Women in the Australian Public Service continue to earn less than their male counterparts despite their increasing numbers in the higher ranks of the bureaucracy.
The average base salary for women public servants last financial year was $88,896, compared with $96,391 for men, a 7.8 per cent pay gap, according to figures compiled by the Australian Public Service Commission in its latest State of the Service report.
The pay gap is narrowing, down from 9.2 per cent in 2015, but persists despite more women than ever entering the senior ranks of the public service.
Last year, a record 57 per cent of recruits to the ranks of the senior executive service were female and they now comprise 46 per cent of the APS's top employee band.
Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott said the results of an annual census of APS workers showed a major shift was under way in the advancement of women into senior positions, but admitted "we are not there yet; there is more to do".
The report shows far more women than men are employed at the lower levels of the public service. In the six-band APS classification, which sits below the executive level, women outnumber men in every classification, including more than double at the APS 4 level and almost 60 per cent of those employed at APS 6.
While there is little difference in the base salaries of men and women in the public service, the gender pay gap is exacerbated by the concentration of women in more junior roles and their greater use of flexible work arrangements.
The APS is seeking to improve the gender balance at senior levels by reducing barriers to the recruitment and promotion of women, the Commission said, including by offering family-friendly work options like flexible hours, part-time employment, working from home and job sharing.
While these options are offered irrespective of gender, the evidence is that women are taking them up more frequently than men. Around 55 per cent of women in the public service use flexible work arrangements, compared with about 45 per cent of men.
Working flexible hours is particularly common among workers in the APS job classifications (40 per cent), as is working part-time (19 per cent), while executives are far more likely to take advantage of, or have access to, working from home arrangements.
"Men are very happy to have flexible working hours, but women are expected to have flexible working days," Mr Woolcott said. "If there is a crisis in the family, they are still the ones who are expected to deal with that. That is a cultural thing."
The Commission said that if the current trend toward the recruitment of more women into the senior executive service while more men departed continues, "the proportion of women in the SES should continue towards parity".
The findings reflect broader societal issues that are hampering attempts to narrow the gender pay gap.
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the overall gender pay gap was 14 per cent as at August this year, and was influenced by factors including discrimination in hiring and pay decisions, lower pay rates in female-dominated jobs and sectors, a disproportionate share of domestic work and unpaid care falling on women, inadequate workplace flexibility and the effect on career prospects of time taken out of the workforce to fulfil family responsibilities.