Published: 06/04/2023
Category: Member Benefits
Published: 06/04/2023
Category: Member Benefits

Aware Super

We need to talk about 3.56pm.

At first glance, it’s just another time in the day, right? One minute in 1,440 of them that pass by with every full rotation of the Earth.

But 3.56pm isn’t any ordinary time.

It’s the time at which Australian women, mathematically, start working for their employers for free each day while the wage counter keeps ticking over for their male counterparts.

Aware Super has crunched the numbers and established that’s the time when women effectively stop getting paid.

The finding is based on a 9-5 workday and the most recent Workplace Gender Equality Agency pay-gap analysis, showing Australian women working full-time can expect to earn 13.3% less than their male colleagues in the same roles.

Almost a quarter of the way through the 21st Century, it’s a shameful state of affairs.

As the Federal Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher, has noted, Australia’s gender pay gap means women are effectively losing out on $51.8 billion in pay every year. Put another way, they’re doing $51.8 billion worth of work for their employers every year for free.

Aware Super, which has more than 700,000 women among its 1.1 million members, launched a campaign coinciding with International Women’s Day in March to heighten awareness of the issue.

It has designated 3.56pm as Pay Gap O’Clock, in the great tradition of Wine Time or Beer O’Clock.

The factors driving the gap are many and often deeply socially ingrained. They start in early education, when girls are less likely to be guided into exploring maths and sciences – STEM subjects that can significantly widen career opportunities.

They continue deep into adulthood, when women disproportionately shoulder more family caring responsibilities and often take time out of the workforce for it, which can be an impediment to career advancement.

Aware Super CEO Deanne Stewart, a Pay Equity Ambassador at WGEA, says it’s critical employers across both the public and private sectors take more steps to close the pay gap.

“At the employer level, initiatives such as pay equity audits, and gender pay equity policies that are available to all staff, are simple but important steps towards closing the pay gap,” Ms Stewart says.

“Transparency is crucial as it enables all organisations to be held to account on their actions and reduces the potential for ‘pink washing’.

“Employers should also have policies in place to enshrine that women and men be paid equally when they have equal jobs. This is particularly important for women entering the workforce to ensure they’re not on the back foot from day one.

“Paid parental leave and a super guarantee on both paid and unpaid parental leave can help to close the gap when women leave the workforce to have children, and affordable and accessible childcare is key to allowing full participation in the workforce when they return.”

While 3.56pm is the national Pay Gap O’Clock, the fund has also used WGEA data to calculate Pay Gap O’Clock for women on a state-by-state basis, and across 17 industry sectors as categorised by the ABS.

In Western Australia, which has the biggest gender pay gap of all states and territories, Pay Gap O’Clock is a staggeringly early 3.14pm.

For women in professional, technical and scientific services – the sector with the biggest gap – Pay Gap O’Clock arrives at 3.18pm.

Aware Super’s campaign comes after the Federal Government in February introduced the Closing the Gender Pay Gap Bill into Parliament.

The bill will require employers with 100 workers or more to publicly disclose their pay gaps.

Ms Stewart says the gender pay gap is the single largest contributor to the disparity in super balances between men and women.

For women in the professional, scientific and technical services sector, the pay gap translates to a $149,000 gap in super balances at retirement, according to the fund’s modelling.

“Our healthcare sector is just as concerning – a gender pay gap of 21.1 per cent in this sector leads to $131,000 less in retirement for Australia’s healthcare professionals,” Ms Stewart says.

“As the fund with more teachers than any other in Australia, we’re also deeply concerned to see the gender pay gap for the Education and Training sector sitting at 10.1 per cent, meaning a $61,000 deficit to women when they retire from this essential role in our communities.”

On average, Australian women retire with 30 per cent less super than men, according to the ABS.

Lower pay creates a “domino effect of disadvantage for women” that runs through their working lives and into their retirement, Ms Stewart says.

The fund’s analysis shows that due to the compounding nature of superannuation, every $1 contributed to the fund of a young worker now is worth $4 in retirement.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow for the Australian women working for free each day from 3.56pm.

International women’s day | Super Fund | Superannuation (

We need to talk about 3.56pm

We need to talk about 3.56pm