Opinion

Women’s work still undervalued as WGEA reveals gender pay gap stats from big business

- February 27, 2024 2 MIN READ

 

It’s no secret that the gender pay gap is a persistent issue plaguing not just Australia but women all over the globe. So, today’s inaugural release of the gender pay gap data from nearly 5,000 Australian private sector employers by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has come as a source of celebration and commiseration for Aussie women.

As a journalist working in the small business and startup space, the WGEA data revealed both a welcomed step forward (with three out of ten corporates placed within the guidelines) and a stark reminder of the work that must be done to achieve true workplace gender equality.

The gender pay gap is often pushed aside as a women’s issue, especially in countries where equal pay for equal work is law. However, the gender pay gap isn’t about women getting the same pay for the same job but rather the measure of the average earnings of women compared to men. And women’s work is disproportionately undervalued.

WEGA pay gap key points
  • 30% of employers have a median gender pay gap between the target range of -5% and +5%.
  • 62% of median employer gender pay gaps are over 5% and in favour of men.
  • The rest (8%) are less than -5% and in favour of women.
  • Across all employers, 50% have a gender pay gap of over 9.1%.

So, what’s frequently missed is that the pay gap is an issue for women and society. It costs the Australian economy a staggering $51.8 billion annually. The issue’s magnitude is amplified when you see the numbers laid out in black and white by WGEA.


While many big businesses are spruiking the D&I roadmap with equal opportunity for all, data reveals a different story. What’s troubling is that some of the worst offenders are businesses that claim to be supportive of women, as Angela Priestly of Women’s Agenda reports.

The Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, aptly describes the mandatory reporting of this data from the nation’s big businesses as “historic”.  And she’s right. Transparency and accountability are crucial for addressing gender inequality, and the publication of these figures marks a significant stride in that direction.

As a woman in a leadership role, I’m encouraged to see that 30 per cent of employers have a median gender pay gap within the target range of -5 per cent to +5 per cent. This indicates that progress is being made, albeit slowly. However, the fact that 62 per cent of employer gender pay gaps still favour men is a glaring reminder that we have a long road ahead of us.

The variation in gender pay gaps across different industries further highlights the need for tailored solutions. From the Construction Industry, with a mid-point employer gender pay gap of 31.8 per cent, to the Accommodation and Food Services Industry, with a much lower 1.9 per cent, it’s pretty clear that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t suffice.


Mary Wooldridge, CEO of WGEA, suggests that all employers should aim for a gender pay gap within +/-5 per cent. This isn’t just about meeting a benchmark; it’s about ensuring that every employee, regardless of gender, is fairly compensated for their work.

But achieving this goal requires more than just good intentions. It demands concrete action from employers.  We need companies to step up, examine their internal practices, and make meaningful changes promoting gender equality.

The publication of these gender pay gaps isn’t just a call to action for employers; it’s a call to arms for all of us. As consumers, as employees, as humans, we have a role to play in holding companies accountable for their commitment to gender equality.

So let’s push for greater transparency, accountability, and, most importantly, progress.

You can check out the WGEA results by industry and employers here


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