Nikita Mishra
Feb 28, 2024

Parsing the gap: Agencies grapple with pay disparity, OOH bucks the trend in Australia

Australia has published an employee gender pay gap report for the first time. Advertising fares better than the construction, banking, and consulting industries. However, top holding companies have gaping holes in their pay structure where equity should sit.

Parsing the gap: Agencies grapple with pay disparity, OOH bucks the trend in Australia

Gender pay disparities persist in the Australian advertising and media sector, with a substantial gap of up to 26% reported between the earnings of men and women.

Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, which has an ‘Inspire Inclusion’ theme, Australia's first-ever report that details gender pay gaps at organisations with more than 100 employees by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has revealed that male employees are still paid 22% more than their female counterparts. In 2024, one would imagine, this is where pay equity would sit.

WGEA says employers should target a wage gap of 5% plus or minus. But across the 5,000 private sector employees examined, 50% have a gender pay gap of more than 9.1%.

The widest gender pay gap remains in the construction, banking, and consulting sectors. Banks like UBS have a gap of 48%, Bank of America at 42%, and Citigroup at 29%. In contrast, advertising pays men 14.6% more than women. A major contributor to this is the dominance of men in C-suite positions and the woeful underrepresentation of women in high-paying roles.

Katy Gallagher, Australia’s finance minister, said the data released by the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency showed that there was a “substantial problem in this country” on pay.

“This is not about shaming or naming, it’s not about saying men should be paid less, it’s about driving change in those organisations so women get a fair crack at opportunity,” she said.

Notably, WPP, the world's largest advertising group, discloses a median base pay gender pay gap of 19.2% in its Australian division, according to WGEA's findings. 

Omnicom Media Group is at the other end of the spectrum, with a minimal gap of 0.3% and a median total remuneration gap of 0%. However, Omnicom’s DDB Group has a gender pay gap of 12% in median base salary and 10.9% in total remuneration.

Mediabrands Australia also boasts minimal gaps at 0%. Clemenger BBDO is close behind with gaps of 1% and 0.7% (total remuneration), respectively.

“This is a very positive result for Mediabrands and acknowledges the tremendous amount of work we’ve done in this space in the past few years. While we certainly acknowledge there is still more work to be done to continue to advance equality, our action plan and gender equality focus areas are focused on continuing to move the dial in the right direction when it comes to the gender pay gap,” Mark Coad, CEO IPG Mediabrands Australia remarked.

A shining star is the out-of-home sector—an outlier in the media industry, with most key players recording pay distribution that counteracted national averages—favouring female talent over men. OOH media organisation boasts a gender pay gap of “negative 2.2%."


For all the talk on DE&I, and it becoming the focus of many agencies' survival strategy, the actual commitment is lagging. Agencies, on average, have a double-digit gap, sitting between 10 to 20% for both median base salary and median total remuneration.

Howatson+Company is the only independent company on the list (with more than 100 employees). It has a staggering gender pay gap of over 25% in its median base salary and 25.5% in its median total remuneration. For its part, the company clarifies that the gender pay gap does not imply that men earn more than women and that the reported gap of over 25% reflects a deliberate strategy aimed at promoting and recruiting women into underrepresented roles.

"[This] reflects a conscious decision to actively promote and recruit women to achieve more pathways in underrepresented roles, such as the creative department and technology (88% of all promotions awarded to women), and specialist programs to return more women from maternity leave (with industry-leading benefits such as super continuity and full-time pay for part-time work). We employ more women (56%), have more women in executive roles (61%), and, since our inception, have retained 91.2% of females.

"In short, our strategy is a deliberate approach to rebalance a century of under-representation of females in advertising,” adds Renee Hyde, group managing director at Howatson+Company. 

WPP agencies VML, Ogilvy Australia, Ogilvy Health, Ogilvy BHD, WhiteGREY and Landor & Fitch sent one submission under the Advertising and Creative group, and collectively, their gender pay gap is 23.1%. WPP’s media arm, GroupM, is at 14.7%.

  • Howatson+Company 25.4%
  • WPP’s Advertising and Creative group including VML, Ogilvy Australia, Ogilvy Health, Ogilvy BHD, WhiteGREY and Landor & Fitch : 23.1%
  • WPP: 19.2%
  • Havas Australia: 18.9%
  • Dentsu Management Services: 18.2%
  • MediaMonks: 15.3%
  • GroupM: 14.7%
  • Publicis Communication: 13%
  • DDB: 12%
  • M&C Saatchi 9.3%
  • Enero Group (includes BMF, Hotwire, OB Media and Orchard) 9.6%
  • Publicis Sapient: 7.2%
  • Initiative: 5.6%
  • Clemenger Group 1%
  • Omnicom Media Group 0.3%
  • Mediabrands Australia 0%

Media and Tech

Media companies are moderately better than agencies for like-for-like roles between men and women—OOH is a refreshing shift in defying industry norms.

Key OOH players—QMS, OOH!Media, and JCDecaux—each reported negative gender pay gaps, favouring women. Meanwhile, Val Morgan achieved gender pay parity with a gap of zero.

Across other traditional media players, the gender pay gap typically ranged from five to 14%. Nine Entertainment leaned toward the higher end with a 13.4% gender pay gap. Seven West Media followed at 10.8%. And the radio business ARN clocked in at 10.2%.

  • JCDecaux: -1.8%
  • The Hoyts Group (parent Val Morgan’s): 0%
  • Seven West Media: 13.8%
  • Nine Entertainment 13.4%
  • Seven West Media 10.8%
  • ARN Media: 10.2%
  • Nationwide News (News Corp Australia) 9.4%
  • Foxtel 8.4%


The startling disparity at its audio counterpart, Spotify, warrants attention: Women constitute a mere 33% of its board, with no female chair. The pay gap in total remuneration is at 26.3%.

  • Spotify: 23.5%
  • Domain: 22.9%
  • Oracle: 20.2%
  • Stream: 17.2%
  • Salesforce: 16.9%
  • TikTok: 15.3%
  • IBM: 13.5%
  • Adobe: 10.2%
  • Microsoft: 6.4%
  • Amazon: 5.4%
  • Google Australia 3.7% (total remuneration 14.9%)
  • Facebook Australia -1.7% (total remuneration -2.6%)
Campaign Asia

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