Why does Australia still hold a gender pay gap?

Globally, on average, men financially earn 23 percent more than women (United Nations, n.d).

In Australia, this equivalates to an average wage gap of $275.45 per week, regardless of industry; the

poorest performing sector is the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services fields, with an average

difference of $570.90 per week (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021). Can a young professional help

illuminate this issue? Let’s review a possible explanation for why Australia still has a gender wage gap.

Women’s role in society

As cultures change throughout the world, so do social norms. Kassin et al. (2020) define socials

norms as the rule’s society establishes for individuals to conform to in their community. In some

cultures, the desire for conformity is greater. Research shows indigenous Australians and New

Zealanders, Asian, African, and Latin Americans value social harmony, cooperation and, foremost,

being a loyal family member. These cultural norms are rereferred to as interdependent or collectivist

orientations. However, this is inverted in western culture, with greater value on self-reliance,

autonomy, and independence. Countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, and New

Zealand, for example, rank highly in individualistic orientation (Kassin et al., 2020).

One could assume that a female from a collectivist culture would take a more traditional

approach, raising children and tending to the home – whilst their male counterpart provides for the

family. Global statistics would agree, showing women providing 76.2 percent of unpaid care (Addati

et al., 2018). However, as no country finds men and women equal in this metric, this indicates that

even in individualist cultures, women still provide the majority of the unpaid care.

When trying to close the gender pay gap, one could presume getting more women into the

workplace would help? However, globally only 63 percent of working-age women are actively

engaged in the workplace (United Nations, n.d), and with women providing, on average, 4 hours and

25 minutes of unpaid work per day, compared to 1 hour and 23 minutes of their male counterpart

(Addati et al., 2018), one must wonder how much time, effort, and energy a female has to contribute

to the workplace?

Motherhood pay gap

Cukrowska-Torzewska & Matysiak (2020) concur with this point, suggesting that working

mothers invest less effort in the workplace due to their unpaid commitments, even implying that

mothers earn, on average, 3.6-3.8 percent less than women without children. As research validates

this point, one must ponder the impact on social workplace relationships. Are women judging each

other, comparing skills, abilities, and presence in the workplace?

Evaluation of Work

Leon Festinger (1954), as cited in Kassin et al. (2020), would suggest that these women would

indeed evaluate their abilities compared to their colleagues. However, are these metrics of

performance a fair and healthy comparison? Human beings have a natural desire to connect and find

a sense of purpose and self-worth (Kassin et al., 2020). Unfavourable comparisons to others impact

this ability to connect, limiting an individual, their career, and their growth – in turn affecting their

earning potential and capacity.

Gender Wage Gap in Review

When reviewing the gender wage gap, one must be open-minded to the challenges women face

worldwide; understanding women in various cultures have liberties removed. However, Australia, a

typically independent culture, sees women with freedoms and access to work. Unpaid work will

always be present. Still, through evening this load across genders, building workplace cultures where

women and working mothers are welcomed, especially in high-income industries, we could expect to

see a positive shift in the gender wage gap.


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2021). Average weekly earnings Australia, 2021.


Cukrowska-Torzewska, E., & Matysiak, A. (2020). The motherhood wage penalty: a meta-analysis.

Social Science Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2020.102416

Addati, L., Cattaneo, U., Esquivel, V., & Valarino, I. (2018). Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work.

International Labour Organization. Geneva: International Labour Organization.

Kassin, S., Markus, H., Williams, L. A., Fien, S., & McBain, K. A. (2020). Social Psychology (Vol. 2). Cengage.

United Nations. (2021). Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, 2021.