Australian organisations lead the charge on diversity and inclusion, but true equality has a way to go



Australia, 24 August, 2020 – According to Mercer’s When Women Thrive 2020 Australia Report, Australia has made significant progress in gender equality in recent decades, with 84% of respondents reporting that their organisations are already focused on improving diversity and inclusion (D&I). However, projections show that gender equality is improbable in the next 10 years without continued change and evolution to close the workforce gap. 


The report surveyed nearly 50 organisations and over 250,000 employees across Australia, and offers an evidence-based approach to improving D&I. 


Despite making significant progress in workforce equality, women in Australia continue to face challenges across industries — from unequal pay to the absence of support systems that help them and their partners balance work and family responsibilities and allow them to advance. Over the past five years, important factors and forces have emerged and evolved, resulting in increased pressure on organisations for faster progress in D&I. Some of these factors include societal and cultural awareness, shareholder activism, government actions and pay equity mandates.


 “Slowly, but surely, Australian organisations are enabling women to step in and step up,” said Katelijne Pee, Talent & Capability Leader at Mercer. “And, those organisations that are taking actions to systematically improve the representation of underrepresented groups and create a more inclusive culture will achieve tangible, long-term results and the benefits that go with it.”


“Overall, female representation (professional level and above) in participating organisations in Australia is 42%. At the current rate, projections indicate that female representation in the country will see a gain of five percentage points over a 10-year period, with actual parity in sight. The key to reaching gender parity will be an ongoing focus on advancement and retention of women at all career levels. Successful organisations will look unflinchingly at their D&I data, create goals and metrics grounded in those data, and hold themselves accountable.”


Despite the advances we have seen so far in Australia, some of the heaviest lifting lies ahead, notes Ms Pee. “To advance, women need the right roles, opportunities, pay, benefits, flexibility and the organisational environment most predictive of success.” 


“Truly, when women thrive, businesses thrive; we now have more and more examples demonstrating that this is indeed the case. But today, women thriving transcends business. When women thrive, so do men, families, communities, countries and society as a whole. Collectively, by driving equality, we are creating a better, more equitable world for everyone,” added Ms Pee. 


Additional findings

  • In Australia, significantly more organisations report receiving pressure to improve D&I, particularly from their employees. However, organisations report they face challenges in their ability to hire, promote and retain women going forward, more so than organisations globally.
  • Improving workforce D&I is high or very high on the agenda of 84% of organisations surveyed in the country, with 72% of organisations reporting their senior executives are actively engaged in D&I initiatives & programs. 
  • Analysing pay equity to ensure fair pay relative to contribution is a key objective (84%), but a process for pay remediation is lacking. The current COVID-19 pandemic is likely to create a further set-back towards pay equity with woman being disproportionately impacted. 
  • Companies say woman have equal opportunity for advancement (76%), however only about a third are represented in people manager and P&L responsibility roles.
  • 88% of organisations say they offer flexible working options, but only a third are taking steps to actively gather information on caregiver needs and obligations. 


About When Women Thrive 

Let’s Get Real About Equality: When Women Thrive 2020 Australia Report builds upon the 2020 global study, and examines the achievements made to date and the ground yet to cover. Learnings from this research is intended to help guide organisations in the steps they can take to successfully institutionalise the policies, practices and programmes designed to help ensure equality of opportunity, experience and pay — and ultimately nurture an inclusive culture.





About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s more than 25,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh & McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 76,000 colleagues and annual revenue of USD $17 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including MarshGuy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter or LinkedIn.