You could do a lot with $600,000.

Buy a house, travel the world, invest the cash and watch it grow.

But that's what Kiwi women miss out on in their lifetimes. A Human Rights Commission project, published today to mark International Women's Day, has found women earn $600,000 less on average than their male counterparts.

Women are overrepresented and on the wrong side of the gender pay gap, domestic violence and sexual assault, said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue. She said these problems stemmed from society valuing women less than men.


"Issues and human rights abuses continue year after year. You need a day to reassess where we are and where we have to go.

"We know women across the board and in their own ethnic group are paid less than men.

"It's worse than I thought it was going to be, quite frankly. We can't put our heads in the sand."

Women in New Zealand can expect to be paid 12 per cent less on average than a man. For women with children the pay gap is worse.

The Government report "Effect of Motherhood on Pay" released last month dubbed it the "motherhood penalty". The report showed that fathers are paid 17 per cent more than mothers. The pay gap is 5 per cent for people who are not parents.

Bias and perceptions of women in the workplace can account for 80 per cent of this difference. The rest is attributed to differences in education, the occupations and industries that men and women work in, or the fact that women are more likely to work part-time, stated the Ministry for Women.

Blue said that women often juggle multiple pressures from family and work, stereotyping and less investment in their upskilling from companies. "If you want to be a mother, you're not serious about your job. But if you go back to work, you're not there for your baby.

"We have to really tackle [those biases] head on.


"Rather than get to the end of a woman's career it'll be much better to get young women to understand what they're facing now and how to address it."

The first reading of the Domestic Violence Victims' Protection Bill that could give the victims of domestic violence paid leave from work will commence today. The bill would give victims 10 days' paid leave to assist them to move house, attend court hearings and consult with lawyers.

Blue said domestic violence was tied tightly to inequality because it was the effect of men having greater power over women.

"Violence of any form, physical, financial, emotional is a way of controlling women and keeping them in their place."

Despite obvious disparities Blue has hope. She believed the children of the baby boomers are the answer to equality.

New Zealand is kickstarting a global celebration of women by hosting the first half-hour live stream.

Kiwi musician and feminist Lizzie Marvelly will launch the international event from Facebook's Auckland office, before women in different countries around the world go live on Facebook throughout the day.