Date posted: 04/06/2021 3 min read

Gender pay gap gets worse as accountants rise to partner

Male accounting partners earn $110,000 more than their female counterparts, according to a remuneration survey of chartered accountants.

Originally published on afr.com
Author: Tess Bennett, Work & Careers Reporter
31 May 2021

While pay is equal or higher for women in junior accounting positions, the gender pay gap widens in more senior roles. The gap is the largest for partners in accounting firms where men earn $292,000 on average while women earn $181,000. Female chief financial officers make $53,000 less than the $305,500 their male counterparts take home each year.

Ainslie van Onselen, CEO of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, says the survey presents “uncomfortable truths”.

Ainslie van Onselen
Ainslie van Onselen

The gap is more acute at senior levels due to the size of total remuneration packages, which include base salary as well as bonuses, share issues, and equity distribution.

"This survey has revealed some uncomfortable truths. 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."
Ainslie van Onselen, CEO, CA ANZ.

The figures are based on a survey of more than 4500 CA ANZ members, working across private accounting firms, large corporations, academia, and the public sector.

John Palermo board chair of CA ANZ said while the pay gap is a priority for the board, progress was slow across the organisation’s members.

“It's disappointing some of the results are still what they are, I would hope that by now there was more maturity in the market around this,” Mr Palermo said.

"It is a slow burn, which is really frustrating for us ... you're trying to instigate cultural change almost one member at a time... We still see a legacy of more males in higher graded roles which creates the pay gap when comparing the incomes of all partners."
Julie McKay, Partner and chief diversity, inclusion and wellbeing officer, PwC Australia.

Nearly seven in 10 women believe a gender pay gap exists, compared to just three in 10 men, according to the survey.

For CA members in non-permanent jobs, men were paid two to two-and-a-half times more than women in terms of hourly rates.

To address the issue, CA ANZ developed a program of events and resources to educate members on the gender pay gap and encourage senior leaders to champion and action change.

The organisation will hold roundtables this year to develop targets for achieving pay parity. But any future targets or action plans won’t be mandatory.

Across the 34 accounting organisations that report to the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the full-time gender pay gap is 17.5 per cent.

On a like-for-like basis, PwC Australia’s gender pay gap sits between 0 and 1 per cent. The firm is addressing an overall gender pay gap created by the historical lack of women in senior positions.

“We do have an overall gender pay gap which sits at 11 per cent for our employees and 16 per cent for partners,” said Julie McKay, partner and chief diversity, inclusion and wellbeing officer at PwC Australia.

“The gender pay gap is measured based on the average male earnings and average female earnings and with more men in our director grade, the pay gap emerges.

“Within the partnership, we have grades and again here, we still see a legacy of more males in higher graded roles which creates the pay gap when comparing the incomes of all partners.”

PwC Australia set a target of 50 per cent female lateral director hires and 40:40:20 female partner admissions.

“Targets have assisted the firm to move from 19 per cent women in the partnership in 2016 to more than 30 per cent in 2021. We still have a long way to go, but we are realising the benefits of consciously embedding our diversity and inclusion efforts into our growth strategy and holding our leaders accountable for progress,” Ms McKay said.

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2021 CA Remuneration Survey

The findings from the 2021 Member Remuneration Survey sheds a light on remuneration, workplace trends and the gender pay gap in the CA profession.

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