Female graduate pay gap doubles

by Stephanie Zillman07 Jan 2013

New figures show the pay gap between Australian female university graduates and their male counterparts more than doubled last year.

According to a report compiled by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), female graduates stand to start on a salary some $5,000 less than male graduates – an increase from $2,000 for the previous year.

The agency's 2012 GradStats report found men's starting salaries increased over the past year to $55,000, while women's salaries stalled at $50,000. Certain industries are home to the highest pay discrepancies, namely the in architecture and building sector which pays male graduates an average $52,000, compared to $43,000 for women. Dentistry, optometry and law also possess significant pay discrepancies for male vs. female graduates.

Carla Harris, WGEA research executive manager, said it is a disturbing trend, especially given statistics which show the majority of university graduates are women. “The lesson here is that the gender pay gap continues to have a very real impact on the bank balance of young women starting their careers,” Harris told ABC.

Seven occupations saw a reversal of the problem – women earn more than men in pharmacy, Earth sciences and computer sciences. The report found men and women earn the same in just three occupations – education, humanities and medicine.

But where to from here, and what role can HR play in making a difference?

Harris commented that a lack of salary transparency may make it difficult for a woman to judge whether she is being underpaid for the same work as men. “The thing is, it is very difficult to find out what salaries are. There is such a lack of transparency around what people earn,” she said. “You almost never know, but she certainly has the right to know and if she finds that she's not earning the same, she needs to go and ask why not.” Harris said it is still the case that employers may be discriminating because they believe young women will only work a few years before starting a family.

"I think that that is certainly something which does go into people's minds and that's frankly, that's discrimination, and we need to be looking at how we are structuring our work practices to cope with the fact that women do need to take time off to have children," she said.

Related article: Time to lift the lid on employee salaries


  • by Deborah 8/01/2013 1:55:19 PM

    I'm curious as to know what sectors of the workforce this applies to. In all of the companies I have worked for I've never been a victim of pay inequality nor witnessed it happening.

    Does anyone else have further information?

    Best wishes

  • by Anna 14/01/2013 10:04:13 AM

    These could potentially be smaller organisations that they have researched which may not have access to graduate best practivce salary examples.

    It would be worth touching base with the Australian Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE), they do graduate research with High fliers (UK research firm) across Australia and New Zealand and most of their organisations, I believe over 300 member organisations participate, offer the same pay for male and female grads. The grad research conducted by High Fier in the UK conduct the research on graduates who accept and start a role, this is also easured across industries.

    As an Ex-grad recruiter for a large organisation my experience has been that organisations offer the same amount for the same role, the variance is often in the amount of female to male graduates applying for different role streams. Just an example, typically far more male engineering graduates than female, and typically more female Marketing graduates than male, which are different from an entry level pay perspective.

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