What You Can Do to Close the Gender Pay Gap

New data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows we’ve made some progress towards gender equality, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Here’s a few things you can do to try to close the gender pay gap in your situation.

The data

According to new data collected by the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, men are still out-earning women by 23% or $26,853 per year. Their survey, now in its third year, covered over 40% of the employees working in Australia: 4 million employees and 12,229 employers.

The data shows there has been some progress towards gender equality, as the gender pay gap has declined very slightly – by 0.7 percentage points – since the 2013-2014 survey. However, there is still work to be done:

  • Gender pay gap (full-time total remuneration): 23.1%
  • Largest industry gender pay gap: Financial and Insurance Services: 33.5%
  • Key Management Personnel who are women: 28.5%
  • Employers with policies to support gender equality: 70.7%
  • Employers who have conducted a gender pay gap analysis: 27.0% (up 3.0 pp)
  • Appointments of women to manager roles: 42.6% (new data point)

WGEA Director Libby Lyons said the data highlighted persistent inequality, as well as progress.

“The data confirms gender pay gaps in favour of men in every industry and the under-representation of women in management and leadership roles,” Ms Lyons said.

“At the same time, it shows employers are stepping up to the challenge in greater numbers with proactive gender equality policies. For the first time, more than 70 per cent of employers reported they have policies in place to support gender equality.

“There’s no question we are seeing movement in the right direction, but it’s still too slow. The Agency will continue to work with employers to help them drive better workplace gender equality across their organisations.”


How can women combat this problem?

Don’t be so nice

Jennifer Lawrence, the actress famous for the The Hunger Games movie series, spoke out recently about the gender pay in Hollywood. It was leaked that she and Amy Adams both earned far less than their male co-stars in the 2013 movie American Hustle. Her top tip to women in fighting back against this gap was to “not worry about being nice” and negotiate harder for a fair paycheck.

“I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.'”

This comes down to not being afraid to have the “what I’m paid” conversation with your boss, both before and after you get the job.

You can know what you’re worth by doing your homework. Here are the top 4 salary checker websites we recommend for finding out whether your pay is fair.

What’s more, the gender pay gap starts when we’re young children, according to the Heritage Bank survey of how much pocket money kids receive. On average across Australia, girls receive $9 in weekly pocket money compared to $13 for boys. So teach equality lessons from an early age by making sure your kids get the same pay for the same chores.

Take care of the super you have

Since you may not have as much super, you need to take care of what you do have! Here are some simple super tips for women:

  1. Think about combining all your super into one account. This maximises the compound interest you’re earning by reducing the number of account fees you pay. Important note: before you do this, check what insurance cover you have with your various funds to ensure that, by combining them, you won’t be losing important personal insurance coverage.
  2. Check that you haven’t lost any superannuation from employers who didn’t use your correct details. How to find lost super: use the ATO’s SuperSeeker website.
  3. Consider whether you should salary sacrifice a small amount of your before-tax income if you can afford it, so that you’re paying less tax on what you’ve earned. Use Canstar’s Superannuation Calculator to see how much benefit you could get from different super contributions. Be aware though that once the money goes in, it’s there for the long haul!
  4. When you’re on maternity leave or another type of career break and you’re earning less super, see if you’re eligible for a government co-contribution to your super of up to $500.

Ask your company to step up

In October 2015, Deloitte Australia announced it was fixing its 10.8% gender pay gap across 5,500 employees by May 2016, which is still far less than the national average of 19% (2014, ABS). When comparing apples to apples (men and women doing exactly the same job), Deloitte’s gender pay gap drops to a mere 1%. Deloitte, along with the other major accounting firms in Australia, want to set an example in the Financial and Insurance Services industry, where the gender pay gap is highest at 35%.

CEO Cindy Hook plans to close the gender gap by ensuring women on maternity leave still have annual performance reviews and receive a pay rise equal to the average for that role. “Once they miss out, it is virtually impossible to catch up,” says Ms Hook.

How does your company stand up against the gender pay gap for your industry? The number of employers with a strategy to address gender equality has grown from 18% in 2013-14 to 20% in 2014-15 – so asking your company to step up should not be difficult.

Ask your HR department what the gender pay gap is in the company you work for. Then ask your chief executives to fix that gap. The government’s FairWork website has a checklist for best practice so that you can see where your company needs to step up.


Work from home instead of taking time off

By all means, take your maternity leave! You certainly earned it, after months of pregnancy ending in the labour room, followed by months of sleep deprivation. But afterwards, consider heading back to work as soon as you can, perhaps by working from home a few days a week and going into the office on the other days.

On the other hand, I don’t know if working from home with toddlers is possible, or even a good thing. After all, I’ve written before about how 1 in 3 children want their parents to put down their smartphones and pay attention to them instead.

Maybe you’ll need to head back to the office full-time and invest in childcare. We’ve written before that although childcare is expensive, not working is more expensive.

Take the Panel Pledge

If you’re an executive yourself – male or female – you can take up the panel pledge. Under the pledge, you refuse to serve on a panel of two or more people at a public conference if there won’t be at least one woman on the panel apart from the chairperson.

This initiative, created by Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, forces major venues and events to choose whether they will represent the face of equal gender to the Australian public.

Share this article