The Glass Ceiling Index

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How thick is the glass ceiling in Australia? Women have broken through … right? Let look at the facts …. Across all occupations, a man is 4.6 times more likely to reach a high paying role, will earn $24k more than a woman per annum and, alarmingly, this income gap is widening.


There is nothing new about the idea of equal pay for equal work.

  • The world recognised it as a fundamental human right nearly 70 years ago.
  • Australia followed suit with protection in our laws 40 years ago.

Women’s higher education and participation in the workforce is also not new.

  • Women represent nearly half of the workforce.
  • For the last 30 years, more women have graduated with higher education degrees than men

We have had nearly 50 years, or 2 full working generations, since Australia committed itself to ensuring equal treatment of men and women in the workplace. How are we faring?

Sadly, inequality is rampant in nearly every Australian occupation. If you are a woman and want the same chance at success as a man, there is nearly no good choice of occupation you can make.


We analysed more than 10 million individual tax returns by 440 occupation codes, and calculated a “Glass Ceiling Index” that ranks each occupation by equal opportunity for both genders.

The Glass Ceiling Index was calculated by looking at the average wage by gender, whether the wage gap is widening and “pink/blue” workforce composition. We also devised a new innovative metric for examining equal opportunity in an occupation – how much more likely a man is to reach a high paid role than a woman. This helps us answer the question “if your daughter and son enter the same occupation, how much more likely is your son to end up in a high paying role?”


Unfortunately, workplace inequality is still pervasive and significant.

  • Women earn more on average in only 22 out of 433 occupations – that’s only 5%
  • Women are more likely to get to the highest paid roles in only 75 out of 433 occupations – around 15%
  •  “Pink” occupations have salaries on average 24% (or $14,000) lower than “Blue” occupations – This raises the question … do we value “women’s work” less than “men’s work”?
  • And within pink occupations, women earn $9000 (that’s 18%) less than men in the same occupation
  • Disturbingly, the average wage gap is getting wider, growing by $3200 between 2009 and 2013

Looking at individual occupations reveals some surprising results.

  • Some occupations are wildly unequal – for example male bank workers are 9 times more likely to be in a highly paid role than a woman and earn, on average, nearly $40,000 more
  • In many female dominated occupations, men still hold the top paid positions. For instance women represents 98% of midwives. However, male midwives are 5 times more likely to be in a high paying role and earn $16,000 more on average.
  • The wage gap between men and women is the highest in high paid occupations – for instance male judges and lawyers earn 83,000 more per annum than their female counterparts. Male surgeons earns 57,000 more
  • Even at position 200 in our index – Media producers and presenters – males earn $15000 more and are twice as likely to reach high paying roles
  • There is some good news – some traditionally blue occupations recognise women as equal workers to men – for example, there are few female truck drivers , but heir are remunerated on average more highly than their male counterparts


These statistics speak for themselves. The scale of the inequality in the Australian workplace is shocking. Tired old arguments around time off for child rearing appear small relative to the yawning gulf between men and womens’ remuneration in 95% of occupations. We believe the only acceptable value on the Glass Ceiling Index is zero. Sadly, we could only award a zero to less than 3% of occupations. 

These results raise some hard questions. Even if we accept that tenure differences and part-time working arrangements explain some of the earnings gap, we must ask ourselves:

  • How much of the observed inequality is still explained by active discrimination?
  • Why haven’t we evolved the norms, culture and processes of our workplaces to accommodate different work preferences?
  • Are we allowing a male dominated work and societal culture to create an environment of systemic disadvantage for women?
  • Are our politicians doing enough to remedy an issue that is 50 years old, still pervasive and progress appears to have stagnated? Requirements for companies to report the gender composition of Boards seems out of touch with the inequality present at every level on the shop floor, the hospital wards, and the classrooms.

Check it out at:

Datasets Used: 
ATO Individuals tax tables for 2009 and 2013 Tables 13:

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