location: Dockside, Balcony Level, Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney

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I would like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.

It is a pleasure to be here today – at the ninth annual Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency Business Achievement Awards.

These awards are important because they give national recognition to employers who actively promote gender equality in the workplace – and it is great to celebrate our successes.

Greater equality economically and socially between men and women is good for us all.

It strengthens our nation.

Nations that have greater equality between men and women do better economically in almost every instance.

It is true of individual workplaces also.

As Giam Swiegers, CEO of Deloitte said when he won the ‘Leading CEO for the Advancement of Women’ award in 2005:

“Equal opportunity is a critical success factor for Deloitte’s growth and we will not succeed until we get it right.

At a time when the wider Australian professional services sector is losing many of its talented professional services business women to local and international industry and commerce, it is a business imperative to retain this talent, if we are to win the war for talent in this country.”

I could not agree more.

I congratulate every finalist organisation for their hard work and dedication – and encourage you to build on your success in the future – and show off a bit to your competitors.

It always makes me proud to see winners and finalists of these awards using their success in their advertising.

It is great to think that winning or participating in these awards is a benefit to your business; its also wonderful to think that organisations can spur one another on to greater action – that organisations will compete to see who is the most family friendly employer; or who has the lowest gender pay gap.

I am heartened that despite the difficult economic climate, smart employers are following the good advice of Giam Swiegers by seeking a competitive edge through the attraction and retention of female talent.

I am proud to present the Minister’s Award – to recognise leading practice in Advancing Indigenous Women and in Eliminating the Gender Pay Gap.

While all women continue to confront barriers to equal opportunity in the workplace, indigenous women face discrimination on multiple fronts – including gender and race.

A terrific young Aboriginal apprentice I met told me that one of the greatest barriers she and other young women faced was their own elders’ views on young women entering non-traditional areas of work.

She was using her own success to help other young women see the advantages of pursuing a career in a non-traditional trade to take advantage of some of the well-paid jobs on offer in the mining industry.

Minister’s Award finalist MIGATE is a community based not-for-profit employment placement organisation for apprentices and trainees.

It became evident that some indigenous employees did not have the necessary experience required to be placed with a new employer.

To fill the gap in experience, MIGATE employed the women in their own offices to give them the office experience, mentoring and training they needed to confidently undertake the traineeships.

Newcrest Mining’s Telfer Operations conducts an indigenous training program which leads to the award of Certificate 1 in Mining and Infrastructure.

Twenty-two indigenous trainees commenced the program – seven of whom were women.

Four of these women have now been successfully placed in roles at the Telfer site.

Since 2002 more than 50 women have been trained at Telfer – 75 per cent of whom are employed at Telfer or at other mine sites, towns or communities.

I do not have to tell anyone here today that pay equity remains a persistent problem.

Earlier this year, we released research that showed that of all organisations reporting to EOWA – fewer than half say they conduct an annual gender pay equity analysis, and over a third of all report contacts believe a gender pay gap exists in their organisation.

This is despite the fact that nearly 8 out of 10 Australians agree that steps should be taken to close the gap between men’s and women’s earnings.

Both Cement Australia and SP AusNet, two of the finalists in the Minister’s Award category, are doing what they can to close the gap.

SP AusNet has thoroughly reviewed pay equity, created guidelines for managers to ensure that employees who are in the same size role and who perform at the same level should be paid the same.

They regard it as a fundamental component of their diversity strategy.

Cement Australia has undertaken a similarly rigorous analysis of pay and grading criteria.

Statistics on disparities between men and women in their organisation are presented to the executive team annually to measure progress on eliminating systemic gender inequity.

This year they began a project to review the classification of roles and grading consistency which involved identifying similar roles filled by male and female employees.

If every business in Australia followed this lead – perhaps we would no longer have a gender pay gap!

Our winner today is a company that has taken extraordinary measures in a traditionally very male-dominated industry to ensure their women employees are treated fairly.

I hope they will use this win to encourage others to follow their lead.

The winner of the Minister’s Award – congratulations to Cement Australia.

I would like to welcome Melinda Horton O’Callaghan to the stage to accept the award on behalf of Cement Australia.