On Tuesday, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WEGA) published pay breakdowns by gender for every company in Australia with more than 100 employees.

Across all industries and professions, men's total remuneration was 19% above that of women, the median male employee earning $18,641 more each year.

Construction (31.8%), Finance and Insurance (26.1%) and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (26.1%) were the industries with the biggest pay gap.

A2 Milk (40.5%), Qantas (37%) and AGL Energy (33.2%) were among the companies where the disparity between its male and female employees was widest.

Senator Katy Gallagher, Minister for Finance and Minister for Women, says the report isn't about naming and shaming, but transparency and accountability.

"This is really about driving improved performance, making sure businesses understand what is going on in their own business," she told ABC AM radio on Tuesday morning.

ACTU President Michele O'Neil says this report is an important step in the fight for equality and against workplace discrimination.

"It shines a light on entrenched practices and structural inequalities that see women in the lowest paid positions and being concentrated in occupations and jobs with low wages," she said.

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said the report is "useless data".

"[The Gender Pay Report] does not even correct for basic differences like hours worked," he tweeted on Tuesday morning.

He said it would breed "resentment and division" and that it is likely to push more young men towards the likes of the hugely controversial influencer Andrew Tate, widely condemned for his attitude towards women and currently on trial for human trafficking.

The Gender Pay Report is useless data because it does not even correct for basic differences like hours worked. The Gender Pay Report is now the annual Andrew Tate recruitment drive. It just breeds resentment and division. Andrew Tate is so popular because governments and…

Closing the gap

These numbers come from taking the earnings of all employees throughout the company, regardless of the position they hold.

Qantas have already sought to clarify to the public that these differences don't mean that female staff get paid less than male peers, but that more men occupy higher paying roles like pilots or engineers.

"We are working hard to encourage more women into pilot and engineering roles particularly through our two academies, but the years of training required for these roles means improving the gender balance of these work groups will take time," Qantas chief people officer Catherine Walsh said.

In every sector reported in, women make up a smaller proportion of the upper quartile earners than they do the overall workforce, even in female dominated industries like Education or Healthcare.

More men work full time than women (63% compared to 43%, per the WGEA), which likely also contributes to the disparity in pay, as highlighted by critics like Mr Canavan.

The WGEA put this down to "standing gender stereotypes and norms around care roles, lack of accessible childcare and flexible work."

A cost to everyone?

A report from the Grattan Institute found removing disincentives for women to enter the workforce would improve the productive capacity of the economy by $25 billion a year.

WGEA research has also found that gender discrimination results in $348 million per week in lost national earnings.

Ms Gallagher says the gender pay gap costs the Australian economy nearly $52 billion each year.

"[These numbers come from] looking at the cost of underutilisation of women, of women making choices about the nature of the work they do," she told ABC AM.

"We see that where the data is, where there’s a number, equality on boards, equality in the workplace, that those businesses have improved performance.

"But we’re not pretending that it’s an easy situation to solve."

Picture by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

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