More employers took steps towards gender equality in 2016-17 but pay gap barely shrunk

Gender pay Gap

Although women continue to earn less than men in full-time employment and they remain underrepresented on company boards, more employers are taking action on gender equality, according to data released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

The agency’s fourth annual gender equality scorecard, which covers over four million employees and 11,000 employers, shows that in 2016-17, 37.7% of organisations conducted gender pay gap analyses (up 10.8 percentage points on 2015-16) while 28.4% of employers set manager KPIs related to gender equality (up 5pp). Further, 68.3% of employers provided flexible work arrangements (up 5.3pp) and 43.4% promoted women into manager roles (up 0.8pp).

The data also shows the gender pay gap for full-time remuneration shrunk by only 0.7pp to 22.4% in 2016-17 and that men continue to out earn women in every industry and across all occupations. On average, women earned 78% of men’s full-time earnings, meaning their annual pay packets trailed men’s by $26,527 – and this pay gap rose to $89,216 amongst top level managers.  In terms of occupational category, pay gaps ranged from 8.4% for Clerical and Administrative workers (worth $6,472) to 26.7% for Technicians and Trades workers (worth $28,042).

Meanwhile, the number of women on boards increased just 0.2pp to 24.9% and they also remained under-represented in the upper leadership echelons, holding just 16.5% of CEO roles and 29.7% of key management personnel roles.

WGEA Director Libby Lyons was encouraged by the “sharp increases in employer action”, which she said indicated that ‘momentum for improved gender equality is building’; however, she believed the ‘pace of change needs to increase’.

In particular, she said that the number of women on boards ‘remains static’ and that ‘too few organisations are reporting their gender metrics up to the board. She added, “We need to see some real change. Boards must take more accountability for gender equality.”

Commenting on the data, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) Deputy Director of Workplace Relations, Alana Matheson, said there was “still more to do” despite “a big jump in action by employers on gender equality”.

“We need to support more women in occupying higher-paying leadership positions and positions on boards if we are to further narrow the gender pay gap,” she said.

“Everyone benefits through a more productive workforce and broader talent pool if women are supported in reaching their full career potential, particularly given their high levels of educational attainment.

“It’s important employer efforts run parallel with a broader social discussion that challenges stereotypes and effects cultural change so women and their partners can make considered choices about the way they balance work and personal priorities.

“For example, if more partners share carers’ responsibilities this will assist in empowering women to pursue career aspirations and progress to higher-paying roles.

“There is a clear business case for gender equality. We encourage organisations to explore potential benefits that a diverse workforce can deliver.”

By James Harkness

James Harnkess previous editor at Dynamic Business