The percentage of women in work has soared over the past decade, but a substantial pay gap between men and women remains, with women still earning about 80 cents to a man’s dollar, a report has found.
Female-dominated industries don’t deliver the best pay for women, the IBISWorld study reports, although there is light on the horizon for pay equity.
A study of Australia’s top 2000 public and private companies finds that the sectors with the lowest pay gap between men and women – retail and public administration – are low-paying.
And industries with the highest number of women in senior management positions, such as health care, super, finance and insurance, have the most inequitable pay.
But IBISWorld senior industry analyst Naren Sivasailam says as female workplace participation outpaces male participation, the number of women in senior positions will increase over time – leading to higher pay for these women.
IBISWorld expects the number of working or job-seeking women in Australia to lift from 5.6 million this year to 7.2 million by 2025.
Sivasailam says the rise in women’s workplace participation levels will be driven by employers’ desire to retain staff through flexible working practices such as better maternity leave, working from home and part-time opportunities.
“This is one thing that will encourage women to enter and stay in the workforce. Another is the cost of living; it’s rather expensive to have a few kids these days,” he says.
The bittersweet news is that Australia compares reasonably well with other developed places.
As Sivasailam explains, women account for about 15.5% of Australia’s senior executive and board-level positions. This is about on par with America, and higher than in the United Kingdom, where it’s at about 12%. In the European Union, women account for less than 10%.
By contrast, countries with quotas, such as Norway, have about 40% women in senior positions.
The IBISWorld report, released this week to coincide with International Women’s Day tomorrow, finds that in 2010-11, 65.3% of Australian women aged between 20 and 74 were working in some capacity, compared with 60.3% 10 years ago. By contrast, women working full-time earn 79.6% of the average male weekly earnings, compared with 79.1% in 1996.
The report found that within Australia’s top 2000 companies, women hold 2222 out of 14,294 senior executive and board-level positions.
The highest achievers were:
- universities and higher education (260 board-level women),
- local government administration (230),
- health services (114),
- superannuation funds (101), and
- general insurance (60).
But when it came to the pay gap, those areas with the highest percentage of women – health care, social assistance, financial and insurance services – had the biggest pay gap, at less than 70%.
The gap is partly attributed to the jobs men and women do in those fields. Men are more likely to be doctors and surgeons, whereas women are more likely to be nurses.
In retail, women earn 93.2% of average male weekly earnings, followed by public administration and safety at 92.5% – but the pay tends to be lower.