The gender pay gaps continue to receive a great deal of attention. It's reported that women can end up with around $85,000 less superannuation than men.

So what can you do to help?

The stats don’t lie: the gender pay gap is real. Here’s why it matters, and how you can go about addressing it in your workplace.

Want to stir up some conversation at your next dinner party? Then just utter the words, ‘gender pay gap.’ After all, it’s a topic that’s gaining some serious attention recently – in the media, in the courts, and at office watercoolers around the world.

 Put simply, the gender pay gap is the difference between average female and average male weekly full-time earnings, expressed as a percentage. Currently sitting at 15.3% in Australia, full-time male workers out-earn full-time female workers in every occupational category. And that figure has been fairly static since the nineties – despite the major social changes that have otherwise occurred since then. 

That’s a big problem for many reasons – in part because it translates to an even larger deficit when it comes to women’s’ superannuation. Women retire with $85,000 less super, on average, than men – which partially accounts for why around 40% of older single women live in poverty. Even more worrying, these older women are also the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia,
points out advocacy group Women In Super – who work tirelessly to improve women's retirement outcomes through policy change. And these dire statistics point to the need for this change to happen fast.

Why the gap exists

The gender pay gap starts early. When women first enter the workforce, they are paid, on average, 5.7% less than men. And as they progress through the ranks, the gap grows. Discrimination (whether intentional or not) in hiring and promoting compounds the effect, while the uneven distribution of responsibilities magnifies it even more.

In particular, having children hits women – and their superannuation balances – hard. Over the course of career breaks and the return to part time work (often in lower paid roles), the average mother loses much of her potential lifetime income.

And while the status quo is slowly changing – particularly in the health sector – most industries don’t pay super contributions while employees are on maternity leave, even if some portion of salary is covered.

And why change is in sight

As a first step, make a thorough audit of your pay data using the tools supplied by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. You might discover a hidden bias in the way your workplace designs, fills and manages roles – something as subtle as the language used in job ads

In addition, implementing ‘best practice’ initiatives, such as a transparent remuneration system and flexible job design, can have a significant effect on female participation and seniority in the workplace. Doing so will benefit your female employees – and their super balances – but the effects can be even more wide-reaching. Businesses that implement gender equality measures see improvements in productivity, retention and morale overall.  All of which means closing the gap isn’t just about doing the right thing. It’s also about doing right by your business. And that’s something that’s good for everyone.