By Veronica Fenton – Senior HR and Recruitment Consultant

Equal pay for equal work. In some industries there is a pay gap favouring men.

Women in Australia have been fighting for the right to equal pay since early this century. The principle of equal pay for equal work was recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

in 1948. Since then, women’s right to equal remuneration has gained increasing international support.

Australian women workers were granted equal pay in 1969. Why 47 years later is it still such an issue?

In 2012 the Federal Government introduced the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, announcing minimum standards and compliance obligations for relevant employees.

The gender pay gap is the difference between ladies and men’s average weekly full time equivalent earnings, expressed as percentage of men’s earnings. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency calculates the national gender pay gap using Australian Bureau of Statistics Full Time Adult Average Weekly ordinary Time Earnings (AWOTE) Trend data from the Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) survey. The national gender pay gap is currently at 17.3% and has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past 20 years.

The national gender pay gap based on Average Weekly Earnings is a symbol for the overall position of ladies in the workforce. It does not show “like for like” pay gaps, that is employees in the same or comparable roles, nor determine or explain the causes of any difference in earning between ladies and men.

The gender pay gap is influenced by a number of interrelated work, family and societal factors, including stereotypes about the work ladies and men “should” do, and the way ladies and men “should” engage in the workforce. Other factors that contribute to the gender pay gap include:

  • Ladies and men working in different industries (industrial segregation) and different jobs (occupational segregation). Historically, female dominated industries and jobs have attracted lower wages than male dominated industries and jobs
  • A lack of ladies in senior positions, and a lack of part-time or flexible senior roles. Ladies are more likely than men to work part-time or flexible because they still undertake most of society’s unpaid caring work and may find it difficult to access senior roles
  • Ladies more precarious attachment to the workforce, largely due to their unpaid caring responsibilities
  • Differences in education, work experience and seniority
  • Discrimination, both direct and indirect

In November 2015, the Financial and Insurance Services industry had the highest gender pay gap of 30.0%, followed by the Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services at 27.3% and then followed by the Health Care and Social Assistance.

Although women make up 40 per cent of the average workforce, they only represent a third of managers and 26 per cent of senior managers.

(The data reflected in Australia, with Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) director Libby Lyons saying women made up nearly half the workforce, but were lacking in key management positions).

“In Australia, women are highly educated and make up nearly half the workforce, however just 27.4 per cent of key management personnel and 15.4 per cent of CEOs are women,” she told the ABC. Libby Lyons, WGEA director

Going forward and most importantly, we need real commitment to gender equality as a critical business issue at the highest levels of all Australian organisations.

For more information on how your industry fares, visit www.wgea.gov.au