Blackbook Executive

Gender pay gap widening in some sectors

More Australian companies are taking action to ensure men and women receive equal pay, but female-dominated industries are being urged to lift their game and reverse a surprise blow-out in the gender pay gap. New figures released by the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency show the pay gap has widened in retail, healthcare, education, accommodation and food services, as well as administrative and support services industries in the past year.

The trend goes against the continuing narrowing of the overall gender pay gap in Australia, with women now earning $26,527 a year less than men. The agency’s director Libby Lyons said while the pay gap is shrinking at a frustratingly slow pace, more companies are analysing their remuneration data to check for discrepancies in men and women’s pay packets, and taking action to bring them into line. However she said while this helps narrow the overall pay gap, many female-dominated industries have gone in the reverse direction.

“Unfortunately our data hasn’t told us the reason why the pay gap has gone up but we do know that organisations in healthcare and education are less likely to have formal policies for remuneration, which may impact on pay equity,” Lyons told AAP.

The agency’s fourth annual gender equality scorecard found the industry with the biggest pay gap remains financial and insurance services, where men earn 32 per cent more than women. However that gap has narrowed from 33.5 per cent a year ago, while industries including construction, mining, media, professional services, transport, the arts, utilities, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and public administration have achieved similar small improvements.

By contrast the pay gap in healthcare has widened one percentage point to 15.7 per cent, while retail and education have posted small increases to 16.3 per cent and 10.6 per cent, respectively. Lyons said the agency will reach out to female-dominated industries next year to help them introduce strategies for analysing remuneration data and taking action when they find gender pay gaps.

“First of all they have to look at their data and analyse their data and find out what’s going on,” she said. “It might be because their IT area is dominated by men and that IT tends to be paid better than the other occupations in the organisation. But until each organisation does analyse its pay data they aren’t going to to know why they have that pay gap, and until they know why they can’t put an action plan in place.”

The agency’s scorecard also revealed while more companies were promoting flexible working, women remain under-represented on company boards and management ranks. The proportion of women on company boards remains stuck at just under 25 per cent while only 38.4 per cent of managers are women. The findings were based on responses from 11,000 private companies that employ at least 100 workers.

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