Women struggle to break through pay gaps

WHILE girls are surpassing men in educational achievement, they are struggling to break through pay gaps, promotion barriers and child care costs to play a bigger role in Australia's workforce.

The first report on the status of women and girls in Australia from the COAG Reform Council revealed a "stark contrast" between the gains in education and workforce participation.

Council chairman John Brumby said the report showed girls were flourishing throughout their schooling, but were having to fight to "have their value realised" once they reached the jobs market.

The report revealed despite three decades passing since gender pay gaps were first addressed, the average pay gap between men and women remained at 17.5% in 2013.

It showed financial disadvantage for women started as soon as they entered the workforce, with graduate starting salaries lower in several fields, a gap of $5000 a year or more than $13,000 every year.

The pay gap was even more prominent when it came to superannuation, with women retiring today to be about $87,000 worse off than men of the same age.

For women already in the workforce, superannuation at retirement would be an average of $200,000 less than average Australian men in the workforce.

Women were also less likely than men to fill senior leadership or management roles in the private sector, with only 3% of ASX Top 500 companies chaired by women.

Mr Brumby said if Australia was to address the numbers of women in the top roles, more women needed to be promoted to "line management" roles, to help adjust the imbalance at the top.

"Any discussion about the future economic wellbeing of our nation will revolve around productivity-women make up half our population and are therefore half of the productivity story," he said.

One of the key challenges preventing women participating in work fully was the cost of child care, being the chief reason behind the one in four women who cannot work full-time.

In 2007, some 22.5% of women aged 20-74 years old who were not in the labour force cited caring for children as the main reason for not working.

The vast majority of those women had children under 6, at 42.8%, while of those with children aged 6-14 only 22% of women carers were not in the labour force.

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