123 years ago New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Since then, we have not only seen an increase in women gaining qualifications, an increase in the rate of women entering the workforce, more women taking on greater leadership positions, but have also had two serving female Prime Ministers.
While these achievements are momentous, New Zealand still has a fair bit of growing to do when it comes to gender equality. A recent report published by the Ministry of Women found that the gap between what women and men are paid on average has stalled in the 14 years since the first major attempt to measure the difference in 2003. The report, Empirical Evidence of the Gender Pay Gap in New Zealand, states the gender pay gap, based on 2015 income statistics, was 12.7%, compared with 12.8% in the 2003 study that was based on data from the late 1990s.
Reasons behind the gender pay gap are complex. In the past, a large proportion of the gender pay gap was due to factors such as differences in education, and the various occupations that men and women work in. However, the research report found that this accounts for only 20% of the current gender pay gap. The remaining 80% of the gender pay gap is now determined by what the research calls “unexplained” factors that include conscious and unconscious bias, and the differences in choices and behaviours of men and women.
These staggering statistics are no doubt disappointing, and show that women remain largely disadvantaged by gender bias inherent in our systems. We are ranked 9th out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, which highlights the need for more collective action in New Zealand from workers, employers, careers advisors, and the government for us achieve greater gender equality.
So what can we do to help close the gender pay gap?
- Raising awareness that a gender pay gap exists is important. Share research findings with professional and social networks, and spread the message that further action on attitudes inside the workplace and wider society is needed.
- Be aware of your worth when negotiating for pay.
- Employers can lead from the top, and make gender diversity a business priority. Having clear targets, measurements, and reporting is essential to building an effective gender diversity plan.
- Reviewing staff data and pinpointing where the problems lie is an important first step. Recruitment, pay, professional development, progression, and role type are all significant.
- Educate, educate, educate! This will not only have a strong positive effect on economic growth but also deconstruct preconceived ideas of what is “women’s work”.
Let’s give it a go!
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