15.3 percent and falling very slowly: the gender pay gap is still unacceptably high

Addressing the national gender pay gap requires the effort of our whole community. Importantly, employers must step up and play their part. All leaders have the power to analyse their data and take action on pay gaps within their organisations.  Libby Lyons, Director, Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Equal Pay Day falls this year on 4 September. It’s a different day each year as it marks the additional time from the end of the previous financial year that women must work to earn the same as men.

The national gender pay gap is 15.3 percent* a decrease of 0.9 percentage points over the previous 12-month period.

The mantra of equal pay for equal work became law in Australia in 1973, so why is it still so hard to achieve something that has been the law for 44 years?

The gap starts early, 11.8 percent for those 17 years and under and 5.5 percent for graduate degree holders and as women progress through their careers it worsens, particularly for women in management. Most companies work on percentage increases which just aggravates the problem. Think of this next time you offer someone a raise.

But just sharing the gap statistics is not really helpful. It is not a reverse competition where my gap is smaller than your gap. Rather what needs to be shared are the strategies to really make a step change. Helping each other rather than competing.

Don’t get me wrong, measuring and recognising the size of the gap in an organsation is important and is an excellent starting point for change. It’s your benchmark and for many organisations it’s the call to action. But statistics alone are not enough. It’s what you do next that matters.

She’s Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap, prepared by KPMG for Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in 2016 offers some well researched pathways for change.

So start with the numbers and audit your payroll. Make sure you include everything, including benefits and bonuse,s in your calculation as base salaries are often closer to alignment than a complete package. This is not always an easy task, but unless you know where you are now you can’t plan your strategy or monitor your progress in the future.

A difficult challenge for many organisations is ‘making good’ the gap. Often construed as positively favouring women, this may evoke strong responses from your stakeholders. For a large organisation this can equate to a considerable amount of money, but shows a genuine belief in gender equity and will result in a more positive culture within the business.

Pay equity engenders strong emotions from both men and women in the workforce but without positive and sustained action it will still be with us long after our children and their children enter the workplace.

So start today, there is plenty of help available and the benefits will far outstrip the investment.

If you need help with where to start these two publications give plenty of practical advice.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency

She’s Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap


* Calculated using Average Weekly Earnings data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics


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