I am disappointed in a number of our government departments - those who haven't made much progress in reducing the gender pay gap. It appears, in some cases, no effort made at all in recent years.

A report published last month clearly shows that rather than an overall good reduction the situation remains largely unchanged.

Of 29 government departments, 24 had a pay gap between men and women above 10 per cent. With nine departments the gap was over 20per cent.

The pay gap is defined as the difference between the average salary for women and the average salary for men. It is expressed as a percentage of the average salary for men.


The sizeable pay gaps surprises me.

For the past 20 years Labour and National governments have talked of wanting to close them. And it has been around for decades. It was always going to take time but if there was a willingness to address this inequality the results should have been more encouraging by now.

According to the Minister of Women's Affairs Louise Upston, 10 years ago it was a 16.1 per cent pay gap, a 2 per cent drop in a decade. This is snail's pace. And the two departments with the widest gap are the Ministry of Defence and the Crown Law Office where men at these workplaces were paid on average 39 per cent more than women.

This is a whopping difference. I guess there are more men working in these departments and in the better paid positions. So perhaps young women should start looking at their career choices. Look for jobs that pay well and go after these.

Women tend to be concentrated in the social services, health and education sectors. And these do not pay as well as occupations dominated by men. Yet these are important jobs and by allowing the pay gap to continue seems to be a direct undervaluing of the work of women.

My guess is if these jobs were taken mainly by men you would see an immediate reduction in the gender pay gap. Certainly a vast improvement on 2 per cent a year.

Ms Upston also thinks girls should be encouraged to consider careers where there is high demand, high growth and high wages.

I agree with that. But that still doesn't address the fundamental issue that unless we value the jobs in sectors dominated by women workers we will always have a gender pay gap. The work they do in growing the human capital of New Zealand is just as important as work undertaken by higher paid men.


As women make up 60 per cent of the 46,000 public service workers, if anyone should be leading the way it should be government departments. And you can't say women in the workforce are lacking educational qualifications - 60 per cent are tertiary educated.

But it's not only the gender pay gap that is worrying. The National government in particular has asked that public listed companies consider bringing more women into the board room.

Only 14 per cent of the directors on the NZX top 100 companies are women. It'll probably take a bomb to shift the thinking of those making these board appointments. Again it points to the undervaluing of women's contribution in another work related area.

We know working women will often interrupt their careers for a few years to give their children a head start by staying at home with them. That has always happened. Perhaps prospective employers look at a woman of child bearing age and determine time taken for parental leave could prove too costly to the business and decide to forego hiring women in the first place.

Unconscious bias has been around for a long time. And I suspect we are all guilty of it at some time or other. But equal treatment at work, and that includes women's pay rates being comparable to men's is important.

A growing economy needs every worker to feel valued. They know they are an essential part of the New Zealand labour force making their contribution to the ongoing economic development of the country.

A worker who feels undervalued doesn't necessarily care.

- Merepeka Raukawa-Tait lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.