The best paid jobs for men and women, but mind the gap

The best paid jobs for men and women, but mind the gap

Male judges earned more than their female counterparts.

Male judges earned more than their female counterparts.

The gender pay gap in Australia is wide enough for 13 different occupations and more than 7300 men to sit ahead of the top-grossing women, tax data reveals.

A group of 23 brokers working as futures traders earned more than any other job that women  engaged in during 2015/16, making $388,681 pre-tax, on average.

Female neurosurgeons were the second-best remunerated women but were paid $221,965 less, on average, than their male colleagues. The top-earning job overall was brain surgery, averaging $600,153, but only if you were male.

The numbers didn't add up for 601 female actuaries either, with their average taxable income $46,382 less than the 1303 men doing the same role, who earned $199,599.


More than 200 female judges were paid $20,000 less, on average, than their 546 male counterparts. And the difference between the average taxable income of a female anaesthetist and a male was $136,461, with men taking an average $402,384 and women $265,923.

Associate Dean at the University of Sydney Business School Professor Rae Cooper said the pay gap is proving to be "very intractable and incredibly sticky" with pay differences between 15.5 and about 25 per cent "bubbling along" for 30 years.

"There’s always a really significant difference that can't be explained by anything other than discrimination," Ms Cooper said. "It's very hard to distinguish between all the causal factors [of the pay gap], at one level it's about hierarchy or seniority.

"Typically men regardless of the sector tend to dominate the higher-up seniority and earnings scale. It's also [due to] the types of jobs men and women work in," she said.

"Australia has a very gender-segregated occupational mix, where most women work with women and most men work with men."

Australia is more segregated than other similar economies with roles such as nurse, childcare worker, primary school teacher and aged care worker mostly made up of women in the workforce, while men tend to dominate the trades and professions. The ATO data shows out of almost 1,200 occupations recorded, there were less than 100 occupations where females had an average taxable income higher than males. But the data is based on gross average incomes and does not include the number of hours worked by each gender, or whether these individuals are self-employed or employees.

The issues holding back equality of pay may include the cultural norms for women's behaviour and the expected leadership traits that may be seen to oppose traditional gender roles, Ms Cooper said.

"People talk about a woman CEO or woman manager but not man CEO or man manager and rarely do you hear a man called bossy or bitchy, these words only apply to women," Ms Cooper said.

"We make it very easy when someone announces that they are having a baby, it's easy to get on a ramp off employment but we don’t make it easy for young parents to get back on that career path and we need to grapple with this too."

There has been "massive inter-generational shift in the educational attainment of women and girls relative to men" and the next generation of both sexes see work differently, so there is hope for some change, Ms Cooper said.

A professor of economics at University of Melbourne, Jeff Borland, said the gender pay gap in Australia hasn’t moved since the late 1970s and "we need to do a lot more to achieve pay equity".

"Even when we control for differences in education and training and experience these gender wage differences persist," Mr Borland said. "The value of data like these is that they do let us compare apples to apples."

Female domestic housekeepers have turned the tables on men doing chores for a living and were getting paid $3707 more, on average, than males in the same role, but not much in total at just $25,407. Questions might also be asked about the 215 Australian male cricket players earning an average annual income of $311,972, while 47 females who listed their profession as cricket player were paid an average $39,711 in 2015/16.

Details about the gender pay gap in Australia, which take into account the number of hours worked, can be found at the Workplace gender Equality Agency here.

Nigel Gladstone is The Sydney Morning Herald's data journalist.

Most Viewed in Business