WGEA reports a 20.1% gender pay gap. And not enough being done to close it

Source: Women’s Agenda, Angela Priestley.

Not enough action is being taken to address gender pay gaps according to WGEA’s latest Gender Equality Scorecard, based on reports from almost 5000 employers covering 4.3 million employees.

While the 2019/20 report has found the gender pay gap is down — by a tiny 0.7 percentage points to 20.1%, meaning men still take home an average $25,534 a year more than women — it’s clear progress remains glacially slow and we’re decades away from closing the gender pay gap.

And that point of closing the gap may never actually arrive, if organisations are failing to take action once they identify such gaps.

Just 54.4% of employers that undertake a gender pay gap analysis have taken actions to try and close such gaps, according to the latest scorecard. That figure is down by 6.1% on the previous period.

“This trend must not continue,” Libby Lyons, director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agenday, said on this finding. “Experience tells us that when employers measure their data, identify their problem areas and take action to address it, the pay gap closes.

While 76% of organisations now have an overall gender equality strategy or policy in place — there’s been barely any change in tthe proportion of employers establishing this, at just 1.1 percentage points up from the previous reporting period. This figure shows one-quarter of organisations have still not addressed these policies.

Most organisations that are taking strategies are relying on recruitment, training and development and performance management processes. There’s been little shift in the proportion of employers with key performance indicators for managers relating to gender equality — up from 32.2% in the 2018/19 period to 33.5% in 2019/20.

There’s also been little improvement in the proportion of employers with policies or strategies in place for flexible work. Just 5.7 per cent of employers have set targets for employee engagement in flexible work, and just 2.2 per cent have set a target for engaging men in flexible work.

Targets for getting men working flexibly have previously been seen as an excellent opportunity to support gender equality in the workplace, and at home, with Libby Lyons suggesting that such targets – along with other opportunities that enable dads to balance caring responsibilities with work — could be a game changer.

Meanwhile, we can’t rely on a huge shift towards female leadership to help in closing the gender pay gap, given this shift isn’t happening. Progress on the number of women leading those organisations reporting to WGEA has also been slow, up a tiny 1.2 per cent to 18.3% since the last reporting period. Women on boards has risen just 1.3 percentage points to 28.1%.

Women continue to dominate the part time workforce, at 75.1%, as well as the casual workforce, at 56.3%. And the overall worforce is made up of around a third (33.4%) of men work full time, and a fifth (20.5%) of women working full time.

There were a number of notable bright spots in this latest report. More than half (up 3% to 52.4%) of employers are now offering paid parental leave to primary carers, and there’s been a 2.6 percentage point increase to 46.4% when it comes to those offering paid leave for secondary carers.

But still, in 2020, this data reveals that large numbers of parents and soon-to-be parents are still working in organisations that offer no form of paid parental leave. Indeed, one in five employers with more than 5000 staff continue to not offer this leave to primary carers, and more than a third of employers with 1000 to 4,999 staff also fail to do so. Those working in retail are the least likely to receive it, with just 24% of employers in this industry offering primary carer’s leave.

More positively, there’s been a 6 percentage point increase in employers offering a policy or strategy on family and domestic violence, up to 66.4%. And 35.5% of employers are now offering paid domestic violence leave.

The data shared by WGEA is based on 4,943 reports that were submitted to the agency in line with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, covering the reporting period of 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020.

As the reporting period only covers the very early stages of the pandemic, we will need to wait until 2022 to see how this year — and what comes next — further impacts the workplace gender equality scorecard and the gender pay gap.

WGEA reported a 98% compliance rate, which fell from 99% in the previous period, but was noted as a “tremendous” effort given the challenging year it’s been. (WGEA also highlights that the pay gap is the difference between the average earnings of women and men, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. It is different to equal pay, which is where women and men are paid the same for performing the same work of equal or comparable value, which is a legal requirement in Australia.)

Some additional key data points from the report

  • Full time remuneration gender gap is now at 20.1%
  • The health pay gap is at 15.7%, up one percentage point — and this is despite the sector being Australia’s most heavily female-dominated
  • 75.9% of employers now offer a policy or strategy for flexible working
  • Women now make up 39.9% of all managers
  • 44.7% of manager appointments went to women during 2019/20
  • 46.4% of organisations are now analyzing pay data — but just 54.4 per cent of those doing so are taking action to close the gap

Gender pay gaps across key leadership categories, based on full-time total remuneration

23.4% Key management personnel
20.5% Other executives/general managers
16.7% Senior managers
19.7% Other managers

Top five industries with the highest gender pay gaps

Financial and Insurance Services: 27.5% (slightly down)
Construction 26.1%
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services: 25.2% (slightly down)
Agriculture, Forestry and fishing: 22%
Professional, Scientific and Technical services: 22% (slightly down)

Share with others


Equitable Foundations: A New Gender-wise Framework for Philanthropic Partnerships

Australians Investing In Women (AIIW) and the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Social Equity Institute (MSEI) have launched a new resource to increase the impact of philanthropic and social investments. Equitable...

Eve Mahlab AO Gender-wise Philanthropy Award Recipient 2024

We were delighted to be among the philanthropic community at the Australian Philanthropy Awards at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Tuesday 16 April celebrating outstanding achievements in...

Samantha Mostyn AO - Australia's next Governor-General

On behalf of the Board and the staff of AIIW, I warmly congratulate Samantha (Sam) Mostyn AO, outgoing Chair of Australians Investing in Women, on today’s announcement. Sam has been...

#IWD2024 Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress

#IWD2024 Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress. Latest news from Australians Investing In Women.