Workplace Gender Equality Agency data show gender gap closing for managers

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An influx of women in new management roles is set to boost gender equality in corporate Australia, but women are still facing salary differences of up to more than $90,000 in senior ranks.

New data tracked for the first time by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency show a healthy 42.6 per cent of managerial appointments and promotions last year were for women.

The gender equality scorecard, covering more than 12,000 employers and four million employees, has given gender equality advocates cause for hope in the face of the historical under-representation of women in management and leadership roles.

While only 37 per cent of managers are women, WGEA director Libby Lyons said the new appointments meant “we can expect that figure to trend up as more women rise through the ranks”.

“Your boss today is still much more likely to be a man, but the data shows we are moving toward gender equality among managers.”

The report found women occupying key management personnel rose by 2.4 per cent to 28.5 per cent.

Women in chief executive roles is at 16.3 per cent, up by about 1 per cent.

Overall, women in management positions can expect to earn about $53,081 less than men – a gap that gets larger the more senior the position.

For senior managers, the gap is $46,760, but for executives and general managers it jumps to $75,037.

Remuneration differences hit a high at $93,884 for key management personnel, reflecting the role of non-salary benefits, such as bonuses, in exacerbating pay disparity.

Women’s average full-time salary across all industries is 17.7 per cent, or $16,219, less than men, an improvement from 20 per cent in 2013-14.

Financial services, real estate, construction and technology were the industries with the biggest gender pay gap.

Construction scored the lowest proportion of women in management, having stalled at just under 11 per cent for the past three years.

One industry exception is global engineering and infrastructure firm Aurecon.

Over the past 12 months, it has seen females in its leadership pipeline increase six per cent compared to a two per cent increase in women in its workplace overall.

Regional director and board member Louise Adams credits the firm’s strong diversity programs as responsible for the rise.

One of just two women who graduated in civil engineering at the University of South Australia in 1999, Ms Adams knew right from the start what she was getting into.

“I knew I had to be reasonably bold in my career to stand out in a male-dominated industry.”

Aside from taking a proactive approach that involved her spending 12 years working in the United Kingdom and the Middle East, she cites the role of mentors inside and outside the organisation as a major factor in rising up the ranks.

“I think it’s incredibly important for women to have ‘sponsors’, people who will stand up and speak for you and help you stand out in the organisation.

“Whenever I was confronted by a situation I had a couple of people who I trusted deeply who could help me navigate through those experiences.”

Aurecon recently put those ideas into practice by providing one-on-one mentors for up-and-coming Aurecon female engineers and organising high-level networking events.

The company also conducted a gender pay analysis that resulted in it closing gaps and ensuring they did not reappear.

For Ms Adams, gender diversity was “simply good business” as companies faced an “uncertain and rapidly changing world”.

“A core capability to navigate the challenges of tomorrow is the ability to have people from all different backgrounds facing those challenges and giving us that real diversity of thought.”

“We believe a highly diverse workplace will give us an unbeatable competitive advantage into the future.”

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