Numbers focus in gender pay gap

09/03/2016 - 15:26

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WA’s yawning gender pay gap can in part be contributed to young women forgoing maths in years 11 and 12, according to Programmed managing director Chris Sutherland, who today called for societal change to address the problem.

Numbers focus in gender pay gap
Programmed managing director Chris Sutherland

Western Australia’s yawning gender pay gap can in part be contributed to young women forgoing maths in years 11 and 12, according to Programmed Maintenance Services managing director Christopher Sutherland, who today called for societal change to address the problem.

Mr Sutherland made the comments at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia function held in Perth on how to attract women, especially high schoolers into STEM, or the science, technology, engineering and maths disciplines.

“I do directly link the low percentage of girls doing ... maths in year 11 and 12 to the gender pay gap in WA,” Mr Sutherland said.

Mr Sutherland said in his experience it was workers who had maths skills who went on to be promoted and gain leadership roles.

“That includes trades-based occupations like an electrician or a painter. (Those) who can measure a work site, estimate costs and deliver against budget, in a sense, make the firm a profit, in general become a supervisor, project manager, sales manager and other more senior roles in an organisation with higher rates of pay,” he said.

Mr Sutherland called on all members of society to encourage young women to take an interest in STEM subjects, in particular maths.

“Plenty of people will agree there is a problem, but few will agree it is actually their own actions that have created this problem,” Mr Sutherland said.

“The society we’ve created actually delivers the outcome we have, so if we want to produce a different outcome we actually have to change the way society functions.’’

He said girls were commonly told that not doing maths in years 11 and 12 would have little effect on their options or ability to progress their careers.  

“Let’s get society and particularly young girls to understand that girls doing maths will mean doing better jobs, will mean women in higher pay, will mean women (having) more flexibility if and when they want to start a family, girls doing maths mean women will have a better capacity to manage finances and be financially independent,” Mr Sutherland said.  

Shell Crux project general manager Michael Schoch told the event it was time that organisations and individuals looked at the gender diversity issue as integral to developing leadership.

He said Shell had found ways to put in place gender diversity “targets with teeth” without compromising standards.

“It’s amazing what you find when you challenge an organisation to really have a look,” he said.

Keynote speaker Microsoft Australia chief executive Pip Marlow called on schools to embrace technology and incorporate coding in their curriculums.

“Getting more women into STEM and more women into leadership positions is not a problem for women to solve, it is a human problem and we are all at our core all human,” she said.

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