Women stay down and earn less in mining, construction and finance: report

Published: 05/08/2016

Women’s participation in the workforce may have increased over the past 20 years, but entrenched stereotypes about where women can work haven’t.

A report released from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency on Tuesday found that despite an increase in women’s participation in the workforce over that time, women are still much more likely to hold CEO or key management personnel roles – and earn more money – in female-dominated industries than male-dominated industries.

Men still dominate in sectors including construction and wholesale trade.
Men still dominate in sectors including construction and wholesale trade.  Photo: Miquel Llonch / Stocksy

The report lists some female-dominated organisations as healthcare, social assistance, education and training. Almost 80 per cent of those employed in the healthcare and social assistance industries are women, up from 76 per cent in 1995. And females now make up 70 per cent of workers in the education and training sector, five per cent more than in 1995.

But men still dominate in sectors including construction and wholesale trade. In fact, female representation in these sectors declined. For example in construction, the percentage of female employees in 1995 was 14.8 per cent, but by 2015 that fell to 12 per cent. And there was little improvement in mining.

The number of women in financial and insurance services dropped from 58.1 per cent in 1995 to 51.1 per cent in 2015.

Nevertheless, there was some improvement in female representation in industries including electricity, gas, water waste services, transport and postal.  And areas such as public administration and safety, rental hire, real estate services, and information media and telecommunications have become more evenly gendered.

The report found performance pay and other additional remuneration plays a greater role in male-dominated industries, leading to higher gender pay gaps.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Libby Lyons said Australia’s economy will be poorly equipped for future challenges if stereotypes about the kinds of work women and men “should” do persist.

“It’s time to reject the idea that certain types of work are better suited to women or men. A person’s gender is not an indicator of their ability or interest in a particular area,” she said.

“Women quite rightly are being encouraged to pursue careers requiring scientific, technical, engineering and mathematics skills, but we should also be encouraging men to pursue careers in female-dominated industries such as healthcare, to help meet the needs of our future population,” she said.

“If we are serious about being an innovation nation, we need to start improving gender diversity in industries that will be growth areas in the years to come.”