Closing the Gender Gap

July 1 2010 - Green Party Women's Affairs Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said that Pansy Wong, Minister of Women's Affairs had effectively conceded that the Government had taken no new steps in the last year to reduce the pay gap between men and women - despite telling Parliament in June 2009 that she would "leave no stone unturned" to try to close the gap.

The Green Party also questioned the Minister's claim that the gender pay gap had reduced from 12 to 11 percent. In fact, the latest Quarterly Employment Survey showed that the gap in average hourly earnings is 12.35 percent compared to 12.19 per cent when the Government took office in November 2008. Catherine Delahunty said:

"This Government has done nothing to close the average pay gap between men and women. It axed the Pay and Employment Equity Unit in the Department of Labour and hasn't introduced a single new policy or initiative to advance pay equity.

"The Minister's claims in the House today were frankly outrageous. She claimed that the gap has decreased, which is not true according to employment figures from Statistics New Zealand. If she has figures from another source that suggest otherwise I invite her to make them public.

"She claimed that flexible work policies introduced by the Green Party - which National voted against - were evidence that her Government was doing something about the gender pay gap.

"And apparently 'showing leadership' and partnering with the Institute of Chartered Accountants on some research is her Government's idea of 'leaving no stone unturned.'

"The Minister's attitude to the gender pay gap is disrespectful to the thousands of women who are underpaid and struggling to make ends meet.

"Her flippant and, at times, bizarre answers to my questions today demonstrate that this Government doesn't care that women earn 12 percent less than men in this country.

In May, Pansy Wong said that:

"Last year, the government allocated an additional $2 million over four years for this work. Progress to date includes:

  • "Promoting flexible work arrangements in order to retain skilled women in the workforce while addressing skills shortages and productivity concerns. A case study of flexible work practices in the accounting sector was completed as the first phase of this work.
  • "Completing an analysis of graduate incomes; highlighting post-graduation income differentials between men and women graduates; and partnering with the universities to study what is driving these differentials.
  • "Completing and publishing an analysis of women’s labour market participation, with a focus on mothers’ participation
  • "Addressing occupational segregation by encouraging more women into trades; assisting with the establishment of networks for women working in the trades; and conducting research on patterns of occupational segregation in emerging industries.
  • "Creating career pathways for women in low-paid occupations, and completing work to support the establishment of a pathway for support workers in home-based and residential care into enrolled nursing."

Pansy Wong also said that "The Ministry is also making progress in the government’s other priority areas for women, including ending violence against women and increasing the number of women on boards."

Pay Equity Challenge Coalition

The Coalition was initiated earlier in 2009 to push for closing the gender pay gap. Angela McLeod, speaking for the Coalition at the end of last year, believes achieving this will take a miracle unless government starts to take the issue seriously:

"We've seen no evidence this government has any intention to address the gender pay gap," she said.

Currently, according to the Coalition, figures show the gender pay gap is 12% per hour worked and taking in to account all income sources, full and part time, the gap is 42%.

The Pay Equity Challenge Coalition has launched a website to highlight the issue, educate readers, and provide the latest news and events.

"The gender pay gap does exist", said Angela McLeod. "When you have over 60% of the graduates who are women, earning 8% less than their male counterparts at the end of their first year of working, and 14% after 5 years, we have a problem."

'Glacial progress' for women at the top

Women are making only glacial progress in board appointments to top New Zealand companies, according to a report, The New Zealand Census of Women's Participation 2006, released by the Human Rights Commission and the Centre for Women and Leadership at Massey University in 2006.

The report shows that women have only 46 of the 645 directorships in the top 100 companies. Just two companies have gender parity on their boards. New Zealand is lagging well behind similar countries such as Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA for gender balance at board level

EEO Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor said:

"Almost two thirds of the top 100 companies listed on the NZSX have no women at the governance level."

"Women account for just 7.13 per cent of corporate governance positions, up a dismal two per cent from the last census two years ago. We need to ask why women aren't on boards in the corporate sector and what we can do about it."

Female board representation in businesses listed on the other two New Zealand securities markets is even worse, with women making up a mere 5.29% of the NZDX and 5.74% of the NZAX.

"Gender progress on the NZAX has fallen sharply since 2004 when women were 16.39 per cent of boards of directors, which is a worrying trend," said Judy McGregor.

The report also looks at women's status in other areas, including state sector bodies, universities, law and the judiciary, the media, trade unions, politics, the defence forces and school boards of trustees.

According to Dr McGregor, ministerial appointments of women to state sector bodies and committees had reached 41%, this being the first ever comprehensive stocktake of the sector.

"However, gender representation on Crown companies that operate major public utilities - such as power, energy, postal services, public broadcasting and airports - has remained static in the last two years, with 35 per cent of women on their boards."

Progress in academia has also been 'grindingly slow' with women holding just 16.91% of senior positions senior positions (Professor or Associate Professor), up by slightly over 1% from 15.82 percent two years ago.

The report's co-author Dr Susan Fountaine said: "It's disappointing that since 2004, half of New Zealand's eight universities have lost ground in terms of their percentage of senior women academics. The slight overall improvement is almost entirely due to gains by Massey University. The southern universities have made little or no progress and continue to lag well behind their northern counterparts."

See also: Unions serious about women's participation