Why women are still lagging financially - ANZ Women's Report 2015

Lately equality has been at the forefront of conversation regarding financial outcomes for women, and increasingly, also family outcomes for men. Gender discrimination affects us all at different times, but while the conversation is increasingly acknowledging how women are getting left behind financially (and how men suffer as a result), the problems we face remain unsolved.

The issues are complex and deeply rooted in how we view gender roles as a society. This issue is not one of women being separated from men as an oppressed, discriminated-against sector of the community, because women's problems are also men's problems. They are our problems. 

Women must exit the workforce for at least some time to have a baby (to create more taxpayers to fund your old age, to keep the human race ticking along, etc.), while also – independently – getting paid less for the same work as men in most industries, but also choosing lower-paying careers or jobs more often than men, and when returning to these jobs after having a baby, suffering a pay cut. While most of us would think this doesn't happen, the research presented in this report prove without question that they happen, and very often so as to be the norm. 

The choice women must make is often between having a high-paying successful career or a family, despite the option of having both remaining, theoretically, on the table. The inequality that women face also means that men are often forced to work harder and longer, missing out on family time due to gender stereotypes (and better pay) that keep them at work.

This illuminating new report from ANZ, ANZ Women’s Report: Barriers to Achieving Gender Equity, examines the gender inequality issue using governmental, academic, and private sector research, examining why this type of inequality persists in our society and what we can do about it going forward. The economic potential of women is currently dictated by child-rearing, caring for family, and career choices – choices that strongly favour men in terms of economics, but also disadvantages men in family life. It seems that nobody can have it all. At least not yet.

The report digs deep

This very important Australian report looks into key elements of the disparity: educational performance, choices of employment, and the rates of pay for such work, salary levels and the gender pay gap, career breaks for family responsibilities, unpaid work burdens, the lack of female leaders in our society, and the Australian retirement system. It examines the fundamental causes of gender inequality in our country – something nobody else has been doing in any depth in the corporate sector, making this report a marker from which we can measure our success into the future. 

Crunching the numbers

The report explains that women earn, on average, almost $300 less than men per week. This is an astounding figure, which over a lifetime of work equates to a house in the suburbs of Sydney, a luscious property in the Victorian countryside, or a very fine vintage car collection. It would be no surprise, then, to find that women retire without home, property, or vintage cars far more often than men. 

The facts

  • Fact: The subjects we choose to study at high school and university dictate what jobs we get.
  • Fact: Gender stereotypes still impact the career paths (from subjects studied) women choose to take, which means they are over-represented in lower-paid sectors of the economy.
  • Fact: Women get paid less than men for the same work in all industries, including penalty rates, salary, overtime, performance-based payments, bonuses and superannuation contributions.

Women also spend far more time in unpaid work, which is more than likely raising children or other family-related responsibilities, and returning to work is often fraught with difficulties. One such difficulty that perpetuates the problem includes the not insignificant fact that male partners tend to earn more, so are encouraged to stay in the workforce instead of taking on more responsibility at home, even if that’s what they desire. There is no actual reason, however, besides being female, that women graduates earn four per cent less than their equally-positioned male counterparts. It just gets worse from graduation, with senior leadership positions offering the greatest disparity, with motherhood, caring, parental leave and flexible work arrangements all resulting in discrimination by employers. This is compounded by the disappointing truth that women still do the lion's share of home duties (twice as much) even with their full-time careers to nurture. 

Women are therefore simply unable to contribute to their superannuation and savings the same way as men, leaving 90 per cent – 90 per cent – of Australian women with inadequate savings in retirement.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Women make up 20.4 per cent of ASX200 board positions
  • Women represent 31 per cent of all federal, state and territory parliamentarians
  • Women retire (on average), with around half as much in their superannuation as men
  • 37 per cent of women report having no personal income at the age of retirement
  • About 90 per cent of women will retire with inadequate savings to fund a comfortable lifestyle in retirement
  • One in five women yet to retire has no superannuation
  • 42 per cent of women aged 25-29 hold a university degree, compared to 31 per cent of men
  • Women make up only 35 per cent of the full-time work force, compared to 70 per cent of the part-time work force
  • The workforce participation rate for women is 59 per cent, compared to 71 per cent for men
  • Women earn an average of 18.8 per cent less than men (based on fulltime average weekly earnings)
  • Women earn less than men in the majority of industries in Australia
  • In Australia, 84 per cent of women with a child under two years of age work part time
  • 49 per cent of mothers report experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work
  • 15 per cent of women cite financial considerations as the reason they return to work
  • Australian women returning to work after 12 months’ parental leave are subject to an average 7 per cent wage penalty (known as the ‘motherhood penalty’), increasing to 12 per cent over the subsequent year
  • Australian women spend almost twice as much time on unpaid work than men

Download the Women’s Report in PDF