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Public Service Commission


Chapter 6, Workforce Profile Report 2021


65.7% in 2021 (+0.2pp vs 2020)


34.3% in 2021 (-0.2pp vs 2020)


59 in 2021 (+22 vs 2020)

Non-binary includes people who identified as Indeterminate/Intersex/Unspecified.

Representation overview

The proportion of women in the NSW public sector has been increasing for more than a decade. Workforce Profile data shows that 65.7% of employees in 2021 were female, compared to 61.2% in 2012. 

The NSW public sector continues to employ a higher proportion of women than the broader NSW labour market.1 Women made up 45.6% of the total NSW workforce in 2012, and 48.0% in 2021. The two biggest contributors to female employment in the public sector are the two largest clusters: Education (76.2%) and Health (74.7%). Together, they represent 54.8% of total headcount in the sector. The lowest female representation in 2021 was in the Transport cluster (28.9%) (see Table 6.1).

Table 6.1: Public sector representation of women by cluster, census headcount, 2021

Cluster Women employed in cluster Percentage of women in cluster
Customer Service 6,253 62.5
Education 108,480 76.2
Health 118,143 74.7
Planning, Industry and Environment 7,801 42.5
Premier and Cabinet 3,082 61.3
Regional NSW 2,349 46.4
Stronger Communities 26,865 45.2
Transport 8,654 28.9
Treasury 1,443 59.8
Total public sector2 283,277 65.7


In 2021, the occupations with the highest number of female employees were Nurses (86.6%), School Teachers (76.8%) and Clerical and Administrative Workers (76.3%). Together, these occupations accounted for more than half of female employees in the sector (57.5%).

Despite the high level of representation across the sector, women remained under-represented at higher salary levels.

Figure 6.2 shows there was a trend toward a higher proportion of women in lower paid roles and a lower proportion of women in higher paid roles, although the gap between males and females is slowly narrowing. In 2014, women held less than a third of roles paid at the senior executive level (30.6%). In 2021, 40.7% of these roles are held by women, an increase of 10.1pp.


Analysis of gender balance in NSW public sector recruitment data3 can provide insights into the ability to shift the gender imbalance in higher paid roles. 

Figure 6.3 highlights that fewer women applied for higher paid roles in 2021. The gap between the number of applications from men and women widened as remuneration increased. Although the gap was widest for roles paid more than $274,701, the size of the gap has markedly decreased compared to 2020. In 2021, there were 1.5 applications from men for every application from a woman for roles paid more than $274,701, compared to 2.6 in 2020.

In the lower salary ranges, this trend is reversed. More women than men applied for roles with salaries of less than $97,443. There were close to 1.8 applications from women for every application from a man for roles in the $64,973 to $72,635 salary range. 

While the gender gap has narrowed in the number of applicants for roles paid more than $274,701, the success rate for women fell slightly below that for men (0.8% compared to 1.0% for men). Figure 6.4 shows that the success rate for women was on average higher than for men across most salary bands, and that it converges for roles in the Senior Executive salary range. 

In 2021, a higher proportion of males than females were appointed to roles with a salary of $165,750 or higher, noting senior executive roles are included in this range. Female appointments were higher across lower salary ranges. Women were appointed to 47.4% of recruited roles with a salary greater than $274,701.

Senior leader gender equity

The proportion of women in senior leadership roles varied across clusters and has been increasing since the introduction of the gender parity target. Figure 6.6 shows the progress towards achieving the Premier’s Priority target of women holding 50% of senior leadership roles across the sector.

One challenge in increasing the proportion of female appointments in higher-paid roles is that fewer women apply for the roles than men. In 2021, roughly equal numbers of men and women were appointed to senior leader roles. Modelling has confirmed that six female appointments are required for every 10 roles to achieve gender equity in this cohort. 

Gender pay gap

Median remuneration, male

+2.3% vs 2020

Median remuneration, female

+0.3% vs 2020

Gender pay gap

+1.9% vs 2020

In 2021, the gap in median remuneration between men and women in the NSW public sector was 4.1% ($3,905), compared to 2.2% ($2,053) in 2020. This represents the highest gender pay gap in 10 years (see Figure 6.7). 

The median is less sensitive to extreme values in the upper and lower ranges; however, it is affected by large groups around the middle remuneration value. For females, the median remuneration applies to Nurses, and the large size of this cohort means the pay gap is being driven by any changes in the distribution of male remuneration. 

While the gap widened between male and female median remuneration, the gap narrowed for average remuneration. The average remuneration of females increased 1.8% in 2021, compared to a 1.4% increase for males. Figure 6.8 shows there were larger increases in the number of females than males in 2021 across all higher salary ranges.

Within the government sector, Other Crown services had the largest pay gap in 2021. This mainly related to School Support Staff, who made up 52.0% of Other Crown services. These employees had a lower median remuneration of $56,664, and 91.5% were female.

In contrast, the median remuneration of women in the Transport Service was 24.6% higher than that of men. This was due to the high proportion of male Bus Drivers (2,561 headcount), with a lower median remuneration of $59,932.

The Public Service was the only other service where the median remuneration of women was higher than that of men. Overall, 55.7% of employees in the Public Service and 50.0% of senior executives were women. 

The gender pay gap in 2021 for Senior Executive Bands 1–3 was 2.5%. Across the bands, the gender pay gap increased 0.7pp in Band 1, decreased 1.4pp in Band 2 and increased 1.5pp in Band 3. 

Only 43.1% of senior executives paid above the median salary were female across the three bands. Band 1 had the lowest representation of females paid above the median salary for the band (39.3%), in line with the wide pay gap in this band. The representation of females paid above the median salary in Bands 2 and 3 is 47.8% and 49.7%, respectively. 

Employment arrangements

Employment arrangements varied between genders, with more women working part time than men (see Table 6.2). However, in 2021 the proportion of men working part time increased slightly, by 0.2%. In 2021, 35.3% of non-casual female employees in the NSW public sector worked part time, compared to 11.0% of male non-casual employees.

Table 6.2: Employment arrangement by gender, non-casual census headcount, 2021

Employment arrangement Male Male (%) Female Female (%)
Full time 118,477 41.8 164,874 58.2
Part time 14,649 14.0 89,937 86.0


Of the 101 public sector departments and agencies that employed people on a part-time basis in 2021, 85 agencies had at least 75% female part-time employee representation.

Figure 6.11 shows the proportion of part-time employees by gender for each service. In 2021, the NSW Health Service continued to have the highest proportion of men in part-time employment (19.7%) and the second-highest proportion of women working part time (43.2%).


1 Australian Bureau of Statistics (July 2021) ‘Table 4. Labour force status by Sex, New South Wales - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original', 6202.0 Labour Force, Australia, Labour force status, accessed 14 September 2021.

2 Public sector total includes headcount that doesn’t fall under any of the clusters. 

3 Recruitment data is collected from public sector agencies’ source systems where available. The main exclusions are the Health cluster, and most of the Transport cluster in 2021.

4In scope: senior executives in Bands 1–3 in the NSW government sector, specifically Public Service senior executives and aligned executive services (Health Service, Transport Service and NSW Police Force). Excluded: any executives not reported under the band structure in the Workforce Profile collection, Senior Executive Band 4, contractors, and non-executive employees with salaries (in 2020–21) between $166,247 and $192,600 (whose position falls between Grade 11/12 and the Executive Band).