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‘More work to be done’: the gender pay gap scorecards are in 

For the first time, almost 5000 large Australian organisations bared all last week, revealing what they pay men and what they pay women, and the gender balance across their boards and workplaces. 

The gender pay gap favours men in every industry, and insurance is the second-worst offender. 

More than 120 insurance industry companies that employ 100 or more staff participated and their details are public and searchable on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) website.  

Here are some sample median salary gender pay gaps: Adroit (men earn 28% more than women), AEI Insurance (29%), Aioi Nissy Dowa (32%), Allianz (13%), Aon (27%), AUB (28%), Berkley (10%), Berkshire Hathaway (32%), Cover-More (19%), Chubb (9%), Helia (5%), Hollard (14%), IAG (25%), Insurance Advisernet (28%), Insurance House (35%), Liberty Mutual (24%), Marsh (23%), Metlife (29%), MLC Life (12%), PSC (29%), QBE (26%), RACV Insurance (5%), Sedgwick (39%), Suncorp (20%), and Zurich (23%). 

The deluge of data reveals that in finance and insurance services, employees are well paid – but unfairly so. Men are paid a median salary of $139,845 including bonuses and overtime. That’s 44% above the $96,945 men are paid nationally. 

But the industry’s women are paid only $103,308. While that is 32% above Australia’s median salary of $78,484 for women (and 7% above the median for men nationwide), it is a substantial shortfall of 26% (or $36,537) versus their male insurance counterparts.  

Only construction had a bigger gender pay gap, at 32%.  

Suncorp CEO Steve Johnston says insurance has “long held an unacceptable position among the top three highest gender pay gaps in Australia”. 

“Reducing our gender pay gap ... is important for our industry, and for society,” he said. 

Media last week was saturated with coverage of the payroll data, which is usually closely held and deemed the “last taboo”. 

There is a lot to say, because there is a lot of nuance in the figures. 

The WGEA makes the point that industries with higher pay tend to have larger gaps. Indeed, the industry with the lowest gender pay gap – accommodation and food services at 2% – has median annual remuneration of only $60,453. 

IAG says the answer is getting more women into executive roles. Representation at senior leadership level is the “key contributing factor”, it says. IAG’s board has a target to have at least 40% women, and it is focused on recruiting more female directors. Women occupy 44% of senior IAG management roles and it has a 50% target by June. 

“While IAG has a greater representation of women than men across our workforce, there are fewer women than men at senior career levels where role pay is typically higher, and fewer women than men in higher-paying roles,” it said. 

At loss adjuster Sedgwick, the workplace gender split is roughly equal. Yet only 25% of its highest paid staff are women, creating a 39% gender pay gap. Unlike many of its insurance sector peers, Sedgwick has no policy in place for remuneration equity and has not undertaken payroll analysis, according to the WGEA report. 

Allianz Australia (13% pay gap) says women hold 46% of its senior leadership positions and 49% of mid-management roles, which are pathways to senior leadership. MD Richard Feledy says women and men are not always at the same “starting position”. 

“Breaking down the barriers which stand in the way of gender equity will take persistence and time,” he said. “We are focused on delivering on the roadmap which will drive positive change.” 

Steadfast says its “pipeline for future leaders is strong”, with 27% of senior leaders, 47% of middle management and 61% of junior management female.   

“While we have a better wage gap (15%) than the insurance and financial services sector, we acknowledge there is always more work to be done,” Steadfast said. “Change of this nature takes time.” 

Across all industries, women make up 51% of the workforce but represent only 35% of the upper-quartile salary cohort that enjoys an average $201,000 annual remuneration.  

Australians earning on average $52,000-$105,000 are majority female.  

The leaders of Woodside, Fortescue, Lendlease and Wesfarmers spoke out last week, saying the dominance of men in the highest-paid roles is difficult to shift because women take on more family responsibilities. 

At QBE, CEO Australia Pacific Sue Houghton says the insurer’s Share the Care initiative has increased the proportion of men taking parental leave to nearly 40%. However, QBE’s 26% pay divide “tells us we have more to do to address this gap”. 

“The gender pay gap is driven by a range of factors that cannot be addressed with salary adjustments alone,” Ms Houghton said. “It requires a multifaceted approach and a sustained commitment to change.”