Call for national strategy to address gender pay gap

A national strategy to address Australia’s gender pay gap is needed if we want to achieve change within this generation according to the Committee for Perth.

In the seven years since the Committee for Perth released the landmark Filling the Pool report, little progress has been achieved nationally in closing the gender pay gap and we are generations from meaningful change based on current trends.

Committee for Perth CEO Marion Fulker AM said it was disappointing that so little has progressed in key areas such as pay gap and representation of women on boards and in C Suite roles. Some current gender statistics include:

  • While Australia’s gender pay gap has declined since end of the last mining boom – the full remuneration pay gap across all industries is 22.8%. Like for Like pay gap ranges from 30 – 40%.
  • Women represent 59.5% of Degree Qualified work entrants and have exceeded male graduates since 1985 particularly in areas previously deemed to be the domain of men – law and accounting.
  • Australian female graduates of the same age, experience and qualification earn 4.8% less than men upon graduation.
  • The relative number of women CEOs in the ASX200 has moved from 4 in 2002 to 13 in 2017 and back down to 10 in 2022.
  • Women occupy just 14% of executive line roles in the ASX300.

On the seventh anniversary of the release of the Filling the Pool report, Mrs Fulker and the report’s lead researcher Dr Terry Fitzsimmons, both called for a national strategy to shift the needle on the nation’s equity issues.

“Do we really want to be having this same conversation a generation from now? If we don’t then we need to look at the causes and not the symptoms,” Dr Fitzsimmons said.

“It is time for a national strategy that includes both State and Federal governments, industry and academics coming together to share and collaborate if we are going to short circuit this problem.

“We have to attack the root cause – if we are treating our kids differently because of gender, if we are paying our kids pocket money at differential rates because of their gender then we are going to continue to get the same outcomes we have today in the next generation.

“We are facing intergenerational gender disparity if we don’t address these now through parenting, schools and media.”

Dr Fitzsimmons said the report’s recommendations remain as valid today as when the report was released and work to resolve gender inequality in the workplace so that more women are participating in the economy and progressing their careers. The recommendations are as useful in Perth as they are across the country.

Visiting Perth recently presenting a progress report to Committee for Perth members, Dr Fitzsimmons cited recent research that pointed to unconscious gender bias beginning in the home and at school – including wage disparity starting with children’s pocket money.

He said girls receive 27% less pocket money than boys according to the Westpac Kids and Money Report (2017) which was attributed to boys doing more outdoor tasks which were considered ‘harder work’.

Mrs Fulker acknowledged it was a complex issue but said while change was happening, it wasn’t fast enough.

“One area that has seen progress has been the appointment of women to ASX200 boards. There has been a significant increase from 7.8% in 2008 to 34% in 2022,” she said.

“But there are still barriers for women progressing into CEO roles with women accounting for just 19.4% of CEO roles. Based on this trend it will be another 102 years until parity is achieved.

“This is unlikely to change rapidly given 98% of new CEO appointments come from direct line roles such as CFO and COO roles – which women current account of just 14% of these roles with ASX 300 companies.”

Mrs Fulker said according to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report (2021) Australia has dropped 35 places in 16 years – we are now ranked 50th compared to New Zealand which ranks fourth.