Gender Pay Gap in Accounting Firms: How the Financial Sector Stacks Up

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Gender pay gap
“I believe in equal pay...If a woman does the same job as a man, she should be paid the same amount of money. She just should. That’s just the way the world should work.”—via Mashable
Viola Davis
Viola Davis
Acadamy Award-Wining Actress

Although far from perfect, it’s fair to say that our society has come a long way in promoting gender equality in the workplace. However, a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) report reveals Australia’s gender pay gap still has some catching up to do. 

Unfortunately, there is a yawning chasm between men and women’s wages in some of the country’s top corporations, including the accounting sector’s big 4 

"There is a substantial problem in this country when you've got essentially two thirds of businesses with a gender pay gap in favour of men."

In this blog, we’ll examine the numbers at a more granular level to uncover the gender pay gap in accounting firms, see how the financial sector stacks up against other industries, and the strategies you can implement to create and maintain a level playing field in your firm. 

WGEA Gender Pay Gap Report Explained

Contrary to popular belief, gender pay gap and equal pay are not the same. The WGEA defines equal pay as the principle of compensating individuals equally for equal work regardless of gender. Meaning, men and women should be paid the same amount for the same role or a different work but of equal or comparable value.

Meanwhile, gender pay gap refers to the disparity in average or median pay between men and women across an organisation, industry, or the workforce as a whole.

This is the first time the government has released a pay inequality report, following the March 2023 landmark legislation that compels businesses in the country with over 100 employees to make their gender pay performance data public.

Between 2022 and 2023, 5,135 private employers reported to WGEA. Of that number, 4,987 (the ones with over 100 employees) were covered in the 27 February 2024 report, which included data on median base salaries and median total remuneration.

The total remuneration encompasses base salary, bonuses, superannuation, overtime pay, and other earnings.

Here are the report’s key findings:

The median total remuneration gender pay gap stands at 19%
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50% of employers had a median gender pay gap higher than 9.1%
This means women get paid $18,461 less annually than their male counterparts.
less gender pay
30% were within the gender pay gap target of +/- 5%

Gender Pay Gap in Accounting Firms

The median total remuneration gender pay gap stands at 19%

26 percent
90% of employers have a gender pay gap in favour of men
2nd highest among all industries
2nd highest
80% of them were above 9.1%

The gender pay gap in accounting firms is alive and kicking. In fact, the accounting sector’s big 4—Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, and EY—all had a gender pay gap in favour of men. Although it’s worth noting that all four were below the national average median gender pay gap of 19%.

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In response to the report, Deloitte provided context to their numbers. “Our gender pay gaps are at their core, a gender representation issue. While we have an even number of men and women working at Deloitte, we have a higher concentration of men working in our most senior employee role levels.”

However, not all major firms registered positive gender pay gaps in favour of men. Grant Thornton’s gender pay gap (-8%) favours women.

With company policies geared towards workplace inclusion, Grant Thornton aims to encourage their women employees to stay with the firm and work their way through the ranks.

“Across the profession, that’s been a real challenge for women, making that transition through to partner level. We’re definitely seeing movement in that area...As a firm, we’ve been really committed to driving workplace inclusion and working on initiatives to drive equity.”—via The Australian Financial Review
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Holly Stiles
National Head of Corporate Finance, Grant Thornton

The firm’s commitment to gender equality in the workplace is reflected in the makeup of their most senior positions. From only 10% in mid-2014, women now make up 26% or 45 of the total 176 partners in the firm.

Closing the Gender Pay Gap in Accounting Firms

As uncomfortable as it is to admit, many women still experiences pay inequality. It is the amalgamation of several social and economic factors—many of which are beyond anyone’s control. 

But you can still take action. Here are simple steps you can take in your firm to help reduce, if not eliminate, the accounting industry wage disparities: 

  • Conduct an audit and a comprehensive wage gap analysis 
  • Examine the size and factors affecting the pay gap 
  • Be transparent about it and report your findings to management and employees 
  • See where and how you can increase the number of women in leadership positions 
  • Recalibrate workplace policies to promote gender inclusion 
"It's not about shaming, it's not about naming, it's not about saying men should be paid less. It's about driving that change that we need to see in organisations to make sure that women are getting a fair crack at opportunity and that we are closing the gender pay gap over time,"