The latest Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) data released on 26 November 2020 shows how persistent the gender pay gap is in Australia. In 2019/20, the total remuneration gender pay gap for all industries and occupations remained at just over 20 per cent.
The total remuneration gender pay gap for the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industry was 22%, down slightly from 22.6% in 2018/19. Professionals Australia’s Engineering, Science and IT surveys reported pay gaps based on base salaries of 15% in Engineering, 17% in Science and 17% in IT.
Click here for a summary of the WGEA key findings.
Factors causing the pay gap
A complex range of factors contribute to the gender pay gap in Australia and the gap won’t be removed until we improve the retention of female professionals at the enterprise level and until industry and government address the broader systemic issues for the attrition of women from the STEM professions.
Although initiatives are underway to improve the supply of work-ready STEM graduates and more women are pursuing STEM careers, the following issues impact on female retention in the STEM workforce:
- a lack of flexible work options, especially at middle and senior organisational levels
- lack of access to professional development, role models, mentoring and networking opportunities
- the career penalty attached to working part-time
- workplace cultures that undervalue or marginalise women’s contribution
- systemic and unconscious biases that impact recruitment, career opportunities and advancement
- high levels of discrimination and sexual harassment
- lack of accessible, affordable childcare for those with caring responsibilities.
Tackling the pay gap
The WGEA data found that while a greater number of employers are now analysing the pay gap, the percentage of employers taking practical action to close the pay gap fell by 6.1% to 54.4%.
Our 2018 STEM survey also uncovered a disjuncture between policies promoting gender equality in workplaces and practical action to achieve this. In our survey, 35.7 per cent of respondents said their employer did not have strategies in place to practically implement policies relating to diversity and discrimination.
The way forward
The latest Professionals Australia Women in STEM Survey All Talk[i] highlighted that tackling equal pay should be a top priority for government and industry. We are currently working on our next Women in STEM survey and expect that will be released in May 2021.
Diversity is crucial to the continued expansion and success of STEM and in turn, the capacity of STEM to drive productivity growth. The optimal approach to recovery from the pandemic will be to invest in initiatives which contribute to business and economic growth while advancing women’s progress.
Professionals Australia will continue to work with governments and industry towards a genuine reform agenda that includes addressing the gender pay gap and the factors that contribute to it.
We need to ensure that recovery from the pandemic addresses the disproportionate effects on women’s employment and ensure the health crisis and our responses to it do not further entrench or widen the gender pay gap. The GFC left us with a 2% increase in the gender pay gap which has taken 10 years to claw back – we can’t afford for that to happen again.
Note: The gender pay gap is the difference between the average male full-time earnings and average female full-time earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings. The WGEA calculates gender pay gaps across the dataset by industry and by manager and occupational categories, excluding CEO salaries. The Agency’s gender pay gap data does not reflect comparisons of women and men in the same roles (that is, like-for-like gaps). The gender pay gap is not the difference between two people being paid differently for work of equal or comparable value – that is unequal pay, and it is unlawful. Around 45% of working women are employed part-time, compared to less than 20% of working men. This reflects the reality that many women are juggling paid work alongside their family and caring responsibilities. Therefore the 20.1% gender pay gap calculation is based only on full-time earnings. The gender pay gap is not explained by women working part-time because the gap persists for those in full-time roles.
[i] Professionals Australia (2018). All Talk: Professionals Australia’s Women in STEM Professions Survey Report.