More women at top 'to cut pay gap'

By Teuila Fuatai

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Women need to be represented on company boards and in high executive roles to stem the growing gender pay gap, the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce says.

Quarterly figures from Statistics NZ show men continue to earn higher pay than women.

According to the Quarterly Employment Survey, men earned an average hourly rate of $29.20 during the September quarter - compared to the $25.06 earned by women. The $4 difference translates to a 1.3 per cent jump in the gender pay gap since the last September quarter, from 12.85 per cent to 14.18 per cent.

"If you are skilled and you are qualified you should be paid an equitable rate," Tauranga Chamber of Commerce operations, training and events manager Anne Pankhurst said.

Women were becoming more common at the board room level, but there was plenty of room for improvement, she said.

Ms Pankhurst said Sara Lunam, who is corporate services manager for Port of Tauranga, is a great example of this.

"But status quo and getting better is the way we want it to go, not retreating," she said.

University of Canterbury Professor Lucy Johnston said outdated stereotypes of women in business often made things worse in the work place.

"Role models and encouragement are essential for young women and we must make every effort to promote and endorse successful women and we must ensure that to become successful, women do net need to become 'like men'," Professor Johnston said.

University research indicated women were often outdone by men when competing for jobs typically filled by males, despite having the same level of experience and qualifications.

It also found women were more likely to be successful in such job applications if they dressed and talked in a more masculine way, Professor Johnston said.

Earlier this year, it was also revealed that female accountants are paid, on average, 26 per cent less than their male counterparts, according to the annual New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants survey.

The New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women labelled the pay gap figures "legalised theft".

Closing the gender pay gap would help all New Zealanders.

"It is a no brainer that if more money was in the pockets of women and their families, then the economy benefits and grows," president Carolyn Savage said.

"Equal pay for work of equal value should be rewarded on the same financial basis which in turn would result in more buying power for women and their families."

Women would need to work until the February 21 next year to earn the same as their male counterparts did by the end of 2012, Mrs Savage said

Employers and Manufacturers Association spokesman Gilbert Peterson said women were under-utilised in the workforce.

"We're firmly of the view that a way for business to improve their productivity is to look at getting more diversity in their workplace."

Equal Employment Opportunities Trust general manager Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie said businesses needed to implement systems to ensure discrimination against women and other groups did not occur.APNZ

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