Women remain undervalued and underrepresented in the Australian workforce, according to Mary Wooldridge, director of Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
WGEA last week released its latest gender equality scorecard, which shows Australian women earned, on average, $25,800 less than men in 2020-21, and men are twice as likely to be highly paid than women.
Australia’s gender pay gap between women and men has narrowed slightly, down 0.5% since 2019-20, to 22.8%. Women are 50% more likely to be in the bottom quarter of all earners, earning $60,000 and less.
According to the scorecard, across 19 industries, pay gaps still exist in favour of men, including in sectors where women make up most employees, like in healthcare and social assistance.
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The construction industry has the largest gender pay gap, at 30.6%, followed by financial and insurance services at 29.5% and professional, scientific and technical serviced at 24.7%.
“From the very top-down, women are undervalued in Australian businesses and underrepresented where decisions are made,” Mary Wooldridge said, upon the release of the scorecard.
The scorecard shows women make up less than 20% of CEOs, and three-quarters of all board continue to have a significant male majority. Indeed, one in five boards have no women on them at all.
“Our latest insights show this pattern clearly: 22% of all boards still don’t have a single woman in the room; and about ¾ of all boards have a vast majority (over 60%) of men. Of those heavily male-dominated boards, only 12% have set a target to increase the representation of women, and on average that target is only 35% — not even what is generally considered a balanced board,” Wooldridge said.
“There need to be clear pathways for women to work in the right line roles so they can take the next step to leading organisations. Research we conducted with the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) found that we will not see gender parity at CEO level for another 80 years on current rates of progress.”
Women are also more likely to be in insecure forms of work, with only two in five full-time employees being women. About 60% of women are employed part-time or casually, compared to 33% of men.
Wooldridge also noted that employers have responded to the challenges of the pandemic by increasing support for staff if they have caring responsibilities and for other person circumstances.
“We’ve seen an increase in flexible work policies and approval rates; paid domestic violence leave is now offered by more than half of organisations — a massive four-fold increase since 2015-16, and three in five employers are now offering paid parental leave,” she said.
“These policies and practices are no longer just the right thing to do. They actually set employers apart and act to attract the talent they need for their businesses in a tight talent market.”
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.