Most women believe they get paid less than men simply because they are women but men are not so sure, a recent Herald-DigiPoll suggests.

The survey found almost 65 per cent of women believed they were paid less because of their gender.

Just under 43 per cent of men agreed but 47 per cent didn't.

Overall, a narrow majority of 54 per cent of those asked believed women were being paid less because of their gender, a result that has fuelled calls for new laws to narrow the gender pay gap.


Green MP Catherine Delahunty, who has a private member's bill which would allow women to learn how much their male colleagues earned for the same work, welcomed the poll result.

"It shows that my bill and the Alasdair Thompson debacle has actually raised an issue that needs addressing so that's a good thing."

It was unsurprising that more women felt they were being discriminated against than men did.

"Women are far more aware of this and have far more concern about it."

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor said the poll showed "a clear majority of New Zealanders think that the gender pay gap is unfair".

"The Commission wants transparency of pay rates to be taken up by business and Parliament to guarantee equal pay."

But Women's Affairs Minister Hekia Parata refused to offer her own answer to the "simplistic" poll question because the pay gap was "not directly comparable across all workers".

"There are these issues of the fact that women are still the only child bearers, women tend to work part time more, women tend to be in lower paid industries, women seek more flexible working hours, so there are some parts of that pay gap that you would have to exclude for those reasons."


However, her own ministry's research showed that female workers with the same tertiary qualifications were paid less than their male counterparts after one year in the workforce with that gap growing larger after five years.

"What that's being attributed to now is this thing called unconscious bias."

She said that bias was best tackled by giving career guidance that steered young women into better paid occupations, and also by ensuring there was more flexibility in the workplace to suit childcare arrangements.

She also said legislation that would tackle instances of unfair pay was not being used by women enough.

"There is not a lot of evidence of women taking cases under the Human Rights Act and I think it would be helpful if more of that did occur."