'It is very high': Survey prompts call for mandatory reporting on gender pay gap

A shocking new survey on the gender pay gap has prompted a call for all organisations to publicly report their own gaps.

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) surveyed 4500 members and found men in the industry are paid 40 to 50 percent more than women. 

"This survey has revealed some uncomfortable truths," said CAANZ chief executive Ainslie van Onselen. "As accountants, we trust the numbers, and while our profession is paid well, these figures paint a challenging picture for women in accounting over the life of their careers."

It adds up to about $60,000 in lost earnings a year for female accountants. 

"It is very high," Milford Asset Management senior analyst Frances Sweetman told The AM Show on Thursday.

"Professional services - in banking, finance and accounting - is generally worse than average. But in New Zealand our average is only 9.5 percent, so the difference between the average pay gap and this across accountants is enormous."

As Sweetman said, it's a problem that plagues the professional sector. Westpac for example, recently reported a pay gap of 29.1 percent

"They've got a lot more men in senior positions because that's the way that it used to be. They've set targets to try and address that," said Sweetman. 

Even the public service isn't immune - until recently its gender pay gap was bigger than in the private workforce. While the public service gap has closed in recent years, in the private sector it's plateaued. 

But it could be worse. 

"In America there's an 18 percent pay gap between men and women," said Sweetman. "In Australia it's about 13.5 percent. So we are doing okay."

Frances Sweetman.
Frances Sweetman. Photo credit: The AM Show

A second worrying statistic emerged from the CAANZ survey - that despite the enormous discrepancy, seven out of 10 men don't even think it exists. 

Sweetman said in the UK it's mandatory for organisations to report their own gender pay gap - and it should be the same here.

"If you're a small business then it's very difficult to measure it accurately, or too embarrassing to report or costly to measure... but I think personally there's no reason we shouldn't be measuring it across all organisations so we can start to look at how we address it."