Big weekend for the Nats this weekend with their Party conference, they've come out swinging at the government on a variety of issues.. including the approach to gender equality.

Paula Bennett says women should not be automatically entitled to senior roles because of their gender.

She's not a fan of gender quotas, nor the government's focus on women in executive positions, rather than women in poorer households.

She refers of course directly to the call from Women's Minister Julie Anne Genter last week, of setting a goal of having women make up half of all state sector boards by 2021.


It's a gutsy goal and not without its drawbacks, the main one being it makes women look like an inferior species requiring special treatment, rather than basing job outcomes on merit.

But it made me think about that trial done recently on the 4 day week. Remember Perpetual Guardian, they paid their staff fulltime wages to work 4 days a week, and they found it actually increased their productivity by 20 percent, stress levels lowered, staff engagement went up, work life balance improved.

Women should be able to negotiate their pay based on productivity instead of hours says Hawkesby. Photo / 123rf
Women should be able to negotiate their pay based on productivity instead of hours says Hawkesby. Photo / 123rf

One of the key findings from this trial was that productivity beats hours.

The sentiment expressed was that productivity should be the measure, not hours worked.

And just think about if that drove pay, instead of hours, what it could mean for women.

Fewer women would be automatically penalized.

If men, but also women, could negotiate their pay based on their productivity, it would go a long way to closing the gender pay gap… without having to offer special favours or run recruitment programmes based on male versus female applicants.

The danger with that overtly gender-aware format is that a better male applicant potentially gets overlooked for a female one, purely because she's female. She may not necessarily be better.

Where Bennett's idea has merit, is that she's talking about less time spent targetting board members and executives, and more focus on the low level unskilled shift worker.

If we take Bennett's example.. of the cleaner shift worker who leaves her kids in the wee small hours to clean offices.. if she could negotiate her rate based on what she'll achieve, rather than how many hours she'll spend doing it.. would the gender pay gap right itself a bit?

I'd hazard a guess it might.