WGEA gender pay gap report: Pandora, City Chic, Valleygirl and Forever New among retailers failing women

The gender pay gaps of Australian businesses with 100 or more employees have been published for the first time ever today and some of the companies with the biggest gaps are women’s retailers.

Plus-sized fashion retailer City Chic, women’s clothing company Forever New, jewellery retailer Pandora and fast fashion brand Valleygirl are among the businesses with the largest gender pay gaps in Australia.

Across all industries in Australia, the median total remuneration gender pay gap is 19 per cent in favour of men.

At City Chic it is 57.4 per cent, which means the retailer has the 11th largest gender pay gap among around 5,000 companies whose data has been released today.

Pandora has a total remuneration gender pay gap of 52.3 per cent, making it the 27th worst in the overall rankings while Valleygirl, a fast fashion retailer for 15 to 25 year olds, is owned by Fast Future Brands, which recorded a median total remuneration gap of 51.9 per cent, the 29th highest overall.

Forever New’s gap of 51.3 per cent puts it at 31st.

The large gender pay gaps of these leading brands compares to a median gender pay gap across all retailers of 7.1 per cent.

The gender pay gap measures the difference in median earnings between women and men, and a total remuneration gap includes base salaries, superannuation, overtime, bonuses, and other additional payments, and converts part-time and casual salaries to full-time equivalent earnings.

The gender pay gap isn’t the same as women and men being paid equally for the same, or a comparable job, which is called equal pay and a failure to pay equally in these circumstances is illegal.

The government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), which is responsible for calculating and publishing the figures, considers a gender pay gap of five per cent, in favour of either males or females as neutral.

Gemma Lloyd, the co-founder and CEO of jobs platform WORK180, which works with companies to enhance their policies and initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining more women, told news.com.au that “women-focused brands should lead the charge in closing the gender pay gap, not widening it”.

“Female-focused brands thrive when women lead because they intimately understand and champion the needs of their diverse customer base.”

She said brands selling to women risk alienating their customer base if they feel the company’s values don’t align with their own.

“Today’s consumers demand more than just products — they seek alignment with their values,” Ms Lloyd said.

“A survey by Accenture revealed that 41 per cent of shoppers removed at least 10 per cent of their business from a retailer for their lack of focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

A spokesperson for Forever New told news.com.au: “Forever New has a workforce of 1,436 team members, with 75 per cent of employees working in retail stores, the majority of whom are female.”

“Of the 65 male employees, 62 work in the Head Office, impacting the gender salary data.”

“This means the median salary for males primarily reflects Head Office salaries, while the median salary for females is influenced by a larger number of entry-level and retail positions.”

A spokesperson for City Chic told news.com.au: “Given the nature of City Chic’s business (plus size women’s fashion), a limited number of roles are appropriately open to gender diversity, with the majority of its personnel being in customer-facing sales roles.”

“As at the date of the WGEA data being compiled, men constituted just four per cent of City Chic’s total employee base.”

“Men and women that hold equivalent roles are on equivalent pay. This includes all General Manager and Operational Manager positions, 75 per cent of which are held by women.”

While the rationale of more women in lower paid shop floor positions goes some way to explaining the gender pay gaps in these companies, other women’s retailer have much lower gender pay gaps.

For examples, female fashion brand Decjuba has a total remuneration gender pay gap of 19.4 per cent, cosmetics retailer Adore Beauty has a total remuneration gender pay gap of 18.7 per cent, and Blue Illusion, which sells clothes for older women, has a gap of just six per cent.

Brian Walker, CEO of consultancy the Retail Doctor Group, told news.com.au that having female staff on the shop floor of women’s retailers make sense as they have “the most natural affinity to their target audience”.

“But that said, increasingly there’s male staff on the floor of female brands and I think that’s a good thing.”

He said within women’s retail head offices, marketing, human resources, creative and buying roles were more likely to be filled by women, but that CEO and finance roles were more likely to be filled by men.

City Chic, Forever New, Pandora and Fast Future Brands all have male CEOs, however CEO pay is excluded from the gender pay gap calculations.

The publication today of the gender pay gaps of Australian businesses is a result of amendments to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, which were passed by parliament in March 2023.

The figures are based on data reported to WEGA between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023.

WGEA CEO Mary Wooldridge said the publishing of company level gender pay gaps “was done as a catalyst for improvements as employers now have that public accountability for that performance”.

“This information arms employees, consumers, investors and other stakeholders with information about each company’s performance, which we think will help to motivate that change.”

Pandora declined to comment while Fast Future Brands did not respond to a request for comment from news.com.au.

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