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Human Resources

Public employers surpass private companies in closing the gender pay gap

Health Industry Hub | July 3, 2023 |

Human Resources: The public sector has emerged as a frontrunner in achieving gender pay equality, surpassing its private sector counterparts. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) released a report today, unveiling that women employed in the Commonwealth public sector experience significantly lower gender pay gaps compared to those working in the private sector.

According to the WGEA’s Commonwealth Public Sector Gender Equality Snapshot, women in the public sector are paid an average of 88 cents for every dollar earned by men. This figure stands in contrast to the private sector, where women earn only 77 cents on the dollar. The report attributes this achievement to a total remuneration gender pay gap of 11.6% within the public sector, while the private sector lags behind at 22.8%.

This insightful Snapshot, based on voluntary reporting by 52 public sector employers, represents the first comprehensive analysis of the sector’s performance in terms of gender equality. However, the report also highlights that there is still work to be done. Starting later this year, public sector employers with 100 or more employees will be required to submit mandatory gender equality reports to the WGEA.

Mary Wooldridge, CEO of the WGEA, expressed optimism about the progress made in addressing gender inequality and closing the gender pay gap.

“Policies like publicly-advertised salary levels, target setting, regular employee consultation and comprehensive access to paid parental leave help the public sector lead in workplace gender equality. However, these results also show that many of these policies have focused on women, rather than all employees. This is particularly the case for support for parents and carers. The result is that the uptake of paid primary carers leave by men is at a rate similar to the private sector (13.5% in the public sector and 13% in the private sector),” Ms Wooldridge said.

To achieve true gender equality, Ms Wooldridge stressed the need to challenge cultural norms and pervasive gender stereotypes that perpetuate an uneven distribution of parenting responsibilities, hindering women’s full participation in the workforce. While acknowledging that some employers may still view gender equality as a “women’s issue,” she emphasised that meaningful change requires a focus on improving the workplace experiences of both women and men.

Furthermore, Ms Wooldridge announced that mandatory gender equality reporting in the public sector will enable the WGEA to publish an annual Scorecard, comparable to the one produced for the private sector. This Scorecard will track the progress of the gender pay gap and, for the first time, allow for direct comparisons between the performance of the public sector and the private sector.

“This inclusion of the public sector in our world-leading dataset will provide comprehensive insights, shaping the future of gender equality reporting,” Ms Wooldridge stated. “The Snapshot serves as an appetiser, offering policymakers, employers, and the public a glimpse into gender equality within the Commonwealth public sector.”

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