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Economic equality indicators fumble despite gender pay gap push

By Jessica Penny
3 minute read

Women’s financial progress has, for a second year in a row, finished in negative territory.

The Financy Women’s Index (FWX), a quarterly measurement of the economic progress of women in Australia, fell one point to 75.5 points over the 2023 calendar year.

A two-point decline from 77.5 in the December quarter erased gains made earlier in the year, Financy clarified.

The research house explained that the FWX was most significantly weighed down by deteriorating gender gaps relating to underemployment and unpaid work, which in the course of 2023 fell by 1.56 points and 2.19 points, respectively.

This offset any improvements seen within the FWX Gender Pay Gap sub-index, which increased by 1.3 points to 88 points in December 2023, from 86.7 points in December 2022.

“In 2024, it is inexcusable that progress towards women’s gender equality should be heading backwards on a number of fronts,” commented independent economist Nicki Hutley.

“While we celebrate progress in board rooms, International Women’s Day needs to see further bold action from corporates and governments, offering women more pathways to meaningful, well-paid careers of choice,” Hutley continued.

The news comes after the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) published base salary and total remuneration median gender pay gaps for private sector employers in Australia with 100 or more employees last month.

Nationally, the WGEA median total remuneration gender pay gap stood at 19 per cent, the agency said in its inaugural gender pay gap report. This means that over the course of a year, the median of what women are paid is $18,461 less than the median of what men are paid.

However, Financy was optimistic about the gender pay gap outlook, with its FWX sub-index improving to 88 points in December 2023, as the gender pay gap fell to a record low of 12 per cent, as measured by the ABS.

Meanwhile, the FWX Employment sub-index improved 0.53 points to 72.9 in 2023 as women increased their number of monthly hours worked by 1.6 per cent during the calendar year, outpacing the rate of growth among men’s monthly hours work, up 0.8 per cent.

Is the countdown on?

Looking at timeframes to gender equality, the ASX 200 boards and employment sub-indexes led the charge in closing the median timeframe to 27.7 years.

Namely, the FWX ASX 200 Board Leadership sub-index stayed as the best-performing area, falling to a revised 6.3 years, while the FWX Employment sub-index fell to a revised 29.5 years.

The FWX Gender Pay Gap sub-index was also able to shed off time, falling to a revised 21.9 years in 2023 from 23.3 years in 2022.

However, the time to achieve gender equality in underemployment (33.5 years) and unpaid work (45.5 years) both saw revised declines year-on-year.

While these trends have broadly been improving over the last decade, Financy emphasised that this improvement has been marginal.

As such, NGS Super chief executive Natalie Previtera said the latest FWX could not be more timely.

“Against a backdrop of WGEA’s latest report and International Women’s Day focused on ‘Accelerating gender equality through economic empowerment’, now is the perfect time to continue the conversation around the gender pay gap, and the knock-on effect on every facet of women’s lives,” Previtera argued.

“There is no silver bullet to bridge the gap, but there are many steps we can take to incrementally work towards equality through economic empowerment. I’d like to see us leverage the insights from the FWX not just to measure progress, but to fuel our collective efforts towards a more equitable future,” she concluded.