New data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency publicly documents the median gender pay gap in Australia’s largest practices – along with a wealth of information about demographics, policy and action. We have assembled it all for you – now, put it to work!

“The time for talk and excuses is over. Change takes action and employers need to double down on ensuring all employees are fairly represented and equally valued and rewarded in their workplace.”

Mary Wooldridge, CEO WGEA

On 27 February 2024, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) published the median gender pay gap data for Australian businesses that employ over 100 people. This was a strategic move to force a conversation about the pay gap and accelerate change. WGEA asks companies to step up and provides the data we can all use to hold them to account.

The reporting includes 24 architecture and landscape architecture practices. Like many people, we have been poring over the data. It reveals a great deal about what the largest architecture and landscape architecture practices are – and are not – doing in relation to gender equity. These are the factors that accumulate and intersect to create the conditions in which pay gaps shrink or expand.

We have assembled graphs and charts documenting the data for our industry. This is incredibly useful – not to mention fascinating, weird, infuriating and hopeful! We shared these charts on instagram in the first week of March 2024. Below we now publish this data here. Hover your mouse over the charts to explore further, and use it as a catalyst for action.

Things to keep in mind when examining the data

Like any data set, that available through the WGEA Data Explorer comes with caveats and complications.

Binary data The WGEA data is presented in terms of a gender binary. The agency explains:

“WGEA calculates employer gender pay gaps based on women and men. Recognising that gender is a social and cultural concept, since the 2020–21 reporting period, WGEA has created the option for employers to report employee gender as non-binary as a voluntary data category.”

The proportion of employers reporting employee gender as non-binary increased from 8.8% in 2020-21 to 19% in 2022–23. The proportion of non-binary employees in WGEA’s dataset similarly increased to 0.2% from less than 0.1% in 2020-21. These are meaningful changes, suggesting awareness of, and attention to, gender diversity in the workplace is increasing. However, the non-binary numbers remain small and reporting is voluntary so it has not been used in this analysis.”

Accuracy Assembling the data from the individual reports available on the WGEA Data Explorer is painstaking, complicated and time-consuming – thanks to Alison McFadyen for doing this work! We have done our best to ensure accuracy, and have also updated some graphs to address reported inaccuracies in the WGEA data. This has been noted in the relevant chart. If you identify other errors please contact us.

Time lag / accuracy The data reported in February 2024 was collected by WGEA in April–May 2023. This means that the information is dated, and in some cases out of date – for example, at last one practice has substantially increased its Parental Leave scheme. Where we have been contacted with an update this is included in notes for each graph.

Number of practices We found 24 architecture and landscape architecture practices. Two of these – Architectus and Conrad Gargett – were in the process of merging at the time of the data collection. Data is available separately for some categories and combined for others. For this reason some charts cover 24 practices and others include 23.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average or median earnings of women and men across a workforce, expressed as a proportion of men’s earnings.

The gender pay gap is not the same as unequal pay, or pay inequity, which refers to the situation in which women are paid less for the same work or work of equal value. On one hand, unequal pay is a contributor to gender pay gaps, along with many other social and economic factors that affect income and earning capacity. On the other hand, the presence of a pay gap does not in and of itself demonstrate pay inequity.

Pay gaps contribute to and are driven by inequality. They are an index of power and of unequal representation and imbalance in power, influence and even the economic ability to stay in an industry.

Pay gaps can be calculated at the level of a nation, a sector, a profession or a business. They can be calculated for all workers or for particular segments within a workforce. Each offers a different kind of insight, from the nationwide gap that indexes broad social and economic inequity to pay gaps within closely targeted groups with shared demographic characteristics.

In the Parlour Census Report we analyse the average pay gap of the industry as a whole. The WGEA data shows the median gap within specific companies.

What is a median gender pay gap?

The WGEA data documents the median base salary gender pay gaps and median total remuneration gender pay gap for each reporting company. The total remuneration figure includes bonuses and the like, demonstrating how these can exacerbate gender pay gaps if not monitored closely.

The chart at the top of this post captures the data for architecture and landscape architecture practices. The reported gaps are all higher than the +/-5% gap that WGEA describes as optimal – athough GroupGSA is very close. Some are over the current total national gender pay gap of 21.7%.

WGEA explains that the median gap is meaningful, because it “allows us to understand the remuneration experience of the typical employee at a workplace.” It is also easy to calculate. As WGEA explains:

“A median gender pay gap is found by lining up the pay of every man in the business in order of the smallest to the largest and finding the middle number in that dataset. The same is done for the women in the business. A median employer gender pay gap is the difference between the median of what a man is paid and the median of what a woman in paid in the organisation. Unlike the average, the median is not skewed by extreme values (CEO remuneration, for example), giving us a picture of the typical earnings that exist within an organisation.”

We STRONGLY recommend that all practices undertake this exercise, not just the 24 that are obliged to do so. (It would be EXCELLENT if all also publicly reported.) The WGEA website provides details and resources to support any organisation to undertake these calculations, including a Gender Pay Gap Calculator and a guide to Pay Equity for Small Business.

Gender pay gap policy

Policy is a fundamental part of improving equity in practice. (But of course, policy alone is not enough. To be effective, policy must be firmly embedded in the culture of an organisation).

Of the practices reporting to WGEA, 19 had a gender equity policy in place, 4 did not.

There are a mix of policy inclusions – hover your mouse over the bars on the chart below to see which practice has which policy inclusions.

Interestingly, only 6 practices held managers accountable for pay equity outcomes and only 2 had transparency regarding pay scales. Accountability is a key to ensuring that policies have impact. Transparency in terms of pay scale and bands provides a key context for discussion and a firm basis for negotiation. It also helps build trust and confidence in the practice.

Action on payroll analysis

Practices reporting to WGEA were asked if they undertook payroll analysis in relation to the gender pay gap analysis – and if they took action following this analysis.

Most practices did undertake this analysis, and three quarters took specific action as a result. The list of strategies pursued is in itself useful. These are all strategies that any practice can pursue.

Workforce gender composition

Practices reporting to WGEA were required to disclose information about gender composition of the practice. Data includes the overall composition and the composition per pay quartile. The second chart below shows the upper quartile. In both charts, practices are ordered from top to bottom by the size of their total remuneration gender pay gap.

WGEA explains that “Quartiles are created by sorting employees based on their total remuneration from lowest to highest, dividing the employee list into equal quarters and then calculating the percentage of women and men in each quarter.”

Interestingly all the reporting practices have a greater proportion of women than the architectural workforce as a whole, as identified in the 2021 Australian Census – 35%.

Understanding the gender composition of the practices is crucial. A significant factor contributing to the gender pay gap is the disproportionate representation of men in higher-ranking positions and, conversely, the over-representation of women in lower-paid roles.

What is fascinating is that these charts do not show a straightforward correlation between pay gender gaps and workforce composition. The practices reporting lower pay gaps do not necessarily have a higher proportion of women in the upper quartile.

Of course there are also legacy issues at play. It can take a long time to change the composition of the upper quartile – movement in the senior leadership of many practices is often a slow process.

Some practices describe active targets to recruit women graduates and upskill into leadership positions in the long term. Such initiatives can influence the pay gap negatively in the short term but, if successful, will have a positive long-term impact.

Diversity is important in senior positions for many reasons. It’s not just about reducing the gender pay gap. It allows for multiple perspectives, ideas and diverse thoughts, reflecting the society in which we live. And of course gender is only one factor.

Appointments / promotions / resignations

The WGEA reporting also includes the gender breakdown of appointments, promotions and resignations by gender. Unfortunately redundancies are not reported. We encourage practices to undertake this analysis themselves.

Part-time work

Practices reporting to WGEA also document part time roles. (A BIG shout out to Alison McFadyen who compiled this data. It was a very tedious task.)

In news that will surprise no-one, many more women work part-time overall. Nonetheless, the results show some fascinating patterns. At Hayball, 49% of all staff work part time; at Aspect, an equal proportion of men and women work part time.

Part-time is defined by WGEA as: “Employees who are engaged to work an average number of hours per week, that is, less than what constitutes full-time hours in your specific organisation. These are reasonably predictable hours with a guaranteed number of hours of work.” This means that there is no set definition (as there is in the ABS Census data, for example), rather it is determined in relation to the organisation’s patterns of standard hours. For architects, standard hours are also set by the Architects Award.

It is important to note that part-time hours DO NOT impact the overall pay gap. The median pay gap is calculated using annualised full-time-equivalent figures. The prevalence of women in part-time roles DOES NOT impact a practice’s gender pay gap.

Practices reporting to WGEA document the workforce composition of the company using 9 categories. If you look hard, they also include the proportion of people who work part-time in each category. Alison has done a stellar job of going through all of this to document part-time participation overall and in 3 core categories.

Interestingly, the proportion of women working part-time is stable until the very top. What we don’t know, is how the distribution of days / hours works over these categories.

It is also important to note that not all part-time work is wanted. As one commenter pointed out on Instagram, sometimes part-time work is actually under-employment. Others have noted that they have found some of the practices with larger pay gaps have been very good with terms of meaningful part-time work that has enabled people to stay in the industry. As always, data is a very blunt instrument and there are many stories within each of these charts. Nonetheless, data is very useful!

Note: the categories available in the WGEA system are CEO, key managers, all managers, all non-manager, clerical and administrative workers, professionals and technicians and trade workers. As you will see these don’t map that readily onto many practices. We have included CEO because it seems that some practices are using this for the top level of management – and of course some practices do have CEOs.

Parental leave policies

Almost all of the practices reporting to WGEA have parental leave policies (two don’t – NBRS, which interestingly has the second-lowest gender pay gap, and Mode Design, which has the second-highest!).

More than three quarters of the practices include superannuation in parental leave (18 practices). The group of 20 practices offering parental leave are evenly split between those that offer universal carers leave (best practice ) and Primary/Secondary Carers Leave (still good!).

When we look into the conditions of the leave things start to get very interesting! The WGEA data includes information on how long people need to have been working at the practices in order to qualify for parental leave, and the average period of leave offers (in addition to that provided through the government). Universal leave is available to all parents, with no distinction made between primary and secondary carers.

Accessing parental leave

The data reveals the gendered breakdown of those who have accessed parental leave. This is particularly interesting in terms of the difference between those in management positions and those not.

Flexible work policies

All but one of the practices reporting to WGEA have flexible work policies in place. The one practice that doesn’t have a policy – Mode – notes that they do have flexible work options.

Harassment & domestic violence policies

WGEA also collects data about policies and processes relation to sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination. All but one practice have policies in place and over three-quarters have grievance processes outlined within policies or strategies for the prevention of sex-based harassment & discrimination. Fewer provider “training for all managers on the prevention of sexual harassment or harassment on the grounds of sex or discrimination”.

Over three-quarters of reporting practices have domestic violence support policies in place.

Harassment is one area where having a policy really is not enough (it is not enough anywhere, of course). Practices need cultures where people feel safe reporting incidences, and clear and empathetic processes in response.

Here at Parlour we hear far too many stories of harassment – and one story is too many. We hear stories about practices of all sizes, this is not just a big-practice problem. We have some very good content available about how to respond – based on excellent work by the Champions of Change Coalition. We are working on other resources and support too. But for now, EVERY practice needs to hve good policies and even better processes in place, regardless of practice size.

What next?

This public data is fundamental to conversations about equity within and beyond the reporting practices. We hope all practices use this to conduct conversations with employees about what it means, what is already being done, and what further steps are coming to reduce these gaps.

There are many, many resources available – start by exploring this website, the vast array of material that WGEA offers – including the guide Pay Equity for Small Business – and the Champions of Change guides Closing Gender Pay Gaps.