Westpac New Zealand boss David McLean thought the bank was doing pretty well on the gender front until it took a closer look under the hood.

The bank has three women on its eight member board including the chair and four of its eight general managers and is close to achieving gender pay equity in terms of men and women doing the same job being paid the same.

But further analysis by the bank has revealed a 30.3 per cent gender pay gap when comparing the median hourly pay of its male and female staff.

Westpac New Zealand chief executive David McLean says revealing its gender pay gap may result in a public backlash. Photo/Brett Phibbs.
Westpac New Zealand chief executive David McLean says revealing its gender pay gap may result in a public backlash. Photo/Brett Phibbs.

"I was startled," McLean said of the figure which it has made public today in a bid to get other New Zealand companies to follow suit and open up the conversation about gender and pay.

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The Westpac figure includes base pay, bonuses, overtime, superannuation and other payments. Excluding superannuation, which makes it comparable with Statistics New Zealand data, the bank has a gap of 27.7 per cent compared to the figure across New Zealand of 9.3 per cent.

Across the New Zealand financial services industry, which includes insurers, it is 23.7 per cent.

McLean said the biggest drivers of the gap were not enough women in its middle to senior management and gender segregation when it came to roles with women dominating lower-paid customer service positions at the bank and more men working in higher-paid areas such as IT, finance and corporate banking.

"What this number tells us is we still haven't [brought] enough women through to senior leadership."

He said it also reflected societal pre-conditioning in terms of what jobs men and women choose to go into.

"There is occupational segregation. It is hard for us to change that."

But the bank was looking at what it could do to encourage more young women to move into science, technology, engineering and maths related jobs.

Westpac is not alone in reporting its gender pay gap.

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Telco Spark reported in its 2019 financial year for all 5377 staff, women were paid 18 per cent less than men.

It noted a major contributor of this was the make-up of New Zealand's technology sector having a significantly higher proportion of males compared to females.

Around 36 per cent of Spark's staff are women while Westpac has 62 per cent.

Air New Zealand also reports its gender pay gap annually and this year said men were paid 0.41 per cent more than women, driven primarily by differences in tenure, experience and performance.

McLean said it expected there could be some potential backlash against the bank in revealing its large gender pay gap but said it was important to remember the bank did have pay equity.

"People doing the same job are being paid the same."

It could be worse. In 2018 when Britain introduced a law forcing employers to report on their gender pay gap there were some bigger gaps.

Barclays Bank has a gap of 44.1 per cent.

Compulsory reporting?

So should New Zealand mandate public reporting here too?

McLean said there were arguments in favour of that.

But he said many of the large corporates in New Zealand were already willing to do it.

"The danger of legislating it is that it just becomes a compliance thing."

He said corporates should be given a chance to report on it voluntarily and if they don't make progress then legislation could be looked at.

Westpac's plan to attack the issue will include a target of increasing women in its top three tiers of management to 50 per cent by September 30, 2025, an increase from the current 37 per cent.

It will also publish data annually so it can be tracked and will review all its policies and processes to ensure they support closing the gap.

It has already boosted its paid parental leave from 12 weeks topped up to 66 per cent, to 22 weeks topped up to 100 per cent from July 1.

But McLean said ideally it would like to see its figures spark a conversation about the wider societal issues.

"If we think it is a shameful secret and cover it up we are never going to tackle it."

As part of the project, Westpac also asked Deloitte to report back on ways businesses should be approaching gender pay issues, and has released the research to help other businesses wanting to look at it.