Men out-earn women by more than $27,000 a year.
That was the finding of Workplace Gender Equality Agency data released this week.
Covering 12,229 employers and more than 40 per cent of employees in Australia, it confirms there are gender pay gaps throughout industries, especially at senior management levels.
While the pay gap has declined slightly since 2013-14, there’s still an average annual base salary difference of $17,243; growing to $27,254 on total remuneration, which includes bonuses, allowances and superannuation.
There are many reasons but the key ones, according to WGEA’s report, is women tend to work in lower-paying occupations and industries.
“Blue-collar” industries including mining, construction and manufacturing are male-dominated. Women, meanwhile, are concentrated in health, education and retail. (“Financial and insurance services” was ranked worst in terms of the pay gap.)
Another reason is more women, as primary carer, occupy part-time roles. The report said women work part time at three times the rate of men (full-time women comprise only one in five employees).
From an earning-capacity point of view, working part time is bad. Part-time roles get excluded from high-paying management roles (just 6.3 per cent of management roles overall are part time).
Meanwhile, the top levels of management remain heavily male dominated (just 15.4 per cent of CEO positions and 27.4 per cent of key management personnel positions held by women).
This week one of the nation’s largest public sector employers, the Australian Taxation Office, reported that at its top management levels, men far outnumber women. Yet 60 per cent of its almost-21,000 workers are female. When it comes to part-time work – moving down the managerial ranks and therefore pay scales – the agency’s numbers flip; here women significantly outnumber men.
Another reason for the gender pay gap that isn’t explored in the WGEA report but one its director Libby Lyons says there is anecdotal evidence to back, is that women are simply not as aggressive as men in putting themselves forward for promotions and pay rises.
The solutions need to come partly from employers.
Employers must identify opportunities that enable women to feel more confident to step forward. They must have strategies that enable women, and men, to work more flexibly. They must offer women roles and projects that enable them to build the skills they need to apply for higher-profile jobs later on. They must set diversity targets and measure them, and have strategies in place to keep improving them.
In all the bad news on pay, there was some good news: more employers are analysing and correcting the pay gaps in their organisations (20.6 per cent of employers had a gender equality strategy and 26.3 per cent conducted a gender pay gap analysis).
There are more opportunities for flexible work (60.2 per cent of employers have a flexible working policy or strategy compared with 57.5 per cent last year).
As the report notes, “Women’s representation in leadership roles has inched higher, gender pay gaps have inched lower and growing numbers of employers are taking action to support gender equality in their own workplaces. These are all small steps in the right direction.”
But not all the onus is on the employer. Women themselves have a part to play. If you want a promotion, apply for it. If you want a pay rise, push for one. And keep pushing until you do.
Don’t let rejection set you back. Don’t let a man (or woman) tell you you are not good enough. Keep building your skills and take on roles/projects that enable you to.
PwC chief diversity and inclusion officer Marcus Laithwaite says “women need to push and prod their employers to be serious about this”.
He says few organisations know what their gender pay gap is. One way to rectify that, he says, is to do ask your employer to do a gender pay gap audit – look at the difference in salary between the organisation’s male employees and female employees at all levels – and then take steps to address it.
WGEA data shows only 9.7 per cent of organisations that do gender pay gap audits are reporting it to the board.
Ms Lyons says sometimes women don’t have confidence to speak up – “traditionally women don’t negotiate as well as men, we need to address those sorts of issues at school and university” – but more often women don’t feel they are competent enough to go for the top jobs.
The critical career-building stage – the middle years when there are opportunities for international assignments and skill-building roles that build confidence – is exactly when women leave work to have children. This is confirmed in a 2013 Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women report.
Lyons says apart from employers offering opportunities for staff to work more flexibly, conversations need to be had at home.
As argued in these pages before, it’s time men step aside from their job and become the “mum” for a while.
This will help free up women to take up full-time executive roles that pay better.
“It’s a journey we’re all on and it’s about everybody being held to account,” Lyons says.