Australia's gender equality efforts panned

by HRD06 Oct 2017
Australia has a long way to go in improving gender equality in the workplace, and progress in recent years has been far too slow.

That’s according to the new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle.

It found that the median full-time working woman in Australia earns 87 cents to every man's dollar- just marginally above the OECD average of 85.7 cents to the dollar.

Most OECD countries are tackling workplace gender injustices through stronger laws and regulations.

In addition to Australia, countries such as Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom, have introduced measures to encourage more young women to choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and young men to study and work in health and education.

The report recommended Australia should attempt to close the gender wage gap by addressing the main causes, such as the higher chance of women pausing their careers for child-rearing, and employer discrimination.

Recent figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) also showed that the Australian national pay gap – the difference between men’s and women’s average weekly full-time earnings – is 15.3%, or around $251.20 a week.

WGEA also found the gender pay gap is highest in the 45-54 age group at 20.0%, and in the past 20 years the national gender pay gap was highest in 2014 at 18.5% and lowest in 2004 at 14.9%.

“The pursuit of gender equality must be a priority to achieve sustainable, inclusive growth for the benefit of every citizen,” said OECD chief of staff and G20 Sherpa Gabriela Ramos.

“There is no reason for women to trail behind men in social, economic, and political outcomes,” said Ramos.

“Countries need to do much more to reach the gender equality goals.”

The report also found that while today young women in OECD countries leave school with better qualifications than young men, they are less likely to study in the higher earning STEM-related fields.

Women’s labour force participation rates have moved closer to men’s rates over the past few decades, but in every OECD country women are still less likely to engage in paid work than men.

And when women do work, they are more likely to do it on a part-time basis, are less likely to advance to management positions, are more likely to face discrimination, and earn less than men. The median female worker earns almost 15% less than her male counterpart, on average, across the OECD – a statistics that hasn’t moved much since 2010.

Moreover, gender gaps tend to increase with age, reflecting the crucial role that parenthood plays in gender equality.

Much more than fatherhood, motherhood generally has sizable negative effects on workforce participation, pay and career advancement.

The report found gender inequalities are apparent in public life, as well: women are underrepresented in political office, holding less than one-third of seats in lower houses of national legislatures (on average) in the OECD.

It also argued that affirmative action is needed, but alone it is insufficient to bring about gender equality.

Further, nations need to invest in female leadership opportunities through mentoring opportunities and network supports. Male role models in senior management also need to drive the change in gender stereotypes and norms that continue to hinder women’s access to leadership.

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  • by Nicole 6/10/2017 11:13:22 AM

    Perhaps we need to look at the Gender Reporting done at the moment in Australia. Given that company reporting is set into a small range of categories does not identify the pay differences for different jobs. E.g a woman doing a clerical role on 50k is in the same category as a man working for 60k however, this does not encompass the fact the male may have more workplace responsibilities.
    How can we clearly show which area's the pay gap is most prevalent without more specific reporting.

  • by Michael 6/10/2017 11:50:53 AM

    Comparing the median salary of every man to every woman in Australia doesn't make sense. You've got to compare like for like. Men and woman are more and less likely to choose certain types of occupations, they are more and less likely to put career or family first and so on. Those differences in preferences explain the differences in median income... but the message the OECD is trying to put out is that the differences are due to discrimination. That isn't intellectually honest and actually it puts us in a situation where there is no solution because they haven't diagnosed the right problem.

    If there is a man and a woman doing the same work, with the same level of performance, at the same company... being paid differently - then I'll be the first to protest it with you. That would be total rubbish and discrimination. But you rarely hear of any specific example. HR have access to the information and set salaries. If you're in HR and reading this - then why not do an audit of your own books and see what comes up?

    A more interesting conversation might be 'why do men and women make different choices?' Some of that might be due to the culture in certain industries/companies not being welcoming, some might be that women choose to do different types of jobs or prioritize family over work. The former is something we need to, and can, address... the latter is choice of the individual and completely OK.

  • by 6/10/2017 1:28:15 PM

    Adjust womens' tax so that they get the same take home pay.

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