SA Water has achieved a zero per cent gender pay gap in 2017 after successfully implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy.

With Australia’s gender pay gap sitting at 15.3 per cent, SA Water’s zero per cent gap is all the more remarkable, in the male-dominated water industry, often considered nontraditional for female workers.

Commenting on his organisation’s pay parity, SA Water’s Chief Executive, Roch Cheroux, said that gender equity was an important social justice issue.

“The gender pay gap hurts us all – men, women and their families who depend on them – and its socio-economic impacts are long term and significant,” Mr Cheroux said.

“I’m so proud of our achievement; we pay fairly and gender doesn’t enter the equation.

“We’re accountable to our 1.6 million customers across the state, and it’s important we reflect the diversity of the community we serve.

“It’s vital that we lead the way, by working together as effectively as possible, to get the basics right for our customers.

“You need the right structures and processes in place in order to have an organisation with a culture that sustains equitable and inclusive behaviours.”

By acting on peer-reviewed data such as remuneration and job description studies, SA Water has removed inequities and ensured there is a ‘science’ to the dollars employees earn.

Robust processes around employee contracts, a system of checks and balances for pay rises, flexible working arrangements and tackling unconscious bias, are just some of the factors that have contributed to SA Water’s zero pay gap success.

Two thirds of SA Water’s board of directors are female and three of its seven General Managers are women, who are leading operational teams.

The push for diversity and inclusion is bearing fruit, with female staff spearheading programs that have seen the utility harness new technologies, such as its smart water network, and introduce a raft of initiatives to improve the customer experience.

“If leaders focus on just one group, they’ll miss out on so much talent. For me it’s about understanding that diversity is important and doing something about it,” Mr Cheroux said.

The upsides of equal pay are not just anecdotal or confined to SA Water.

Research, including two separate studies by McKinsey and Credit Suisse, has consistently found that companies with female directors and senior managers tend to perform better financially than their less diverse counterparts.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), workplaces that are equally appealing to women and men have access to a larger talent pool and attract high performing employees.

Dr Niki Vincent, South Australian Commissioner for Equal Opportunity and Convenor of the SA Chiefs for Gender Equity group congratulated SA Water.

“Eliminating pay gaps and achieving better gender balance in workplaces will help boost South Australia’s economic performance,” Dr Vincent said.

“Pay gaps and gender bias are not myths. Numerous studies have confirmed they exist and that they are holding our economy back.

“We need more South Australian organisations to examine their own conscious and unconscious discrimination resulting from outdated gender stereotypes, that may be preventing women from making the progression to senior levels of management, or higher salary levels.

“Having more gender-balanced management should be a no-brainer because it’s a sure way to help improve operational performance, including recruiting and retaining the best employees, increasing engagement and promoting more diversity of thought in decision-making at a senior level.”

SA Water’s zero pay gap success is a welcome milestone and forms part of South Australia’s leadership role in this area.

The state is the first in Australia to complete a pay audit of government departments and organisations as part of its wider policy launched in 2015 to achieve equality for women.  

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