In the lead up to International Women's Day on March 8 NZ Herald Job Market looks at what New Zealand businesses are doing to close the gender pay gap.

We have a female Prime Minister, more women than men on the Supreme Court and our head of state is a woman.

But in New Zealand, women are still paid an average of 9.2 per cent less than men according to Statistics New Zealand - and that's better than it has been.

Depending on ethnicity and industry the gap between what women and men earn gets wider still - around 20 per cent for Maori women.

New Zealand is one of the lowest-ranked countries worldwide for women in senior leadership. This is despite research that shows companies with a female CEO outperform those with a male one - and having a female PM.

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But in the past five years, there has been a huge drive toward righting this wrong.

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More companies have applied to get the Gender Tick - a New Zealand based accreditation by the YWCA focused on flexibility, women in leadership, gender pay equality, and a safe gender-inclusive workplace.

Lion NZ, Coca-Cola Amatil, Fonterra, Auckland Council, Skycity Entertainment Ltd and Air New Zealand were founding members and have more than 45,000 employees between them.

Genesis Energy got the Gender Tick last year after a five-year overhaul.

Nicola Richardson, executive general manager, people and culture, at Genesis said the company prided itself on having a business where women could now thrive.

Nicola Richardson at Genesis wants to see more female talent in the pipeline to the top. Photo / Supplied
Nicola Richardson at Genesis wants to see more female talent in the pipeline to the top. Photo / Supplied

"We have systems in place around pay but also around progression, development and how they manage their day to day lives.

"As a workplace, we measure people's pay every six months and make corrections if there is a difference that can't be explained."

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Through its Mind the Gap policy the company had recently reduced the pay gap to 1.1 per cent.

Genesis also has policies in place so it didn't "import the gap" - or pay women less than they are worth because their previous employer did.

"We don't ask what women were paid at their last job, but encourage them to present the value of what they deserve," Richardson said.

Richardson personally gained from the company correcting gaps in pay when she was called into the boss' office and given a 9.3 per cent pay rise.

"It was before our Mind the Gap programme was introduced and was just the company trying to do the right thing and make some corrections," she said.

"I was blown away at first but then it made me really cross that it had happened."

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Richardson put the difference in pay down to underselling herself when she went for the job.

"Then I realised I was perpetuating the cycle with other females I was hiring and doing the same thing to them.

"I was happy because I got a great commercial outcome for the business - then I realised what I was doing."

Genesis has also bolstered parental leave, introduced career breaks, and flexible hours.

There are training programmes for women returning to work after children and the senior leadership team is now 41 per cent women.

At Coca-Cola Amatil NZ, general manager of people & culture Susan Lowe said it was an honour to be a founding member of the Gender Tick.

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Susan Lowe from Coca-Cola Amatil said the company was proud to be a founding member of the Gender Tick. Photo / Supplied.
Susan Lowe from Coca-Cola Amatil said the company was proud to be a founding member of the Gender Tick. Photo / Supplied.

"This is not only an innovative new programme that promotes and encourages a much fairer workplace for all, but it also shows a greater commitment to gender equity," Lowe said.

"Our values at Coca-Cola Amatil align with the same expectations of the Gender Tick and we are proud of the work we do to ensure our people enjoy the benefits of an engaged and healthy workplace culture."

For insurance provider Suncorp New Zealand, gaining the Gender Tick is a future goal.

Catherine Dixon, the executive general manager of people experience at Suncorp New Zealand, said the company had worked toward no-bias pay equity and had achieved that.

Catherine Dixon at Suncorp said the company had equal pay for equal work and experience. Photo / Supplied
Catherine Dixon at Suncorp said the company had equal pay for equal work and experience. Photo / Supplied

For the same experience and role, women were paid the same as men.

"Now we are looking at balancing the number of women to men - it has been a male-dominated industry," she said.

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"It's not based on money but the composition of the workforce."

The company, which already offered flexible hours and remote work, was also encouraging women into roles that were male-dominated.

Zoe Brownlie from YWCA said the Gender Tick programme was gaining traction and companies were seeing benefits from getting accredited.

"There is a real spotlight on gender equality so when people are looking for work they will start noticing which companies have the Gender Tick,"

"People are happier and satisfied when they feel more supported and being gender equal is a big part of that."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the NZ Herald last year she was disappointed there was still a gender pay gap in New Zealand and said the Government was still working to close it.

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Figures from Statistics New Zealand showed the pay gap has not changed since 2017 – the year the Government took office.

But Ardern said there would always be a lag between the Government's action, and what comes through in Stats NZ's numbers.

The gender pay gap among government workers is closing at the fastest rate in nearly two decades, but women continue to be paid less than their male peers.

In 2019 males in public service were paid an average of $86,900. Women were paid $77,700.

Key points

• The gender pay gap is the difference in median hourly earnings for men and women.
• Women earn on average 9.2 per cent less than men
• This is around 20 per cent for Maori and Pacific women

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