The Gender Pay Gap

Emma Egan

Yep, we are still writing about it and will keep doing so until things start to change! This post was put together by our fantastic work experience extraordinaire – Lillian Haney.

Gender equality continues to be an ongoing issue among all areas of our society. There are now laws set in place to prevent discriminatory actions due to gender, and yet there are still noticeable differences among the workforce. This brings into question, are we ever going to become a gender-balanced society? Gender segregation doesn’t just begin once people enter the employment market, it starts at a young age, while people are still in the education system.

In the higher education system in Australia, women’s’ representation is increasing and are more highly represented in overall enrolments. Across Australian universities, the domestic enrolment stands at 57.4% to 42.6%, in favour of women as of 2015. Not only are the enrolments imbalanced and in favour of women, the Australian award course completion rate shows a gender imbalance where female graduates are outnumbering male graduates. The gender compositions of higher education award course completions in 2015 show that a higher proportion of women graduated than men. Women currently represent 59.5% of all completed undergraduate and postgraduate higher degree courses. However, apprenticeships continue to be heavily male-dominated. WGEA data from 2015-16 shows that of 35,855 apprentices, 86.6% are male (13.4% are female).

The imbalance between women and men in relation to enrolments also spreads across the different fields and areas of higher education. Women dominate in areas such as Education, Health, Creative Arts and Society and Culture.  Men dominate in areas such as Information Technology and Engineering Related Technologies. Data shows that between 2001 and 2015, the imbalance has persisted, women’s representation declined substantially in the male-dominated fields, particularly in Information Technology, but increased significantly in the field of Agriculture Environmental and Related Studies. Men’s representation in female-dominated fields remained unchanged in most fields except in Creative Arts.

In regards to higher education, although there may be imbalances they are not just one sided, women and men, dominate in different areas. However, when looking into the pay gap, it is definitely one sided and not for any good reasons. At the entry level of the labour market, men’s starting salaries are higher than women’s in 17 out of 19 fields of education. This staggering figure is quite a shock considering the efforts towards and awareness around improving the gender pay gap.

The equal pay legislation, such as the Federal industrial legislation (the Workplace Relations Act 1996 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984) provides a legal requirement for employers to pay women and men equal remuneration for work of equal or comparable value. With this in mind, it is concerning that in both female and male dominated areas women on average are paid less. In male-dominated areas such as Architecture and Building Environment, and Science and Mathematics, the differences in starting salaries is that men are earning on average 15.3% and 10.0% more than women. In a female-dominated study area such as Health Services and support, the pay gap is still in favour of men with mean earning on average 9.1% more than women. In a pretty gender balanced field such as Business and Management, women face a 7.0% gender pay gap.

While more women than men graduate from higher education institutions and receive the same education as men, women continue to be undervalued in the majority of study fields and industries at the start of their career. The data confirms stark graduate gender pay gaps across the majority of study fields and industries in Australia. This is nothing for Australia to be proud about and a change needs to be made for the better.

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