Less than 50 percent of women are employed full-time, WGEA data shows

Less than 50 percent of women are employed full-time, WGEA data shows


Women are not being considered for management roles in Australia because at every age and stage of their working lives, most of them are not working full-time.

New data revealed by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) showed that at every age of a woman’s life, more than half of them are not engaged in full-time paid employment.

As a result, the gender pay gap for women will continue to grow, while they miss out on leadership roles, since higher paid management roles were almost exclusively offered to full time employees. 

For the first time ever, this year’s WGEA data broke down the gender gap by age. 

Released today, Wages and Ages: Mapping the Gender Pay Gap by Age collected data on employees’ age from employers.

Over 70 per cent of employers chose to disclose their employees’ year of birth, accounting for nearly 3 million Australian employees.

The WGEA 2021 dataset was based on the gender equality reporting data sourced from non-public sector employers with a hundred or more employees during the annual WGEA employer census.

The research found that in all age groups, more than 90 per cent of managers worked full-time, and men over 55 were twice as likely to be in management than women. 

The discrepancy in working patterns between men and women occurred from age 35 onwards, when most men worked full time and most women worked part time or casually.

For women who rose to managerial ranks at the same age, two-thirds were in lower tiered management positions.

The research also found that men out earn women across every generation, with the greatest difference at the 55 – 64 age bracket, where men out earn women by 31.9 per cent, or more than $40,000 on average per year.

Women who reached senior executive and CEO roles at 55 and beyond continued to face a large pay gap, earning roughly $93,000 per year less than their male senior executive and CEO counterparts.

The Director of WGEA, a government agency that promotes gender equality in accordance with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, believes that too many employers are missing a huge talent pool by not encouraging women to work additional hours or in managerial positions.

“With effective policies, workplaces can both enable women to work full-time if they chose to and make higher-paid managerial roles more accessible for those who work part-time,” Mary Wooldridge, WGEA’s director said. 

“Our research with McKinsey and the Business Council of Australia shows that on average, companies with more part-time managers have more women at executive levels.” 

Wooldridge believes more companies should implement policies that focus on equal access and uptake of workplace support for both genders, including gender-neutral parental leave policies, childcare subsidies and flexible work policies. 

“Leading employers are creating or redesigning roles to support part-time management and job-sharing structures, for example to make it possible for parents who may want to work school hours,” Wooldridge said.

“In times of a tight talent market, attracting and retain highly skilled and capable women is more important than ever.”

Should the current rate set out in this data continue, millennial women currently in the workforce will earn just 70 per cent of men’s earnings by the time they reach age 45.

“Millennial women in the workforce 35 and under are currently reaching management at equal rates as men,” Wooldridge added.

“We have a generation of Australian women who are highly educated, and over the last decade, have been outnumbering men in higher education enrolments and completion.”

“If organisations want to unlock the potential that these women can provide after the age of 35, there needs to be a shift in workplace structures surrounding them. Creative workplaces will reap the talent rewards today and in the future.”

In conjunction with the release of WGEA’s research, UN Women launched a new campaign, emphasising the astonishing years remaining until gender equality will become a reality. 

The campaign, Equality: Our Final Frontier focuses on the near futurity of human’s space exploration ambitions compared to the reality of closing the global gender gap.

“At this rate, we’ll walk on Mars before we reach gender equality,” one poster reads, referring to the World Economic Forum’s prediction that it will take 135.6 years to close the global gender gap.

“We’ll live on the moon before women are safe at home,” another reads.

“We’ll have an elevator to space before equality in our highest offices,” reads another. 

UN Women Australia CEO, Simone Clarke said, “The future for women is now, and we can’t afford to wait any longer. We need to Act Now and make gender equality a reality in OUR lifetime.”

“It’s incomprehensible to me that gender equality ‘might’ exist somewhere in the future,” she told The Australian

WGEA’s paper recommended a series of objectives employers can work towards to close the gender gap, including mandating policies that normalise time out of the workforce, such as gender neutral paid parental leave, encouraging flexible work for both men and women, offering part-time and job-sharing roles for managers and offering assistance to affordable childcare through on-site provision or financial support.

WGEA’s database also allows employees to look into how prospective workplaces manage paid parental leave, the gender balance in leadership ranks, or if the company takes action on gender equality through routine pay audits.

Readers can access the interactive data series here

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