Australia dropped six places to 15th position - the largest drop out of the 27 OECD countries measured - in an annual index that ranks female economic empowerment, Global head of PwC's People Business Jon Williams announced today.
"Australia now sits right on the average, and trending to below the average, largely due to an increased gender pay gap and a small increase in female unemployment," Mr Williams said.
The PwC Women in Work Index is a weighted average of measures including equality of earnings, the ability of women to access employment opportunities and job security.
Other findings include:
"While there has been some progress on boardroom membership, the gender pay gap is proving to be an intractable problem for Australian business," Mr Williams said.
"The Federal Government has acknowledged that gender reporting is critical to drive cultural change, however last week it announced that there would be reductions in the expected reporting requirements.
"Achieving gender equality requires consideration of all different kinds of levers, including recruitment, retention, promotion, remuneration, and workplace policies.
"Whilst we have to ensure we don't unnecessarily burden businesses with red tape reporting, it is vital we continue to collect data on things like recruitment measures and Chief Executive Officer pay.
"What gets measured gets done and, as these results demonstrate, we still have a long way to go in Australia.
"Without detailed information like this, some of these levers get forgotten or hidden."Mr Williams used an example within the latest WGEA data that will now not attract more detailed reporting in 2015-16.
"In the Financial and Insurance Services industry, the latest WGEA data showed the 28.4 per cent gender gap in base remuneration blew out to 36.1 per cent when variable components, such as a bonus, were added to get to total remuneration," he said.
"Components of total remuneration, like bonus and equity awards, were to be separately reported on in 2015 - 16, but are now not required under the Governments changes.
"We need this kind of information to be available for analysis so organisations can address this disparity.
"Gender equality in the workplace is not just the right thing to do, it is a sound business decision.
"A diverse and flexible workforce generates better business outcomes for an organisation.
"Business and government leaders must continue to lead cultural change or we will further slip down the rankings."