Gender pay gaps highlighted across industries

THE gender pay gaps for nearly 5,000 Australian private sector employers were published for the first time last week, a move branded by the Federal Minister for Women as a pivotal moment for gender equality in Australia.

“The release of employer gender pay gaps marks a historic step towards transparency and accountability in addressing gender inequality,” Minister for Women Senator Katy Gallagher said.

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“The gender pay gap is a persistent and complex problem that costs the Australian economy $51.8 billion every year,” Minister Gallagher said.

“Transparency and accountability are critical for driving change.

“By shining a light on gender pay gaps at an employer level, we are arming individuals and organisations with the evidence they need to take meaningful action to accelerate closing the gender pay gap in Australian workplaces.”

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) published base salary and total remuneration median gender pay gaps for private sector employers in Australia with 100 or more employees.

According to the data, men are paid on average $18,000 more than women at many of Australia’s major companies over the course of a year.

The results show that 30 percent of employers have a median gender pay gap between the target range of -5 percent and +5 percent.

Meanwhile 62 percent of median employer gender pay gaps are over five percent and in favour of men.

The rest (eight percent) are less than -5 percent and in favour of women.

Across all employers, 50 percent have a gender pay gap of over 9.1 percent.

WGEA CEO Mary Wooldridge said it was encouraging to see gender pay gaps for almost one-third of employers are “close to gender parity within their workforce”.

“All employers should be aiming for a gender pay gap within +/-5 percent,” she said.

“This range allows for normal business fluctuations and employee movements, while signifying that an employer has a focus on identifying and addressing inequalities and is taking action to ensure there is gender equality throughout an organisation.”

There is significant variation in the gender pay gap across different industries, ranging from the construction industry where the mid-point employer gender pay gap is 31.8 percent to the accommodation and food services industry with a mid-point employer gender pay gap of 1.9 percent.

“The gender pay gap is a widely used, internationally recognised measure for gender equality.

“Publishing employer’s gender pay gaps brings transparency to those employers who have low median gender pay gaps and those that don’t,” Ms Wooldridge said.

Workplace diversity expert and University of South Australia researcher Professor Carol Kulik says the release of gender pay gaps is a great first step but its impact will depend on the actions of organisations to narrow the disparity.

“We now must be asking employers, in what roles and what levels of employment are pay gaps most prevalent?”

Professor Kulik said.

“How are you (the employer) supporting employees’ caring responsibilities?

“What are you doing to ensure women move into roles where they are paid more?

“How long will it take for you to close your pay gap?

“Until we show employers that their pay gaps influence our behaviour, they are unlikely to make the changes needed to narrow pay gaps.”

Researchers have documented small but consistent pay gaps between men and women at the start of their careers, including both genders graduating from the same university programs in the same year.

Professor Kulik says those gaps widen over time, as employers administer pay rises as a percentage of an employee’s current salary.

“The gaps widen further when women take extended career breaks and have children.

“Women end up retiring with only two thirds of the amount of superannuation compared to men,” she said.

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