Australian men and women lead very different working lives.
Men and women often do not work 'side by side'—but
instead work in industries or occupations which are dominated by one gender or
another. By international standards, we have a highly gender segregated
In 2015 ̶
16, six in 10 Australian employees worked in an industry which is dominated by
To put it another way, 60 per cent of Australian workers don’t know what it is
like to work in an industry with balanced gender representation. These figures
have remained relatively constant over the last twenty years.
This outcome is much more than just a function of individual
choices and actions. Patterns occur across industries and occupations because
individuals’ choices are constrained by a range of structural factors and
Caring responsibilities and the availability of flexible
work restrict the range of roles that are available to women, and not all
industries and workplaces are equally flexible. The uneven distribution of
flexible and part-time employment opportunities funnels women into particular
industries and sectors. Data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency
indicates that only five per cent of employees in male-dominated workplaces are
whereas only 35 per cent of employees in female-dominated industries are full
Additionally, expectations about traditional gender roles
continue to shape choices for young men and women in schools, universities and
vocational education. The data indicates enrolments continue to strongly
reinforce gender expectations.
The resulting segregation is one of the major sources of the
gender pay gap. Taken together, occupational and industrial gender segregation
are the second most significant contributors to the pay gap between men and
women, after sex discrimination.
As the ratio of male to female employees in an industry
increases so, too, does the average wage. KPMG found that, for every 10 per
cent increase in the ratio of men to women in an industry, the average wage
increases by 1.9 per cent. For every 10 per cent increase in this ratio in an
occupation, the average wage increases by 0.8 per cent.
A woman working in a female-dominated industry would on
average, earn almost $40,000 less at total remuneration than the average
full-time total remuneration of a man in a male-dominated industry.
The problem is particularly acute in occupations involving
caring, such as childcare, in-home disability, aged care and education, where
the nature of the work demands 'emotional labour'. Whilst these are essential
skills for workers in the care economy, they are undervalued in the labour
Australia's gender pay gap has hovered between 15 and 20
percent for twenty years. The 'glass walls' that segregate Australian working
men and women are as significant to this gap as the famed 'glass ceiling'.
The committee has made nine recommendations. These commence
with a call for a leadership and coordination across government, to urgently
deliver tangible, measurable action on pay equity. The committee also
recommends reforms to the Fair Work Act 2009 and Fair Work Commission to
improve the mechanisms by which undervaluation of female-dominated work can be
redressed. The committee recommends greater focus on the role of career
guidance and counselling in Australia to provide both young men and women the
broadest possible choices as they enter the workforce. Finally we consider a
somewhat technical but nonetheless influential aspect of data collection and
research that has significant implications for gender segregation in this
Globalisation and technological change are driving wholesale
changes to both the structure of Australia’s economy, and the jobs that are
available to Australians. Without concerted, deliberate action, there is a
significant risk that new opportunities will continue to reflect gendered
patterns of work, and constrain full deployment of our collective
capabilities. This report seeks to provide practical steps to deliver fairer
workplaces and a more efficient, innovative economy.
Senator Jenny McAllister
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