Date posted: 23/06/2021 5 min read

The issue: Women and work

Women in Australia’s finance sector earn 76.4 cents for every dollar men earn but pay is just one aspect of women and work.

In Brief

  • The finance and insurance sector in Australia has the second largest gender pay gap (23.6%) in the nation.
  • In Australia, women hold 14.6% of chair positions, 28.1% of directorships, 32.5% of key management personnel, but are just 18.3% of CEOs.
  • In the year to 30 September 2020, the number of female director appointments in New Zealand reached a record high of 43.

Compiled by Jordan Manning

The gender pay gap is real – and to be perfectly honest, we can’t believe we’re still talking about it. It’s more than 50 years since Australia’s 1969 Equal Pay Case, which set the principle of equal pay for equal work. Before that, Australian employers could pay women 75% what men earned for doing the same job.

It’s more than 60 years since New Zealand’s Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960 abolished gender pay scales in NZ’s Public Service. By 1978, that principle applied across all parts of NZ’s private sector.

Women were harder hit during the COVID-19 lockdown than men. At the peak of the crisis, 8% of women and 4% of men in Australia lost jobs, reports the Grattan Institute. However, ironically, women’s labour increased. Women spent one hour more than men on unpaid labour such as supervising children’s remote learning, on top of their usual paid work and domestic duties.

Despite this, Australia ranks first on the US Women and Foreign Policy program’s Women’s Workplace Equality Index, ahead of Canada (no. 2) and New Zealand (no. 3).

Gender pay gap in Australia and New Zealand

The gender pay gap (total annual remuneration) between men and women working full-time in Australia’s financial and insurance services sector in 2019-20 was 23.6%. That means women in the sector earn 76.4 cents to the male dollar.

That compares to a gender pay gap (for full-time workers) in all sectors across Australia of 20.1% or A$25,534 a year.

In New Zealand, the gender pay gap is 9.3%, although a 2020 report from Strategic Pay found the gap to be almost double that. From a sample of more than 187,000 employees from 950 organisations in New Zealand, the analysis found an overall gender pay gap of 17.7%.

Sources: Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Stats NZ, Strategic Pay

Gender pay gap by industry sector

Gender pay gap by industry, Nov 2019 – Nov 2020

(Australian full-time adult average weekly ordinary time earnings)

Industry Nov 2019 (%) Nov 2020 (%)  Difference (from previous period)* 
Professional, scientific and technical services    22.1 24.4 2.3
Financial and insurance services    22.2 23.6 1.4
Health care and social assistance   
22.3 21.2 -1.1
Rental, hiring and real estate services   
19.7 1.5
Information media and telecommunications   
Administrative and support services   
Transport, postal and warehousing  
5.9 13.8  -2.1
Wholesale trade    16.2
Manufacturing   10.3
Education and training   
Accommodation and food services   
Electricity, gas, water and waste services   
Arts and recreation Services   
Retail    8.5
Public administration and safety   
Other services   

* A minus sign indicates the gender pay gap has decreased from the previous period. Source: Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Statistics, Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Feb 2021.

Women on boards

Australian Institute of Company Directors figures reveal that in 2021, 32.9% of directors in the ASX 200 are female. In New Zealand, women make up 31.6% of directors of S&P/NZX 50 companies.

However, 30.2% of boards and governing bodies in Australia have no female directors. In contrast, only 0.4% have no male directors.

“30.2% of boards and governing bodies in Australia have no female directors. In contrast, only 0.4% have no male directors.”

In the year to 30 September 2020, the number of female director appointments in New Zealand reached a record high of 43 – representing more than 27% of all director appointments.

In Australia, women hold 14.6% of chair positions and 28.1% of directorships. They represent 18.3% of CEOs and 32.5% of key management personnel, according to 2019-2020 data from Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

Women’s Workplace Equality Index

The Women’s Workplace Equality Index ranks nations according to factors including accessing institutions, building credit, getting a job, going to court, protecting women from violence, providing incentives to work and women’s ability to use property.

Top 5

1 – Australia

2 – Canada

3 – New Zealand

4 – Spain

5 – Mexico

Bottom 5

185 – Iran

186 – Sudan

187 – Qatar

188 – Syria

189 – Yemen

Source: Women and Foreign Policy program

Keeping married women in the kitchen

The ban on married women holding positions in Australia’s Commonwealth Public Service was in place until 18 November 1966. Introduced in the early 1900s, it was meant to stop women ‘stealing’ men’s jobs and to also boost the birth rate.

In New Zealand, it was a different experience. Due to the unemployment of young teachers, in 1931 the government allowed education boards to dismiss or not employ married women. However, the ‘marriage bar’ was no longer enforced from 1936 and was officially dropped in 1938.

Where are all the women?

The issue: Women and work

In 2020, worldwide, more men (74%) than women (47%) participated in the labour force, according to United Nations research.

Global population (May 2020)

3.978 billion men (50.5%) 3.906 billion women (49.5%)


Women actively engaged in the labour market globally

82% of women in one-person households

64% of women in couple households

48% of women in couple households with children

Source: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Workforce in Australia

Female workers

40.6% work full-time, 27.5% casual, 31.9% part-time

Male workers

67.4% full-time, 21.8% casual, 10.8% part-time (AU)

Source: Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Workforce in New Zealand

48% of NZ paid workforce is female

52% of NZ paid workforce is male

Source: Stats NZ

CA ANZ community

CA ANZ 128,683 members

57% male

43% female

Source: CA ANZ 2020 Annual Report

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