Businesses need to institute more formal quotas and targets for women in leadership positions to help close the gender pay gap, which is the biggest driver of women’s poorer retirement outcomes.

That was the argument put forward by Sam Mostyn, one of Australia’s most senior professional non-executive directors, at the Women, Super, and Wealth Summit, held in Sydney on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

“I know that’s controversial because a lot of people feel that if you are the recipient of a target or a quota, somehow you weren’t the best for the job or you lack some form of merit,” Mostyn said. “I promise you, that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Mostyn is a non-executive director of Virgin Australia, Citigroup, Transurban Group and Cover-More Group. Her many other roles also include president of the Australian Council for International Development, deputy chair of the Diversity Council Australia, and commissioner of the Australian Football League.

One of the great drivers of the persistent gender pay gap is profound industrial and occupational segregation, and strategies such as quotas and targets are required to rectify the discrepancies, she said.

In Australia, 60 per cent of workers are in an industry dominated by a single gender, according to the Diversity Council of Australia.

This is particularly pronounced in two major sectors. More than 80 per cent of employees in the healthcare and social assistance sector are women, while 84 per cent of all employees in construction and mining are men.

The relative prosperity of different sectors, therefore, has a significant impact on the financial outcome of its workforce.

Mostyn said not enough has been done at universities, high schools and primary schools to send the message to girls and boys that they can pursue non-traditional career paths for their gender.

“We know we need to encourage more women to participate in male-dominated industries. We’ve got to encourage more men to participate in the women-dominated occupations,” she said. “We need to see women leading organisations, stepping up to chief executive roles, chief financial officer roles, and chief operating officer roles.”

A number of other speakers at the summit echoed Mostyn’s points, including the chair of fintech hub Stone and Chalk, Craig Dunn.

“People have talked about quotas and targets being perhaps a bit controversial,” said Dunn, a former chief executive of AMP. “I think they’re increasingly being accepted in business and I’m a big fan of them. I think they’re really important, and I think the same should apply in government.”

Investment Magazine was the official media partner of the Women, Super and Wealth Summit 2017. The Summit was jointly presented by the SMSF Association and Financial Services Council, with the support of the Commonwealth Bank.

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