Thousands of Aussie companies reveal shocking gender pay gaps

The gender pay gaps at some of Australia’s largest employers have been published for the first time in a bid to increase transparency and workplace equality.

Employers are being warned that ignoring gender pay gaps within their organisations will be at their peril as remuneration data from thousands of companies is made public for the first time.

The data, published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), has been broken down by industry into base salaries and total pay including superannuation, overtime and bonuses.

It shows 90 per cent or more employers in the mining, electricity, water and waste services and financial and insurance services industries have a gender pay gap favouring men.

More than 80 per cent of those employers have a gap above 9.1 per cent. The national average is 21.7 per cent, equivalent to women earning $26,393 less than men annually.

There is also a link between more women in leadership roles and lower pay discrepancies, while employers with gender balance in management roles were 50 per cent more likely to have a neutral pay gap.

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin reported median pay gaps of 37 per cent, 43.7 per cent and 41.7 per cent.

Qantas Group chief people officer Catherine Walsh said the data did not mean women were paid less than men to do the same jobs.

Gender pay gaps are being made public for the first time

Rather there was significant under-representation of women in more highly paid roles such as pilots and engineers, jobs the airline was working to encourage more women into.

‘The years of training required for these roles means improving the gender balance of these work groups will take time,’ Ms Walsh said.

Banks also reported significant pay gaps in favour of men, including 18.8 per cent at NAB, 28.5 per cent at Westpac and 29.9 per cent at the Commonwealth Bank.

A CBA spokesperson said women reflected 54 per cent of the bank’s local workforce and 44 per cent of leadership roles.

But 71 per cent of customer service and operational roles, which typically have lower rates of pay, were held by women.

‘CBA’s median pay gap reflects many factors influencing the gender pay gap more broadly, including the types of roles performed by women, the seniority of those roles and the composition of the workforce,’ the spokesperson said.

WGEA chief executive Mary Wooldridge said the data release, made possible by a legislative reform passed in 2023, was a significant step forward in understanding gender equality in Australian workplaces.

‘Transparency and accountability is actually beneficial to employees, to the community and to the nation as a whole because gender equality is beneficial on all of those levels,’ she said.

‘(Pay gap reporting) is something that’s happened in other countries with very positive outcomes, and it’s a useful step in the journey to equality.’

While there was no legal requirement for organisations to reduce pay gaps, Ms Wooldridge said employers who failed to act on the data would be disadvantaged.

‘Employers can choose how they respond in relation to the publishing of this information, we’re not requiring them to do anything,’ she said.

‘But I think they fail to act on gender equality at their peril.

‘Employers need to understand that this information can really be shaping the decisions of their future workforce.’