'Slow & steady’ improvements but men still earning average 21.3% more

‘Slow & steady’ improvements but men still earning average 21.3% more than women

If you are seeking evidence that women in Australia are accelerating towards equality in the workplace with any great speed the latest figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) are sobering to consider.

“It’s slow and steady progress as opposed to leaps and bounds,” WGEA’s executive engagement manager Kate Lee told Women’s Agenda. “There is good progress being made but there are some areas that could do with more work.”

The latest gender equality scorecard, the fifth the agency has compiled from data collected from private employers, shows that while we might be moving in the right direction the pace is glacial and there are potholes aplenty.

Access to paid parental leave has completely stalled. Men still out-earn women by an average of 21.3%. The pay gap in construction is almost double the pay gap in mining and the pay gap in health has increased for the second consecutive year. While 40% of organisations are undertaking pay gap analysis, 40% of them are doing nothing with the results. The number of women on boards has barely moved.

“This year has seen the biggest single drop in the total remuneration pay gap that we’ve had in five years and that’s great news,” Lee says. “ We’ve also seen an increase in the number of women going into management roles, just below the CEO level, which means there is a strong pipeline.”

If the trajectory continues parity in management will be achieved: but how long do we need to wait?

WGEA director Libby Lyons, who will present this data at the Press Club today, says while  employer action has delivered real outcomes women still face considerable barriers in Australia’s workplaces.

“Although the gender pay gap has narrowed every year, progress is too slow. Access to parental leave has not improved, with the provision of paid primary carer’s leave actually going backwards,” Lyons said. “The glass walls persist in industry segregation, which remains deeply entrenched in Australia. The glass ceiling is still a barrier for women at the CEO and board levels.”

Lyons is firm that five years of data collection demonstrates the value of measuring workplace gender equality.

“We have clear evidence that employer action delivers real results and we should recognise the great work many employers have done in addressing issues such as pay equity. As employers have taken action, the gender pay gap has declined and gender equality outcomes for women and men across Australia have improved,” she said. “However, our data also highlights areas for improvement.”

Lee says the fact paid parental leave has ‘ground to a halt’ is particularly concerning.

“If women’s position in the workforce is going to change fundamentally we really need to rebalance the caring equation,” Lee says. “Not all of the caring gap comes down to men not wanting to do it. Access to paid carers leave, regardless of gender, and access to workplace flexibility really matter.”

Key Findings

Gender pay gap

  • ’ The total remuneration gender pay gap is 21.3%
  • ’ Biggest single year drop in the total remuneration gender pay gap since WGEA started collecting data
  • ’ It has declined every year (down 3.4pp over 5 years from 24.7% to 21.3%)
  • ’ The Construction pay gap increased 2.0pp to 29.4%. It now has the second-highest industry gender pay gap
  • ’ The pay gap in favour of men increased for the second year in a row in the female-dominated industry of Health Care and Social Assistance (up to 16.1%)

Employer action

  • ’ 17pp increase over five years in the number employers doing a pay gap analysis (up from 24.0% to 41.6%)
  • ’ 22pp increase over five years in the number of employers having pay equity objectives in their remuneration strategy or policy (up from 18% to 40%)
  • ’ Strong growth in employers implementing gender equality policies and strategies
  • ’ 8.1pp increase over five years in employers with an overall gender equality strategy and/or policy (up from 66.2% to 74.3%)
  • ’ 13.2 pp increase over five years in KPIs for managers relating to gender equality (up to 31.3%) but this lags behind the other indicators.

Women in management and leadership

  • ’There have been increases in all manager categories.
  • ’3.2pp increase over five years in women managers overall (up from 35.9% to 39.1%)
  • ’Key management personnel (KMP) has seen the biggest growth of any management category (up 4.4pp over five years from 26.1% to 30.5%)

Parental leave and flexible work

  • ’ Access to employer-funded primary carer’s leave has not improved (down 0.7pp over five years to 47.8%)
  • ’ More employers are promoting flexible work (up 13.2pp over five years to 70.7%)

Lack of women at CEO and Board level

  • ’ Only a 1.4pp increase over five years in the number of female CEOs (up from 15.7% to 17.1%)
  • ’ Only a 2.1pp increase over five years in the number of female board directors (up from 23.7% to 25.8%)

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