Music’s Gender Pay Gap Revealed

29 February 2024 | 6:36 pm | Ellie Robinson

For the first time ever, the Australian Government has published data reflecting the gendered imbalances across thousands of companies.

2023 Australian Women In Music Awards

2023 Australian Women In Music Awards (Credit: Darcy Goss)

Though still widely debated by baseless anti-feminists and chronically online chuds with no experience in the real world, the gender pay gap – that is, the established notion that men are often paid more on average than women in the same industry – is an indisputable, documented fact. And now, for the first time ever, the Australian Government has given us a way to see exactly how wide the gap is, industry by industry and sector by sector.

Earlier this week, the Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) published the WGEA Data Explorer, which, as explained on its website, “allows users to explore the gender equality outcomes for industries, industry sub-divisions, groups of employers by size and individual employers”. The aim of the tool, it’s said, is to “gain deeper insights into gender equality performance and outcomes and compare results across employers and industries”.

The information comes from nearly 5,000 companies – virtually every privately owned company with at least 100 employees – and beyond discrepancies in pay between male and female workers, it details findings on workplace composition, sex-based harassment and discrimination, options for flexible work, parental leave and domestic violence support, and more.

So how does the music industry shape up?

Our section of the workforce is classified in the Arts and Recreation Services division, then the Creative and Performing Arts Activities subdivision. Here, we can see that men comprise 45 percent of all occupations represented, while women comprise 55 percent (worth noting: the data does conflate gender with sex and does not accomodate for non-binary genders “due to the small numbers and voluntary reporting”).

The biggest gaps in employment come in the more lucrative music industry roles: men comprise 65 percent of all heads of businesses, 62 percent of executives and general managers, and 60 percent of key management personnel. But women make up 60 percent of labourers, 72 percent of sales workers and 78 percent of clerical and administrative workers – the jobs that keep the industry afloat as a whole.

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In terms of finances, the 2022-23 financial year saw men in creative industries earn an average base salary that was 8.6 percent higher than those earned by their female counterparts. This gap is concerningly bigger than it was a year earlier (standing at 6.1 percent in the 2021-22 FY). In fact the gap has increased across all angles: last year, the median base salary was 9.6 percent more for men than it was for women, more than doubling from last year’s four percent. The gap for average total renumeration was stretched from 2.2 percent to 9.8 percent, and the gap for median total renumeration rose from 7.4 percent to 8.8 percent.

According to the data, only 54 percent of employers have a policy in place for equal renumeration between men and women. It’s said that 43 percent of employees actually achieve equity, while 29 percent have implemented and maintained transparent performance assessment processes. Furthermore, the data shows that 57 percent of employers have removed gender/sex biases from their renumeration reviews, and 43 percent of them have shown transparency regarding pay scales.

Of all the companies assessed, 54 percent agreed to undertake a payroll analysis – and of them, just 29 percent took action after they were handed the results. But those that did stepped up: 100 percent of them identified the causes of their gender pay gaps, corrected like-for-like gaps, set targets to reduce gaps across their entire organisation, and analysed their own internal data to ensure they did not have gender- or sex-based biases.

Meanwhile, the data shows that 85 percent of employers in creative industries have policies in place for flexible working, and 85 percent have policies regarding domestic violence support.

In terms of individual employers, Universal Music Australia has a median total renumeration gap of 13 percent, and a median base salary gap of 9.1 percent. These stats are better than those for Sony Music Australia, which has a median total renumeration gap of 15.8 percent, and a median base salary gap of 11.8 percent.

In December of 2022, the Australia Council for the Arts – in tandem with Macquarie University – published a report detailing the impact of cultural differences on gender pay gaps for Australian artists. It found that there was a 29 percent discrepancy in average income between women whose first language was not English, and those for whom it was. That’s compared to a three percent discrepancy for men.