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Gender pay gap estimated at $966m per week

The latest report of She’s Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap has evaluated the driving factors of the gender pay gap, discussed why it exists and outlined what needs to be addressed to close the gap.

user iconJess Feyder 19 July 2022 Big Law
Gender pay gap
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The joint report was released by KPMG, Diversity Council Australia (DCA), and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). The report used data from WGEA’s workplace survey and data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), alongside the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey data, to explore how the gender pay gap impacted five different industries: healthcare and social assistance, education and training, retail trade, manufacturing, and accommodation and food services.

The report shows that gender pay gaps remain prevalent, regardless of labour force size, gender composition or average rate of pay. One of the most significant findings was that the national pay gap is estimated at $966 million per week, or $51.8 billion per year (with labour force participation rates and incomes considered).  

The report showed that gender discrimination remains the leading driver of the pay gap — contributing 36 per cent of the $2.56 hourly pay gap. Other key drivers of the pay gap are caring for family and workforce participation (33 per cent) and the type of job and industry sector of employment (24 per cent).


It also found that women in feminised industries also face barriers to achieving wage parity, with gender pay gaps above the national average, along with underrepresentation in promotions and key management positions.

KPMG chairman Alison Kitchen commented: “Since our last report in 2019, the gender pay gap has remained stubbornly unchanged, despite action across the public and private sector to tackle gender inequality.”

The report also includes an analysis of the gender pay gap by income quintile, which shows that women are impacted throughout their careers by a lack of opportunities for promotion and an underrepresentation in management positions. 

It reveals that women experience a pay gap of 6 per cent at the start of their careers, and as they progress through their careers to top management levels, the pay gap climbs to 18 per cent

Commenting on the report, Australian Women Lawyers (AWL) president Leah Marrone said that “the best we can say about the inequalities in Australian women’s pay packets is that it hasn’t gotten worse over the period of the pandemic”.

“Not getting worse when other countries are continuing to improve is leaving us behind. According to the report, Australia has slipped in international rankings due to its glacial pace on addressing inequalities in women’s workforce participation and the gender pay gap,” she said.  

“It is clear that the cultural drivers of gender inequity, such as inequitable care and domestic arrangements, are amongst other barriers that limit workforce participation which lead to economic disparity for women.

“In the highest quintile of earnings, it is extremely disappointing that the average weekly earnings gap is at 34 per cent. In short, the women of Australia are economically poorer compared with men, and this will continue to propel gender inequality more broadly.”

Ms Marrone also commented on the implication of the findings for the legal industry: “Although the legal profession is not part of the industry deep dive analysis in this report, we would expect that a detailed analysis of the legal sector would mirror the significant gender pay gaps that exist in other sectors.

“In our industry this is demonstrated by the paucity of women at the very senior levels despite women constituting over half the workforce,” she said.

“There is a lesson here for all members of our profession to pay attention to; if we devalue ‘women’s work’ what happens to our profession if it becomes predominantly the work of women, as it is increasingly becoming, will we all be devalued, including men?”

Ms Marrone made a direct address to women in the legal industry: “Don’t let anyone tell you that you have imposter syndrome or that you are not confident enough. This is all discrimination. Bias, conscious and unconscious. Bottom line, it’s not you, it’s the system. Time for structural change.

“AWL supports the call for transparency, collection and publication of diversity data, in order to support short- and long-term improvements in women’s economic health.”

Other key areas of concern within the report include: 

  • Workplace sexual harassment, sexism, violence, and discrimination
  • Pay transparency and gender pay gap audits
  • Social norms regarding work roles
  • Women in leadership positions and creating networks of advocates in organisations
  • Availability of flexible work and redesigning part-time roles for managers
  • Affordable childcare and shared parental care
  • Workforce participation
  • Changing workplace culture and addressing unconscious bias
The report illuminates that the profession has a collective obligation to address the systemic drivers of the gender pay gap, along with the need for industries, communities and governments to engender greater action.

Taking steps to close the gap could generate $898 million per week in national earnings, the report found. 

Mary Wooldridge, director at WGEA, commented: “WGEA collaborates with employers making these changes and seeing real, tangible benefits for their workforce and for their business.” 

DCA chief executive Lisa Annese commented: “To act with purpose in addressing the gender pay gap now would not only invest in our nation’s future economic prosperity but also help overcome the tough  economic conditions we face.

“Action now is particularly important for low paying industries where women comprise the workforce majority, such as healthcare and education, which we rely on in our daily lives.”