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Pay parity in Australia: how 141 companies are taking the lead

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Australia has had decades to take action on closing the gender pay gap – a statistic that is calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The start of a movement to end gender pay gaps in Australia date further back than the 1970s. For example, a Commission ruling in 1973 granted an equal minimum wage to all Australians, regardless of their sex, and in 1974 the ‘breadwinner’ component of a male wage was removed in recognition of the fact that more Australian women were providing for their families.

Currently, Australia’s national gender pay gap is 14.1%, a record low. It had previously hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades. However, there’s still a way to go before Australia achieve pay parity. According to the World Economic Forum, it will take 217 years for women to achieve equal pay at the current rate of change.

So, which companies are leading the charge? In the United States, more than 100 companies signed Barack Obama’s Equal Pay Pledge in 2015 and 2016. These companies included tech giants such as Salesforce, Adobe, Apple, Facebook and Intel.

Closer to home, the WGEA released the list of 2018/19 Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation holders, hitting a record number of 141 organisations in Australia. The citation recognises employer best practice and commitment to gender equality in the Australian workforce. This year for the first time ever, the release included a national sporting organisation: The Australian Football League. In addition to this, a mix of male-dominated, female-dominated, mixed industries and companies big and small were represented. Companies such as L’Oreal, AMEX Australia and Johnson & Johnson were among some of the noteworthy new citations.

“WGEA Director Libby Lyons said that the growth in the recipients showed increasing recognition by Australian employers that gender equality is not just good for business but gives organisations a competitive advantage.”

Recipients this year have lead the way, implementing some of the following into their culture:

Flexible work across the organisationPrograms to support women into leadershipTailored parental leave policies to support both men and womenInitiatives to encourage women to return to work after a breakSupporting men’s caring responsibilitiesSetting targets to achieve gender-equal graduate recruitment intakesRobust analysis and correction of gender pay gaps

What does the gender pay gap mean for women?

Despite decades of government policy, women earn 15.3% less than men, with discrimination, childcare and industrial segregation driving the disparity.

Lower lifetime earnings means less independence, less security and less power for women. For the economy it means lost human capital potential and investment, which can impair economic growth, and increase the burden on current and future governments as diminished earnings mean more reliance on welfare.

Lower lifetime earnings are reflected in the balance of women’s superannuation accounts, which are lower than men’s at every stage of their working lives.

WGEA Director Libby Lyons says “More organisations are introducing strategies and policies to ensure women and men are equally valued and rewarded in their workplaces. Gender equality has become an important focus for Australian employers.

However, we also know that policies and strategies cannot just live on paper. They have to be implemented. Targets need to be set, outcomes monitored and managers, executives and boards made accountable for the results.”


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