By Alana Schetzer - September 4, 2014


Women may be able to do it, but they must work 64 extra days a year to achieve the same wages that men earned in the previous financial year.

Industrial segregation and "unconscious bias" is leading the growing gender pay gap, the head of Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Agency says.

Women may be able to do it, but they must work 64 extra days a year to achieve the same wages that men earned in the previous financial year.

WGEA director Helen Conway said the dominance of men in top-level jobs and a culture of bosses promoting employees they can relate to meant women faced extra hurdles to receive equal pay.

"There is plain discrimination, some of it is conscious and [some] unconscious. There is gender bias in the way we make pay decisions and other ways that impact pay," she said.

"An organisation may pay women and men doing the same jobs the same amounts, but have an organisation-wide gender pay gap because women are under-represented in management, and over-represented in lower-paid roles."


September 5 is Equal Pay Day, which represents the 64 days since the start of the new financial year, when women's earnings match those of their male counterparts.

"Workers in female-dominated industries tend to receive lower wages than those in male-dominated industries, such as mining," Ms Conway said.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistic figures show the gender pay gap has widened to a 10-year high. Women are now earning less than their male counterparts for the same work since records were first collected in 1994, with an 18.2 per cent difference.

According to the ABS, the average ordinary full-time weekly earnings for men is $1559.10 compared to $1275.90 for women. In the past 12 months, men's average salary increased 2.9 per cent, but women realised an increase of just 1.9 per cent.

The federal government and businesses are facing increasing pressure to address the growing gap

Economic Security4Women executive officer Sally Jope said getting more young women into non-traditional industries such as trades, mining and construction was key to helping address the growing wage gap.

"There's no reason why women shouldn't be represented in those industries," she said.

The pay gap starts immediately for most women. A recent report from Graduate Careers Australia revealed the average starting salary for a female university graduate in 2013 was $51,600 compared to men's $55,000. The biggest gap is in architecture and building, where there is a $6500 pay gap.

Women also fall behind in superannuation, with the average retirement fund one third of what men retire on - $37,000 compared to $110,000.

WGEA will launch a new campaign encouraging some of Australia's biggest companies to establish a gender pay audit at the end of September.

More than 4000 chief executive officers and human resource teams will be invited to take part in the program to help lift the current 18 per cent rate of gender pay audits.