Bridging the gender pay gap

Last updated: 8 January 2016

We all know the gender pay gap is a real thing.

As much as it should be a relic of bygone era where women did the child-raising and men did the money-making, the reality remains – and there’s plenty of research to prove it – that women tend to earn less than their male colleagues in the same roles.

The side effect of this discrepancy, one that probably doesn’t garner the attention that it deserves, is what that gap means when it comes to retirement.

The pay gap translates into an almost 20% difference in superannuation contributions for women compared to men, which over the course of a career, equates to around 46% in the super kitty according to figures from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia.

Data collected by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) shows that an average $17,299 difference in annual base salary results in full-time women receiving $1,643 per year less in superannuation contributions on average than full-time men.

Highlighting the breadth of the salary divide, WGEA data shows that 80.4% of employees in health care and social assistance are women, where the average full-time base salary is $67,392 for women and $80,301 for men.

Meanwhile just 16% of employees in mining are women, where the average full-time base salary is $101,207 for women and $119,731 for men.

The lowest paid industry is retail trade, where almost 60% of employees are female, with an average full-time base salary of $55,162 for women and $62,183 for men.

WGEA Director Libby Lyons said addressing the superannuation gap would have significant benefits for individual women and for the economy.

“Employers can play a key role in addressing the superannuation gap by providing more opportunities for women to access better-paying jobs and to progress into management roles,” Ms Lyons said.

“Our research suggests this can be achieved through developing and implementing company-wide strategies and initiatives such as flexible working arrangements, paid parental leave, and making additional contributions to superannuation.”

The superannuation contribution gap is further compounded by women working part-time (75% of part-time employees are women) and taking extended periods out of the workforce caring for children and other family members.

“Addressing the gender imbalances in the workforce is the key for a sustainable superannuation system that provides all Australians with an adequate income in retirement,” Mrs Lyon said.

“Organisations must conduct their own company-wide gender pay gap analysis that is then reported widely but most importantly to the board.”