PwC is advising its high-level clients, including major banks and CEO-level leaders, to plan for government-mandated reporting and diversity policies.
Women account for only 26.7 per cent of ASX 200 directorships according to AICD figures, and the average OECD woman earns about 15 per cent less than her male counterparts, according to PwC.
The persisting inequities create a climate for legislative intervention which large Australian businesses will need to brace for, according to PwC’s chief diversity and inclusion officer Julie McKay.
A likely policy outcome would be mandatory reporting laws for gender pay gaps, which was introduced this year in the UK.
“What this is demonstrating [internationally] is a sense of frustration about the slow rate of progress. Some governments are saying enough is enough, and they are going to intervene,” said Ms McKay.
“I don’t think in Australia there is the political courage to do that yet, but I think in three to five years from now, we will be operating in an environment where there is tighter legislation around it,” she said.
In PwC’s experience, conversations with the big four banks, board-level executives and CEOs are dramatically shifting to consider diversity and inclusion as a result of internal pressures and external policy moves.
“What is importantly happening is the number of CEOs who are engaging us saying... if we fail to bring greater diversity and inclusion, what risks are we exposed to, and what risks are we exposing our shareholders and investors to?” Ms McKay said.
“They are coming to firms like PwC to have those conversations; there is real shift in attitudes around this issue,” she said.
“From a board risk mitigation perspective, I think it is a priority,” she added.
PwC recently introduced new gender-based targets at the director level, to correct its 16 per cent pay gap between female and male partners. At this stage, it does not have a target date for achieving parity at the partnership level, but will report its progress to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency every two years.