What is the gender pay gap?
The gender pay gap is not just a man and a woman being paid differently for the same job. It measures how women and non-binary people often end up with less money, compared to men.
And since your superannuation payments are based on your pay, a gender pay gap over your lifetime leads to a gender superannuation gap.
Our research shows some of the key causes are:
Fewer career opportunities
Gender biases in hiring, employment type, pay levels, promotions, and firing all change the types of jobs and industries available for the long term.1 A good example is when we see fewer women working in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).
Caring for others
Whether caring for family or the home, women do more unpaid caring work, which often means part-time or casual paid work instead of full-time.1 When separated, only 1 in 5 single mums is able to work full-time.2 And a big factor is the cost and availability of childcare.
Divorce, separation, and abuse
In 2021, there were almost as many divorces as marriages.3 Even 5 years after separation, nearly 70% of single mums live on less than half the median household income or only receive a welfare payment.2 And domestic and family violence can make it harder to find and keep a job, or to save money.4
Is the gender pay gap real in Australia? Absolutely.
And we have the stats to prove it. In real terms, Australia's 14% gender pay gap didn't change from 2017 to 2020 (DCA, 2022). This is an unacceptable situation when we know both men and women are equally well-educated (ABS, 2022).
What might be a small difference in graduating salaries can turn into a significant gender super gap by the time we retire.
Gender pay gap stats
Women work an average of 32 hours a week, compared to more than 39 hours a week for men. And there are fewer women in the workplace: 62% of women, compared to 71% of men.5
Gap averaged across all ages8
Gap in senior management1
Super gender gap stats
Taking just 5 years off work between 29–34 can mean $100,000 less in super.6 And while women live 4 years longer on average, they also tend to retire earlier (average 52 years).7
Retirement savings gap9
of older women live in poverty10
Do you have as much super as a man your age?
If you're curious about how your super stacks up, compare your super balance to the average balance for men and women your age. (The ABS doesn't list data on non-binary people's super.)
What can I do to maximise my super as a woman?
Consider spouse contributions
If you're on a low income and have a spouse or partner, see if they can help grow your super with a spouse contribution or super splitting.
Protect your finances
Ask for that raise, since your super is based on your pay, and check that your super is going into your account regularly. And if you've granted access for other people to view your super, like your accountant or lawyer, make sure you keep these details up-to-date and remove access once it's no longer needed.
Do you have insurance?
Check you have insurance on your super account in case a serious illness or injury means you can't work.
Compare investment options
Switch investment options if you're not in the right option for you. The ASX's Australian Investor Study in 2020 found that women take fewer risks when investing, and review their investments less often than men.
How Australia could fix the gender pay gap
The research shows there are several systemic problems that are causing the gender pay gap and the super gap.
Women In Super recommends public policy changes including paying super on the government's paid parental leave, free childcare, and increasing the LISTO benefit.
What ART does for women
At Australian Retirement Trust, we’re committed to supporting all of our members to reach their retirement goals.
We partner with Make Super Fair, which advocates for the government to improve economic security for women in super and retirement.
Join the conversation by tagging #MakeSuperFair
1. Diversity Council Australia (DCA), KPMG, and Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), 2022, She’s Price(d)less: The economics of the gender pay gap. Top 3 drivers are listed as gender discrimination, caring for family and lower workforce participation, and type of job/industry.
2. Australian Government, Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2019, Financial effects of divorce worse for women. See also relevant statistics in ABS, 2013, Cat. No. 1370.0: Measures of Australia's Progress.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2022, Marriages and Divorces, Australia: In 2021, there were 89,164 marriages and 56,244 divorces registered.
4. Financial abuse definition: 1800 RESPECT, National Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Service, Financial abuse, 2022. Abuse statistics: ABS data also shows that eradicating violence against women would also make the biggest difference to enabling women to be in the workforce without injuries (acquired at home or in the workplace) and without fear of workplace harassment. More than half of all women aged 18 or older have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime (53% of women compared to 24% of men) (ABS, 2016). 6 times as many women as men are victims of sexual assault as recorded by police, excluding assaults that are not reported (ABS, 2021). Nearly 1 in 5 women (18%) aged 18 or older have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15, compared to 4.7% of men (ABS, 2016).
6. Industry Super Funds, Closing the gender superannuation gap, accessed February 2023.
7. The average life expectancy is 85 years for women, compared to 81 years for men, according to the ABS, November 2022. Women retire on average at 52 (because of health or caring for family), compared to men retiring at 59, according to the ABS, 2020.
8. ABS, May 2022, Average Weekly Earnings, Australia.
9. Based on the median super balances for age 60–64: $178,800 for men – $137,050 for women (ASFA, 2022). Using the median from ASN data instead of the average balances out the fact that some SMSFs have a higher balance, which skews the total average figures.
10. National Council of Women Australia, 2021, Submission to the 2021 Budget.