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Women paid $26,527 less than men per year — but gender pay gap narrowing

A close up of a female hand on a computer mouse.
Men have fatter pay packets than women in every category.

Flickr: MadFishDigital

The pay gap between men and women is narrowing — but the blokes' club still rules when it comes to striking juicier salary deals, according to the latest gender equality scorecard out today.

Key points:

  • Men 'still out-earn women in every industry, across all occupations'
  • Biggest gender pay gap in financial and insurance services — at 31.9 per cent
  • Dismal progress in getting more women into board, management positions

While the overall gender pay gap is trending down, men still earn more than women by an average of $26,527 per year in every industry and occupation.

Men have fatter pay packets in every category, with a gap of 8.4 per cent or an average $6,472 for clerical and administrative workers, to 26.7 per cent for technicians and trades workers worth an average $28,042.

While the annual snapshot from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) cites a "remarkable" 10.8 percentage point rise in employers analysing their pay data to address the gender gap, the watchdog remains cautious about celebrating the progress.

But WGEA director Libby Lyons told AM there is a "step change" underway after four years of pressuring employers to put a greater focus on gender equality in the workplace.

"More employers than ever are prioritising gender pay equity as a business imperative. But in Australia today, men still out-earn women in every industry and across all occupations," Ms Lyons said.

"While I am pleased to report such great progress, our gender equality indicators tell us there is much more to be done."

Ms Lyons said various factors contributed to the gender pay gap, such as lower superannuation, slimmed bonuses and reduced hours when women care for children.

"It probably comes down to the fact that women in those areas tend to work part-time," she said.

"You haven't got the opportunity to get greater commissions because you're not spending as many hours in the workforce because you're literally working part-time."

Financial and insurance services have biggest pay gap

The scorecard shows the biggest gender pay gap remains in financial and insurance services, at 31.9 per cent — although it is down from last year's gap of 33.5 per cent.

Significant gaps exist in rental, hiring and real estate services (31.4 per cent), construction (27.4 per cent), agriculture, forestry and fishing (25.7 per cent), and professional, scientific and technical services (25.4 per cent).

Women are edging to closer pay equality with male colleagues in accommodation and food services (11.9 per cent), education and training (10.6 per cent), wholesale trade (9.8 per cent), and public administration (9.2 per cent).

Female-dominated industries saw increase in pay gap

Despite the positive outcome in general on gender pay, the scorecard says some traditionally female-dominated industries — such as healthcare, education and training — saw an increase in the gender pay gap.

"The female-dominated industries think it doesn't affect them, that it's only about women," Ms Lyons said.

"It's time for [women] to step up and to take action."

Men 'still dominate board, management positions'

While the overall gap shows signs of narrowing, the scorecard points to dismal progress in getting more women into company board and management positions.

"Disappointingly, there has been little change over the three reporting periods in the gender balance of Australia's boardrooms," Ms Lyons said.

"Men still dominate the faces around these top tables and the data suggests boards are not engaging with gender equality issues."

The scorecard shows female representation on boards is "static" at 24.9 per cent, with few management teams reporting pay equity progress direction to the boards.

"There are plenty of women out there who are capable of sitting on boards," Ms Lyons said.

"Let me tell you — if the chair of a board rang me today, I could point him in the direction of dozens of competent women. So it's time to get real here."

Government-funded WGEA surveyed more than 11,000 employers and considered 4,621 reports in the year to March 31, 2017.

The scorecard covers more than 4 million workers, accounting for 40 per cent of workers across the nation.