Lessons to learn from public sector as new data reveals a gender pay gap half that of Australia’s private sector

Women working in the Commonwealth public sector experience lower gender pay gaps than private sector workers, according to new insights released today by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

WGEA’s Commonwealth Public Sector Gender Equality Snapshot shows women are paid, on average, 88 cents on the dollar compared to men. This compares to 77 cents on the dollar in the private sector.

This is a result of a total remuneration gender pay gap of 11.6% for this sample of the Commonwealth public sector, while in the private sector it’s 22.8%.

The Snapshot, which is based on the results of voluntary reporting by 52 employers from the Commonwealth public sector, provides the first set of WGEA insights on the sector’s performance on gender equality.

Commonwealth public sector employers with 100 or more employees begin mandatory gender equality reporting to WGEA later this year.

WGEA CEO Mary Wooldridge said the first insights were a promising indicator of efforts to address gender inequality in the workforce and to close the gender pay gap but shows there’s still work to be done.

“Policies like publicly-advertised salary levels, target setting, regular employee consultation and comprehensive access to paid parental leave help the public sector lead in workplace gender equality,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“However, these results also show that many of these policies have focused on women, rather than all employees. This is particularly the case for support for parents and carers. The result is that the uptake of paid primary carers leave by men is at a rate similar to the private sector (13.5% in the public sector and 13% in the private sector).

“To advance gender equality, we need to shift cultural norms and pervasive gender stereotypes that reinforce an unequal share of parenting and act as a barrier to women’s full participation in the workforce.

“This Snapshot indicates some employers may still be approaching gender equality as a ‘women’s issue’. However, meaningful change requires a focus on improving the workplace experiences of women and men.”

Ms Wooldridge said mandatory public sector gender equality reporting will enable WGEA to publish a comprehensive annual Scorecard, similar to the private sector. The Scorecard will track progress on the gender pay gap and – for the first time – will enable comparisons of the Commonwealth public sector’s performance against the private sector.

“For nearly a decade now we’ve used WGEA’s world-leading dataset to inform and drive gender equality change for women and men working in the private sector. Recent legislative reform means that for the first time we will add comprehensive insights on the Commonwealth public sector into the mix,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“What we can see from the 2022 Snapshot is an indication of overall trends that are likely to shape future reporting.

“In this way, the Snapshot serves as an appetiser for policy makers, employers and the broader public to understand gender equality in the Commonwealth public sector.”


Implementation of mandatory reporting for the Commonwealth public sector is a result of recommendations from the Respect@Work Report.

Just under half of the public sector employers that are required to report to WGEA in 2023 (a total of 112 Agencies) took part in the voluntary reporting program in 2022.

This means the Snapshot cannot be seen as a complete analysis of gender equality in the public sector and some findings in this report may differ from next year’s results.

Gender equality reporting for Commonwealth public sector employers with 100 or more employees will begin on September 1 and close on October 31. Employers will report information for the 2022 calendar year.

Read the full Snapshot at www.wgea.gov.au/publications/public-sector-snapshot-2022


The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) is an Australian Government statutory agency charged with promoting and improving gender equality in Australian workplaces.

Get the latest figures on the state of workplace gender equality in Australia. 

Find out how Australia's private sector employers are performing on workplace gender equality.