By Brigitta Poulos
25 August 2023 was Equal Pay Day, a day that recognises the gender pay disparity between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings – and here are some startling facts:
- It currently takes women an additional 56 days of work to earn the same average pay as men.
- Women earn an average of 87 cents for every dollar earned by men.
- The average weekly earnings for full-time women across all industries and occupations is $253.50 less than for men.
- In February 2023, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) reported that the gender pay gap is now sitting at 13.3 per cent.
While we’re seeing improvements closing the gender pay gap, the WGEA highlights the disproportionate impact this pay gap has on Australian women, and that there is still more work to be done.
One reason behind this wage gap is gender discrepancies in leadership – women only represent 19.4 per cent of CEOs and 32.5 per cent of key management personnel. Although statistics from the Australian Institute of Company show that women now comprise 40 per cent of directors in ASX 200 listed companies, we need to keep progressing upward in these statistics.
In this article, we break down some common misconceptions about the gender pay gap, explain what the WGEA is, and how this agency is working to close the gap.
What is the Workforce Gender Equality Agency?
Explaining the common pay gap misconception
Many assume that the term ‘pay gap’ refers to two individuals who are being paid different amounts for undertaking work of comparable value or nature. This assumption more accurately represents the concept of equal pay. Equal pay refers to when men and women receive equal pay for work of equal or comparable value.
The gender pay gap measures the difference between the average earnings of women and men in the workforce. The gender pay gap is an internationally established measure of women’s position in the economy in comparison to men. The gender pay gap is the result of social and economic factors that combine to reduce women’s earning capacity over their lifetime. Closing the gender pay gap goes beyond just ensuring equal pay – it requires a cultural change to remove the barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce.
What causes the gender pay gap?
The WGEA reports that the gender pay gap is influenced by several factors:
- The presence of conscious and unconscious discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions.
- Women and men working in different industries and jobs, with female-dominated industries and jobs attracting lower wages.
- Lack of workplace flexibility to accommodate caring and other responsibilities, especially in senior roles.
- Higher rates of part-time work for women.
- The greater the time a woman spends out of the workforce undertaking caring responsibilities, the greater the impact on career progression and opportunities.
- Unpaid caring and domestic work is shared disproportionately with the majority of this work falling to women.
How can we close the gap?
In attempting to close this gap, businesses must look at what can be done to achieve workplace gender equality. As mentioned in the last point, many factors inhibit women’s abilities to fulfil and sustain the typical full-time work week. The uneven distribution of childcare, domestic duties and emotional labour between men and women are some of the most profound contributing factors to the gender pay gap.
So how can businesses take active steps towards combatting the growing disparity? In recent years we’ve seen a dramatic shift towards flexible working arrangements with some businesses adopting this model permanently. By implementing a flexible workplace, women can be better supported in the workplace – this is a positive step toward closing the gender pay gap.
The WGEA has projected that from current trends the gender pay gap may close by the 2040s. What change can you implement in your workplace to close this gap faster?
If any information in this article has raised any questions about how you can improve gender pay parity in your workplace or you have another matter you need advice on, please reach out to our experts via our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service.
Brigitta Poulos is a Workplace Relations Consultant with HR Assured who loves helping clients and businesses achieve excellent workplace compliance with their obligations and duties, by way of interpretation of relevant employment legislation and awards. She particularly enjoys researching and explaining new or ‘hot’ topics in the workplace relations and human resources fields to our clients.