New Zealand businesses could close the gender pay gap in the next five years, Diversity Works chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie says.

But this is only possible if government and the business community make it a priority, she says.

"I think it's possible in the next five years, a lot of organisations would say they need a lot longer. I'd like it closed much sooner than that, I think five years is too long. That would need a huge commitment from every business in New Zealand," Cassidy-Mackenzie said.

READ MORE: Explore: Do you get paid fairly?


Pay disparity between men and women sits at 12 per cent and has been stagnant in the past ten years.

Men earn on average earn 68 cents more than women for every hour of work.

"We have been making a lot of headway around diversity and inclusion, so I know [gender pay disparity] is something we can absolutely tackle. I wish it was something we didn't have to," Cassidy-Mackenzie said.

"Organisations are more aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion, so now that we've got this real awareness up, pay equity should come along quite naturally. We've got a lot of organisations already doing good work so now that we've got good case studies we can refer organisations to, there's almost no excuse," she said.

Diversity Works, formerly the Equal Employment Opportunity Trust, is an organisation aiming to help businesses develop more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Cassidy-Mackenzie said New Zealand doesn't do well on gender pay when compared to the rest of the world.

"We have an opportunity, because we are such a small nation, to actually push [gender equity] up and get ahead. That's what I'd like to see."

I think [closing the gender pay gap] is possible in the next five years, a lot of organisations would say they need a lot longer.

Cassidy-Mackenzie, however, doesn't believe a law change is the way forward.

"It's a little bit like having targets or quotas, to have legislation driving that outcome for businesses, is the wrong way of going about it.


"Businesses need to commit to this themselves, it needs to be a driver from within. When it becomes a compliance issue then it's not driven from within. [Otherwise] they're not driving, for example, an inclusive environment where their staff can bring their whole selves to work and that's what happens with pay equity."

"Aside from competition for our skills, our women will look elsewhere for roles and that elsewhere will be offshore."

Five key steps to fix the gender pay gap

Track the data

Cassidy-McKenzie says measuring overall gender pay gap can be as simple as setting up a spreadsheet.

Make a commitment

Be explicit about gender pay equity in your remuneration policy, and ensure the CEO or equivalent makes a statement committing to closing the gap.

Eliminate the parent penalty

Review employees' pay when they return from parental leave if they have missed a pay review cycle and give them the increase, Cassidy-McKenzie says.

Support women in your pipeline

Actively support your female employees in their career development and encourage them to apply for higher-paid senior positions and technical roles.

Reward performance, not presence

Insist your senior managers are role models for work-life balance. Work out how to accommodate flexible workplace practices in every role within your organisation.