SYDNEY, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The gender pay gap at some of Australia's top corporations including Commonwealth Bank , national carrier Qantas and oil and gas explorer Woodside is bigger than the national average of 19%, new data showed on Tuesday.

The government released for the first time data on gender pay gaps at firms with more than 100 employees, following legislation passed in March 2023 that forced them to reveal the pay of male and female employees.

The report exposes the yawning gulf between what men and women earn at some of Australia's biggest employers despite years of commentary from governments and corporations about closing the gender pay gap.

The median total remuneration gap for 2022/23 was 19% in favour of men, while the difference in median base pay was 14.5% and in average total pay it was 21.7%, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) said.

Only one-third of companies had a median gender pay gap between the target range of -5% and +5%.

"There is a substantial problem in this country when you've got essentially two thirds of businesses with a gender pay gap in favour of men," Minister for Women Katy Gallagher told reporters.

"It's not about shaming, it's not about naming, it's not about saying men should be paid less. It's about driving that change that we need to see in organisations to make sure that women are getting a fair crack at opportunity and that we are closing the gender pay gap over time," Gallagher said.

Australia's top banks and energy firms were some of the biggest laggards in gender pay parity.

The median total remuneration gender pay gap at Commonwealth Bank, Australia's largest bank with almost 50,000 staff, was 29.9% while the gap at top power producer AGL and top oil and gas explorer Woodside Energy was 33.2% and 30.2% respectively.

Australian units of international investment banks like UBS and Morgan Stanley had more men holding top jobs, driving the pay gaps in these firms to over 40%.

At the other end of the scale, the gap at supermarket operator Woolworths, one of Australia's biggest employers, was just 5.7%.

It was 28.5% at the Australian operations of Thomson Reuters , the parent company of Reuters News.

Commonwealth Bank said it was "committed to regularly reviewing gender pay data". AGL CEO Damien Nicks, in an emailed response, said though the company was disappointed with the gender pay data, it was taking action to close the gap.

Lower representation of women in senior roles is consistent across the industry, UBS said in a statement to Reuters, adding that it conducts annual pay reviews to ensure no gender bias exists. Woodside referred Reuters to its fact sheet on promoting gender pay equity.

Morgan Stanley and Thomson Reuters did not immediately respond to a request seeking comments on the report.

The report also showed significant variation across industries, with the mid-point employer gender pay gap at 31.8% in construction while it was 1.9% at hotels and restaurants.

Several countries have been taking steps to force companies to report the difference in earnings of male and female staff. Britain in 2017 made it mandatory for all companies with more than 250 employees, resulting in the gap reducing over the years. The European Union enacted similar legislation in 2021.

The Australian government plans to also publish the pay gaps of public companies and agencies next year.

($1 = 1.5288 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Renju Jose and Praveen Menon in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates)