Theresa Gattung: Gender pay gap – Why New Zealand women are effectively working for free from today


Diversity and inclusion is now thankfully a well-embedded concept within New Zealand’s businesses and our broader society. For the most part, everyone agrees that having a focus on D&I is not only morally the right thing to do, it can also bring great benefits – with studies the world over showing that diversity leads to improved financial performance, more innovative and creative companies, sounder decisions and ultimately organisations that are more reflective and connected to their customers or the people they serve.

But the reality is that in 2021, simply having a diverse group of people represented and a D&I strategy, is really just “table stakes”. Creating a true sense of inclusion and an environment where people authentically feel as if they belong is what we all need to be striving for now.

In these challenging times, creating a sense of belonging and an environment where people can genuinely contribute their whole selves is more important than ever. Belonging creates environments where everyone can thrive and ensures our businesses and organisations have the right talent, skills and wisdom in the room. In a world where we are being called on to problem solve, pull together and innovate under unprecedented pressures, belonging is the fuel for shared strength and resilience that will sustain us and see us triumph.

For me, fostering a sense of belonging comes back to the principles of manakitanga. Making people feel welcome by acknowledging their mana through aroha, generosity, hospitality and mutual respect. But it also hinges on a much firmer measure – and that is equity. Until everyone at the table is valued, remunerated and represented equally, then I would argue, a true sense of belonging for all cannot exist.

Today in Aotearoa, the gender pay gap stands at 9.1 per cent (calculated using median hourly earnings from main wage and salary)*. Based on the fact that there is now 9.1 per cent of the year remaining, this means that from today, the average woman is effectively “working for free” until 2022.

Viewed another way, the 9.1 per cent pay gap means the average New Zealand woman is only paid for 332 days a year, compared to their male counterparts. This inequality is even worse for Māori and Pasifika women, who began “working for free” much earlier in the year, with gender pay gaps of 14.0 per cent for Māori women and 20.6 per cent for Pasifika women.

To mark this regrettable milestone, we have called on our Global Women members to symbolically or for those who choose to, literally “down tools” today and set their out-of-office notifications to raise awareness of the pay gap. We would like all New Zealanders to take note of this day and to be emboldened to talk about topics like pay equity and pay transparency every day until equity is achieved.

Of all the complex issues that surround diversity and inclusion, closing the gender pay gap is arguably one of the simplest to solve. It starts with organisations giving greater transparency to their people around pay and reporting their gender pay gaps.

Global Women is proud to be supporting MindTheGap NZ and the Public Pay Gap Registry, which encourages all New Zealand organisations to sign on and commit to pay gap reporting. We are also working with our partners – Champions for Change – to develop and put in place a consistent framework for reporting gender pay gaps.

Legislation changes are also an important part of creating this change and MindTheGap has drafted policy advice to be presented to the government, which considers requiring businesses to report pay gaps for gender, Māori, Pacific, other ethnicities, the disability community and other groups.

Reporting is an approach that has been proven to work. In the United Kingdom, the gender pay gap was reduced by 19 per cent once reporting had been introduced, 56 per cent of Finnish companies discovered new pay issues that hadn’t previously been identified and in Denmark, the number of women being promoted increased.

Diversity and inclusion should continue to be an important cornerstone of our organisations and society and we have certainly made great strides. But authentic belonging and equity, especially when it comes to pay are the final hurdles we need to clear now.

* The gender pay gap of 9.1 per cent has been sourced from Statistics New Zealand. This has been calculated using median hourly earnings from main wage and salary when working out the gender pay gap. With a pay gap of 9.1 per cent – the average Kiwi woman is paid 332 days equivalent 365 days for men. When comparing median hourly earnings for Māori women against earnings for all men, the gender pay gap is 14.0 per cent for Māori women and 20.6 per cent for Pasifika women.

Theresa Gattung was initially known for her role as the first woman to be CEO of Telecom New Zealand as well as an NZX listed company. She has held multiple governance positions and continues to be a member of the National Advisory Board on the Employment of Women, the Chair of Global Women, as well as the New Zealand lead of SheEO, an international community that supports, finances, and celebrates female entrepreneurs.

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