In celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, we present the latest insights from the third annual Australian Women Professionals in the Workplace study. This nationwide online survey engaged 2,000 full-time employed individuals aged 25 and older, comprising 54% women and 46% men. The study, focusing on both hybrid and in-office work environments, ventures into crucial aspects such as pay, promotions, benefits, and leadership. By providing year-on-year comparisons, exploring gaps in perceptions, and examining the influence of roles or statuses like parenthood, this initiative aspires to enrich the broader discourse on gender equality and workforce dynamics within the Australian professional sphere.

The insights we explore come at a significant juncture as the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) initiates the enforced publication of gender pay gaps for private-sector organisations with over 100 employees. Against the backdrop of ongoing efforts to address gender disparities, our study sheds light on the contemporary challenges and opportunities that women encounter in the workplace.

Key Takeaways 

  • Different views on how quickly men and women get promoted at odds with reality
  • Progress in confidence leads to shift in office priorities, yet work remains for inclusivity
  • Women prioritise compensation, flexibility and positive culture
  • A strong retention intention among female employees with a preference for flexibility is behind the ‘Big Stay’ phenomenon
  • Women’s leadership development and benefits signal a need for accelerated progress

1. Positive trends in gender parity perception, yet subtle disparities persist between perception and reality

Positive trends emerge this year with a notable increase in the perception that women are now promoted equally compared to men, indicating a shift in workplace dynamics. However, there remains a subtle difference in how men and women see gender parity in promotions, emphasising the ongoing need for efforts to enhance pay transparency and align on truth.  

Over half (57%) of women we surveyed feel that women are promoted equally compared to men within their company, which is a notable increase compared to last year’s finding at just 41%. Interestingly, three in four (75%) men believe that women are promoted equally compared to men within their company, perhaps suggesting a striking perception issue between the genders when it comes to promotions.

The publication of gender pay gaps by the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) emerges as a critical turning point, with a third of respondents believing their organisations may never prioritise closing the pay gap which currently stands at 22% across corporate Australia. While strides are evident, these results underscore the ongoing imperative for businesses to earnestly address gender disparities in practice as well as discernibly if they wish to create an inclusive and equitable professional landscape for all.  

To this point, the study shows that half of Australian workers say they’d consider leaving their jobs were they to discover a gender pay gap existed, regardless of its magnitude. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the situation is particularly sensitive for women. When looking at female respondents only, over half (61%) say they’d consider moving jobs, were they to discover a gender pay gap. When looking at male respondents only, a third (36%) also say they’d consider leaving if they find out their organisation has a gender pay gap, signalling a growing sense of solidarity and shared concern regarding pay disparities in the workplace.

Furthermore, less than half (44%) of all respondents (of any gender) believe organisations are taking sufficient action. with more women (57%) of that opinion than men. These findings highlight the complex and evolving landscape of gender equality in the workplace, emphasising the need for ongoing efforts to address unfair practices whether real or imagined.

Despite this, the overall findings highlight considerable progress in promotions compared to HiBob’s last research. In 2022, the proportion of women that say they were promoted was just 22%. In 2023, however, the number increased to 62%.

There’s also been good progress on pay since last year’s research that looked at 2022. In 2022, 27% of women said they had received a pay rise, but in 2023, that figure had risen to 54%. Encouragingly, the figure in 2023 was the same for men as well.

Perceptions on pay parity differ significantly between parents and non-parents too. A notable 62% of parents believe there is pay parity, contrasting with 38% among non-parents. This discrepancy may stem from parents prioritising workplace fairness and equity for their families. Parenthood often prompts a heightened awareness of financial responsibilities, fostering a belief in equitable compensation. On the other hand, non-parents may perceive workplace dynamics differently, potentially influenced by varied priorities or perspectives. 

The findings point to  the impact of personal experiences on perceptions of pay equity, and again proving the need for organisations to consider diverse viewpoints to effectively address and bridge such gaps in understanding as well as practice.

2. Progress is evident in womens’ confidence, but nurturing inclusivity and support in the workplace requires ongoing effort

Confidence levels among employees, particularly women, have seen a notable shift. A significant 86% of women now express feeling confident in their performance at work — up from 52% last year Now, women’s confidence in the workplace almost mirrors that of men’s (91%), signaling a positive trend in self-assurance.

Despite this progress, a closer look at the statistics reveals that challenges persist. A considerable number of women have faced uncertainty about their abilities due to gender-related factors. 

Chart made to feel uncomfortable — 26% of women have been made to feel uncomfortable or less qualified in the workplace because of their gender, down from 45% last year.

The top three reasons driving employees of all genders to the office are face-to-face interactions (45%), mandatory requirements (40%), and a desire to feel part of company culture and engage in social interactions (36%).

It becomes clear that while strides are being made in boosting confidence and reshaping reasons for office attendance, there is still work to be done to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

3. Women’s workplace priorities: Pay takes the lead, followed by flexibility and positive culture

When it comes to compensation and benefits, women have clear priorities, with pay taking the lead, followed closely by flexibility and a positive workplace culture. 

The survey  shows 67% of all respondents now believe men and women are paid equally. The data supports this perception, with 28% of individuals being promoted with a pay increase in 2023, maintaining an almost even 50/50 split between men and women.

Delving into what might prompt people to consider a new job, the top three reasons for contemplating a move are enlightening. A remarkable 79% would leave for a pay increase, and interestingly, 53% of these are women. Flexibility emerges as the second most significant factor, with more men (58%) expressing a willingness to leave for flexible work conditions, especially pertinent for 64% of these respondents who are parents. Lastly, 40% would consider leaving for a strong and healthy company culture, with men (57%) more invested than women on this point, indicating a continued emphasis on the importance of a positive work environment.

As organisations seek to attract and retain top talent, understanding and aligning with these priorities becomes essential to create a workplace that meets the expectations of a diverse and dynamic workforce.

4. Firm commitment to stay: Women’s preference for full flexibility drives ‘Big Stay’ trend

When it comes to work-life balance, there are notable movements both in perceptions and intentions. A significant 41% express confidence that their work-life balance will remain consistent in 2024, a stark increase from the 21% reported in 2023. Intriguingly, a substantial portion of this group, 57%, comprises parents, and 56% are individual contributors. Moreover, 23% anticipate an improvement in work-life balance, maintaining the positive outlook from the previous year, while only 8% fear it may worsen.

The ‘big stay’ phenomenon is evident, with a remarkable 70% of all respondents — the majority of which are women (52%) — expressing a commitment to stay at their current companies in 2024. Prior evidence does point to this being dependent on there not being a pay gap.

Nevertheless, it reflects a strong retention intention among female employees. What’s even more compelling is the overall decrease in the intention to leave jobs in 2024, with only 17% of all respondents contemplating a change.

Delving into the ideal work setup, the top choice selected by respondents is an at-will 5-day hybrid week, indicating a preference for flexibility. Next is a preference for a full-time remote setup (20%). Conversely, the preference for a full week in the office garnered 11% of the vote of which women made up the majority (17%).

The data paints a picture of a workforce that values stability in work-life balance, demonstrates a strong commitment to current roles, and seeks flexibility in hybrid work arrangements. This ‘big stay’ year underscores the importance of organisations aligning with these preferences to enhance employee satisfaction, retention, and overall workplace well-being.

5. Room for improvement in women’s leadership development and benefits

The survey reveals that 42% of respondents acknowledge their company’s efforts to promote more women leaders in the past year, while 32% believe gender balance has been achieved. When assessing a company’s attitude towards women, 19% mention values, and 18% highlight company culture. Furthermore, 17% emphasize the significance of women’s visibility in day-to-day operations. These modest responses point to the need for increased significance and innovative approaches to support women’s leadership within company structures.

In examining women-specific benefits, the survey highlights that the most prevalent offerings are extended paid maternity leave (18%), paternity leave/shared parental leave (18%), and childcare assistance (10%). Notably, only 9% of respondents perceived the presence of these benefits in executive leadership, pointing to a persistent stereotype that women are primarily associated with caregiving responsibilities at home. This finding could indicate the need for an overhaul in perceptions and practices to recognise and address the broader spectrum of women’s contributions in the workplace.

The survey findings reveal a fundamental gap in either understanding or willingness on the part of companies to genuinely address the disparities that women face in the workplace. Whether through tangible benefits or direct actions to foster women’s leadership development, the results suggest that there is much work to be done. Bridging this gap is crucial for achieving true gender equality and creating an inclusive, supportive work environment. It signals a call to action for companies to reassess their strategies, adopt more comprehensive measures, and actively contribute to dismantling barriers that hinder the professional advancement and well-being of women in the workforce.

About the survey

The Australian Women Professionals in the Workplace 2024 survey took place over January 2024 and provides insights from an audience of 2000 respondents. Of the respondents, 53% identify as female, 49% as male, and additional categories include 11 non-binary, 9 trans male, 10 trans female, 2 selecting ‘other,’ and 6 preferring not to disclose. In terms of work arrangements, 47% are based full-time in the office, while 40% embrace a hybrid model. The participants represent a varied professional landscape, with 42% working in medium-sized companies, approximately 30% in both small and large companies each. The survey captures voices from a wide range of roles across various sectors, with 61% of respondents having children or dependants. The job roles include 40% individual contributors, 38% managers of people, 8% business decision-makers, and 14% in C-suite positions.