Firms face calls to improve gender pay gap

detailed illustration of a blackboard with Equal Pay text and gender symbols, eps10 vector, gradient mesh included

By Warren Barnsley
(Australian Associated Press)

Women’s advocacy groups and the superannuation industry are backing ANZ’s move to top up super contributions for some female staff, but say more needs to be done to address the gender financial gap.

The banking giant will provide top-up superannuation contributions of $500 a year for female staff with less than $50,000 in their super funds in an attempt to reduce the gap in retirement savings between men and women.

Super contributions on parental leave will also be paid by the bank for up to 24 months.

The measures come after a new report commissioned by ANZ found Australian women retired with, on average, half the amount of super of men.

The report found women were 15 per cent more likely to experience poverty in retirement and, across a lifetime, full-time working women earned $700,000 less than men.

“This is largely because they are paid less for the same work and they often revert to part-time jobs to assume child rearing or family responsibilities at some point in their lives,” the report said.

Economic Security4Women spokeswoman Sally Jope said she hoped the measures would spark more companies into action.

“Women retiring with insufficient savings is a big concern, particularly for single women, as there are potentially those who will retire into poverty and possibly homelessness,” she said.

Director of the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Louise McSorley, said the measures would benefit not just women, but also those who care for them now and in retirement.

“Where is the money going to come from for women who will retire without enough income to support themselves, and why are we putting women on a pathway to poverty when all many of them have done is try to balance their caring roles with their work roles?” she said.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia said increasing super payments was just one way to better support female employees and companies could do more to address the reasons why women often find themselves with a smaller retirement fund.

Ms Jope said significant cultural and attitudinal changes needed to take place.

“There’s a perception by employers that a woman working part-time, who’s combining family responsibilities and work, is not as serious about their career as a person who’s working full time,” she said.

ANZ boss Mike Smith said the bank was committed to pay equality for women.

“While we recognise we’re not there yet, today’s announcement is about rethinking how we address the imbalances women face in the workplace and in retirement,” he said.

The Greens have applauded ANZ’s move but want a Senate inquiry into superannuation gender inequality.

The push is supported by Industry Super Australia, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) and Women in Super (WIS).

AIST and WIS say if the federal government prioritises the tax reform of superannuation it would be a major step towards improving retirement outcomes for women.

“The reality is, the system as it stands currently is stacked in favour of high-income earning, well-off males,” AIST chief executive Tom Garcia said.


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