Progress on closing gender pay gap stalls
Australia has made steady progress on closing the gender pay gap but it has started to stall. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Wide disparity in gender pay gap across businesses

Poppy Johnston October 5, 2023

Half of Australian firms are keeping tabs on the gender pay gap among their workers but the metrics are rarely run past top executives or board members.

Only 10 per cent of businesses present pay equity data to their boards and around 15 per cent report to the c-suite, despite 50 per cent of companies running an audit in the past 12 months. 

Lacklustre accountability on the gender pay gap was one of many findings from a report from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre released on Thursday.

The eighth in a series on the topic dug into differences between firms serious about tackling gender inequality and those doing the bare minimum.

Workplaces taking consistent action on key areas such as parental leave schemes and sex-based harassment were reporting much better progress on the pay gap, worker retention and share of women in management. 

Report author Alan Duncan said gender equity was often tracked by industry and that was hiding major differences from business to business.

For example, businesses well advanced in their equity journey were seven times more likely to set targets to reduce gender pay gaps than firms just starting.

“While progress is being made, the reality is closing the gender pay gap is still many years off for a large share of Australian businesses,” Professor Duncan said. 

On worker salaries, businesses with a mature strategy – which included reporting remuneration equity stats externally – managed to shave 1.6 percentage points off the pay gap over three years.

This compared to 0.2 percentage points of progress over the same period for a firm with modest measures in place. 

A similar pattern was observed across female worker resignations and the share of women in management. 

Australia has made steady progress on closing the gender pay gap and other markers of equality but it has started to stall.

The federal government has taken steps to spur along progress, including passing a set of legislative reforms that will require employers to publish gender pay gaps for the first time in early 2024.

Mary Wooldridge, director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, said the purpose of the report was to help businesses pinpoint policies and strategies to kickstart progress.

“We need to accelerate the pace of change,” she said.

Effective measures included presenting pay equity reports to leadership, enhancing parental leave for secondary and primary carers, as well as reporting, training and accountability for flexible work.