Women working across New Zealand are effectively working for free from today at 2.38pm.
This is based on the gender pay gap, which according to Stats NZ has narrowed to 8.6 per cent, but still makes for stark reading when put into the context of dollars earned or hours worked.
Comparatively, the average Kiwi woman is paid for the equivalent of 333 days to the 365 days that men are paid in the same jobs.
For Māori and Pasifika women, this is much higher at 14.3 per cent and 15.2 per cent respectively.
Based on those statistics, Māori and Pasifika women have essentially been working for free from early November.
Businesswoman and chair of Global Women Theresa Gattung tells the Herald it’s great to see the pay gap narrow by 0.6 per cent year on year but believes there’s still far more work to be done.
“There are signs of spring here that we are making progress, but any gap is unacceptable,” Gattung says.
She has been campaigning hard for the last few years under the banner of Global Women Champions for Change, which is made up of 50 of New Zealand’s leading corporates.
“They’re all committed to reporting the gender pay gap and doing something about it. That influences others. And over time, those little things add up.”
In her experience, one of the best steps a business can take toward making progress is to disclose its pay gap publicly. By putting their laundry out for all to see, it forces companies to actually do something about the problem rather than weaving it into corporate secrecy.
“Organisations reporting it to themselves, to their stakeholders, on their websites and in their annual reports does make a difference. First of all, it sends a signal that they care about these matters, which in turn means they’re going to attract good female talent. It definitely has a mirroring effect.”
Gattung says that this also applies to Māori and Pasifika women who have been left the furthest behind in this ongoing battle for equal pay.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It actually shows what you need to do to help. It’s always going to be a process. Different companies have different issues that they’re dealing with. For a professional services firm, it might be about getting more women of colour in through management levels and then up to partnership… Different companies have different issues, but it always requires focus.”
Politicians can also play a role when it comes to ensuring greater transparency across corporate New Zealand.
“Gender pay gap reporting has been in place in Australia and the UK for many years,” Gattung says.
“It would not require a lot of time policy-wise to pick up what we’ve already got, because officials have been working on this for months,” she says.
“It’s well-advanced and we can look at what other countries like us have done quite quickly. I just don’t think that any Government, whether it’s a one-party Government or a coalition Government is going to say that women shouldn’t be paid fairly. And when you see something like this, where women and in particular women of colour aren’t paid fairly, I just don’t think it’s tenable.”
The previous Labour Government had promised to introduce mandatory gender pay gap reporting for large companies as recently as August this year, but Act leader David Seymour described it as “more red tape” and did not support it.
However, newly sworn-in Minister for Women Nicola Grigg told RNZ that reducing the gender pay gap would be a key focus area for the coalition but stopped short of confirming any legislative steps to mandate gender pay gap reporting.
“Much of the solution relies on rebuilding the economy and restoring the hiring confidence of businesses, which is the number one objective for the new coalition government,” Grigg said.
Despite the lack of legislation thus far, many New Zealand companies are now voluntarily opting to report gender pay gap figures to give staff a sense of what’s happening within the firm.
Advertising services firm Clemenger Group is among a number of New Zealand companies to have recently adopted this approach.
Strahan Wallis, Clemenger Group chief executive, stressed the importance of front-footing a challenge that has persisted for far too long.
“As a business leader it is incredibly challenging to face up to these issues,” Wallis said.
“However, it is also a critical step forward and essential to start to create the change needed for a more equitable society. It may be uncomfortable and perhaps an inconvenient truth, but it is important. That’s why we have started publicly reporting – and we encourage others to start their journey.”
- Damien Venuto is an Auckland-based journalist with a background in business reporting who joined the Herald in 2017. He is currently the host of The Front Page podcast.