NORTH Coast women working as machinery operators, tradies and managers are likely to be working alongside men being paid thousands more than them.

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the 2015-16 median wage for female drivers and machinery operators in the Richmond-Tweed area was $24,000 less than their male colleagues.

In the lead-up to Equal Pay Day on Friday, the federal Workplace Gender Equality Agency said the pay gap was at its lowest point in two decades.

But an independent report has found a small decrease in the pay gap over the past 20 years is not because of women's pay increasing but men's wages dropping after the mining boom.

The average pay for women working as tradies in the area was about $18,000 less than men in the same industry. Female managers were paid about $14,000 less than their male counterparts.

Across all sectors the median wage gap between men and women was $11,136 - down from a peak of $11,336 in 2013-14.

A recent report from Economic Security 4 Women found the mining boom's end had reduced the wage gap, but because men's wages had fallen not because women's wages had grown.

"In other words, the graph has narrowed marginally because of a relative cyclical decline in wages in male dominated industries rather than a material improvement in female wage conditions," report author Steven Koukoulas said.

"The evidence for Australia confirms that women are persistently and overwhelmingly less economically secure than men.

"In terms of pay, women still lag men in full-time equivalent wage levels by a significant amount. There has been little net change in the gender pay gap over the past 20 years."

Regional community development expert professor Jim Cavaye said women were more likely work part time or casually, often after having children.

The University of Southern Queensland regional development professor said a cultural shift was needed to encourage more men to take extended parental leave and government programs to encourage more women to work in traditionally male industries.

North Coast medical practice manager and Grafton Chamber of Commerce executive Carol Pachos said the same issues were driving the wage gap locally and nationally.

Ms Pachos said getting pregnant and raising a family had caused her to drop out of university twice and put her career on hold.

"I devoted myself to raising our four children - being what we would call the traditional stay at home mother. While it gave me much satisfaction and joy, I admit I had some regrets," she said.

Ms Pachos said she studied later in life and had forged a successful career in medical management.

"I often tell people that I have had my career backwards. While many have a career and then start a family - my path was family and then I started my career," she said. - NewsRegional

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