Editorial: Pay disparity makes no sense at all

By Annemarie Quill

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I have always argued that women should be paid more than men.

Our superior emotional intelligence, our caring instincts which make us nicer people to be around, and the ability to work with a runny nose without boring our colleagues senseless are just some qualities that deserve remunerating above men.

Plus, there is a cost to being a working woman that needs to be recognised in our pay packets.

Not just the obvious childcare costs - there are other significant yet essential costs which working women have that men don't.

Women are judged more harshly than men on their appearance. Their working wardrobe is expensive. Women's clothes cost more.

The higher up the ladder a woman goes, the more expensively she is expected to dress. A man can flit from the boardroom to the Chamber's cocktail party in his same grey suit, whereas a woman will be expected to be kitted out in the latest Karen Walker prints. A man makes do with a slick of water in the morning whereas a woman must spend a large part of her salary - and expensive time - on hair and makeup.

Seriously, even if you don't agree that women deserve more pay than men, surely they at least deserve to be paid the same as a man for doing the same job.

New Zealand is heading in the wrong direction with gender pay parity, as reported by Teuila Fuatai in yesterday's Bay of Plenty Times.

Latest quarterly figures from Statistics NZ show that the gender pay gap has increased since the last September quarter, from 12.85 per cent to 14.18. In hourly rate terms, men earned an average of $29.20 - compared with $25.06 earned by women.

Part of the problem lies in the Kiwi way of hiding what you earn and employers actively discouraging sharing. This could be removed by Green MP Catherine Delahunty's private member's bill which would allow women to learn how much their male colleagues earned for the same work.

Another issue is that mothers who return to work after children may seek flexible or part-time work, so despite high qualifications, are forced into lower-paid jobs.

Women are higher represented than men in "caring professions" which traditionally have been less militant than male professions at fighting for pay rises.

But the pay gap cannot be explained away by working mums. Recent research showed that female workers with the same tertiary qualifications were paid less than male counterparts after one year in the workforce, with that gap growing after five years. Earlier this year, a survey revealed that female accountants are paid, on average, 26 per cent less than male counterparts.

Perhaps the answer is if women become their own employers and start businesses. Then, even in the "caring professions" they could harness the profits - as many of my female colleagues often complain their cleaners earn more than them.

Or we could follow the university research in Teuila's report which found that women were more likely to be successful if they dressed and talked in a more masculine way. So that's where we have been going wrong.

Tonight, I might just tie back my hair, not have any morning coffee meaning my voice will be hoarse, leave Karen Walker at home and instead don a starched shirt and baggy pants, and wait for someone to offer me a pay rise.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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