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Equity and respect in the workplace provide the foundation for women to not only participate in the workforce, but also to succeed in their chosen career path. This means that all employees should be treated respectfully and have equal opportunities for career development and progression to leadership roles.
The gender pay gap refers to the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time earnings.
The gender pay gap in New South Wales declined in the early 1980s, but since then has hovered between 12 and 19 per cent, meaning on average women were earning between 12 and 19 per cent less than men a week.
In November 2021, the gender pay gap in New South Wales was 12 per cent, the equivalent of around $11,500 a year.
This was smaller than the gender gap for Australia overall (14 per cent), but larger than Tasmania (9 per cent), Australian Capital Territory (8 per cent) and South Australia (7 per cent)51.
Figure 12: Average weekly full-time earnings by gender, NSW (1981-2021)
Source: ABS Average Weekly Earnings; NSW Treasury
Several factors contribute to the gender pay gap. Figure 13 sets out research undertaken by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the Diversity Council Australia and KPMG on the main drivers of the gender pay gap.
Figure 13: Components of the gender pay gap
Source: KPMG, She's Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap, 2019
39% of the pay gap is due to gender discrimination
25% of the gender pay gap is due to time out of work
As shown in Figure 13, gender discrimination accounted for 39 per cent of the gender pay gap in Australia in 2017.
Gender discrimination refers to cultural biases where women’s work is perceived to be of lesser value than men’s.
This can take a variety of forms, including gender discrimination in workplace culture, recruitment practices, promotions and training opportunities52.
Time spent not working is also a significant driver, accounting for 25 per cent of the gender pay gap in Australia in 2017.
People may experience career interruptions for many reasons, including unemployment, study or career breaks. It is particularly common for women with young children or who are carers to take time out of the workforce.
Time out of the workforce can contribute to the gender pay gap in several ways. Women who have spent less time in the workforce may have fewer opportunities to gain experience and participate in training and other skill development opportunities53.
Consequently, some women who have career disruptions may end up re-entering the workforce in lower paid roles.
As shown in Figure 14, the gender pay gap is smallest for workers in the earlier stages of their career and then grows steadily before peaking at 18 per cent for workers aged 45–54.
Figure 14: Average weekly full-time earnings for men and women in Australia
Source: ABS Employee Earnings and Hours (2021)
Working part-time also contributes to differences in take-home pay. Women are significantly more likely to work part-time compared to men, with twice as many employed women in New South Wales working part-time compared to men (39.4 per cent of women compared to 18.2 per cent of men)54.
Gender segregation refers to particular industries or occupations being dominated by a particular gender. The NSW labour market is heavily gender-segregated, with one-third of employed women working in the education and health related industries55. By contrast, women make up a very small percentage of workers in the mining and construction industries56.
Figure 15: Female and male proportion of workforce by industry
Source: Adapted from Infrastructure Australia, 2021 Infrastructure Market Capacity report
Gender segregation in occupations and industries is a significant driver of the gender pay gap. KPMG estimates that gender segregation accounted for up to 17 per cent of the gender pay gap in Australia in 201757.
On average, jobs in male-dominated occupations are higher-paid than jobs in female-dominated occupations.
For example, analysis by Impact Economic and Policy found that employees with a bachelor’s degree or higher working in female-dominated industries earn 30 per cent less per hour than equivalently qualified employees in male-dominated industries58.
Similarly, employees with a Certificate III/IV working in female-dominated industries earn 36 per cent less per hour than equivalently qualified employees in male-dominated industries59.
There are many reasons why women may be reluctant to work in male-dominated industries despite higher average pay and security60.
Long and rigid working hours are commonplace in some male-dominated industries like construction, which may deter women from entry61. Cultures of very long hours, presenteeism and hyperavailability also stigmatise taking career breaks, which can clash with employees’ care commitments, especially parents of young children62.
Women working in such industries are also at greater risk of experiencing sexual or gender harassment than those working in gender-balanced or female-dominated industries63.
Across a lifetime, differences in labour market outcomes including the combination of the gender pay gap, participation in the workforce and number of hours worked create a substantial financial disadvantage for women.
As shown in Figure 16, lower participation, average hours worked and pay contribute to the lower superannuation balances accrued by women over their working lives compared to men, with women retiring with 42 per cent less superannuation on average compared to men64.
Indeed, 23 per cent of women retire with no superannuation at all65.
The Commonwealth Government’s 2021 Intergenerational Report forecasts the gender superannuation gap will persist for at least the next 40 years unless action is taken66.
Figure 16: Average superannuation balances of Australian men and women on retirement
Despite significant progress over the past decades, men still comprise a large majority of the leadership positions across the private and public sectors.
Only 17 per cent of chief executive officer roles were held by women in 2018, and women represented just 29 per cent of board members for ASX 500 companies in November 202167 68.
Although women are more likely to hold leadership roles in femaledominated industries, they are still under-represented. In 2018, women held 38 per cent of Chief Executive Officer roles in female-dominated industries69.
Women continue to face barriers to career development, with only 86 women promoted to the manager level for every 100 men70.
As men significantly outnumber women at this first step, the pipeline of women for senior leadership roles narrows. Business and community groups (such as the Business Council of Australia), have also expressed concern that the increase in hybrid and remote working arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic may mean women choosing to work from home could miss out on career opportunities leading to advancement71.
Gender bias in performance assessments and fewer development opportunities can also limit women’s career development72.
While male employees often receive specific, outcome-oriented feedback, studies show that the feedback and career advice women receive can be comparatively vague73.
Despite evidence that both men and women want challenging projects and interesting jobs, other studies show that women tend to receive less demanding projects compared to men74 75.
This can be due to managers attempting to prevent women from becoming overworked or due to a perception that men have greater motivation to work on such projects76.
For women who work flexibly, including part-time hours, the path to promotion and career advancement may be slower.
Most research indicates that part-time workers have slower career progression and promotion than full-time workers.
There are several reasons for this, including different treatment by employers in relation to training (compared to full-time workers), being unnecessarily prevented from undertaking certain types of work due to working part-time, and fewer hours in employment, which impacts work experience77 78.
Gender stereotypes and unconscious or implicit bias may also contribute to women’s lower level of representation in leadership roles. Traits which are stereotypically associated with women (such as gentleness and collaboration) are undervalued in leaders, compared to stereotypical male traits (such as directness)79.
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