Directors urged to take action over gender pay gap rise


Directors have a role to play in addressing Australia’s gender pay gap, with men now earning on average $261 a week more than their female counterparts, says Women on Boards Executive Director Claire Braund.


New figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) show the national gender pay gap has risen to 14.2% - up 0.8 percentage points - over the last six months, based on biannual Australian Bureau of Statistics average weekly earnings data. It shows on average, women working full-time earned $1,575.50 while men working full-time earned $1,837.

"Directors can ensure the issue has visibility at the top of the organisation by requesting a gender pay audit reported to the board along with the data in the report submitted annually to the WGEA,” said Ms Braund.

She said this sends a message that the board is across these workforce issues and will likely ask questions and expect regular updates on progress. 

“If the issue is not getting traction, then putting it as a key strategic agenda item at a meeting or two might also increase management focus.

Speaking in the lead up to Equal Pay Day 2021 on 31 August, Ms Braund said boards needed to also look at their own appointments.

“It's also not enough for the board to expect the company to be addressing the gender pay gap, but to run the ruler over its own performance and ensure there is no gender bias in payments at the board level. For example, men are more likely to be appointed to key committees, which pay additional fees."

The national gender pay gap measures the difference between the average weekly full-time base salary earnings of women and men, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. It is a measure of women’s overall position in the paid workforce and does not compare like roles.

Equal Pay Day 2021

This year Equal Pay Day 2021 marks the 61 extra days from the end of the previous financial year that women, on average, must work to earn the same annual pay as men.

According to the WGEA, the rise in the national gender pay gap was largely driven by a higher growth in men’s full-time wages (1.8% increase) than women’s (0.9%) - due partly to  a jobs boost in the male-dominated construction industry ahead of the latest lockdowns.

WGEA Director Mary Wooldridge said the increase in the pay gap was concerning and served as a warning to ensure continued focus, effort and commitment to drive it back down again.

“This Equal Pay Day, we’re calling on all Australians to ask #WhatsYourPayGap? in their workplaces and industries as a crucial step towards bridging this divide.

“Equal Pay Day is an ideal opportunity to remind employers around the country that one of the key levers of change is through gender pay audits. These audits help employers identify and address discriminatory pay, to ensure that women are equally compensated and valued,” she said.

“Research proves that regular audits close pay gaps faster. The 2021 Gender Equity Insights Report from BCEC and WGEA showed that employers who consistently did pay audits between 2015-20 closed their managerial pay gaps faster than all other companies. By contrast, those who stopped doing pay audits actually saw their managerial pay gaps increase.”

The WGEA Director said while research findings demonstrate that improving gender equality in the workplace brings clear economic benefits to companies and nations, importantly, the work of Australian women deserves to be equally and fairly valued in our workplaces as a basic principle.

“Closing the pay gap is about fairness. Our data shows women’s average full-time wages are lower than men’s across every industry and occupation in Australia.

"The gender pay gap signifies that the work of women is still not treated as being of equal value to that of men. As the 2021 BCEC-WGEA research report reveals, the sobering reality is that, on current trends, it will take 26 years to close the total remuneration gender pay gap.”

Along with urging action from employers, Ms Wooldridge is also encouraging employees to become active advocates on the issue in the lead up to Equal Pay Day this year.

“Take the first step to find out #WhatsYourPayGap? by going to our website and seeing if your employer has done a pay gap audit and acted on its findings. Start a conversation with your colleagues and friends about the gender pay gap, what it means to you and to them and how you can help to close it. We can all work together to eliminate gender pay discrimination,” she said.

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