Thompson makes case for Equal Pay amendment

OK, this video of Alasdair Thompson being interviewed by Mihingarangi Forbes is astounding. Watch it from about 22 mins in. His behaviour is evidence enough of why we need stronger laws around equal pay.

1. Thompson stands by the claim that women should be paid less than men because they take off more time because of their periods. He doesn’t apologise for it, just says he sorry if he caused offence (ie claytons apology).

2. When asked what his evidence is, he says that “the woman” who does the books at the EMA tells him that female EMA employees take more time off than male employees of the EMA, and anecdotally employers tell him the same.

So his “evidence” is totally shonky. But it gets worse.

3. When asked if this extra time off that women allegedly take is due to their periods, he storms off.

So not only is his evidence shonky that women take more time off, he can’t link it to his claim that it is due to menstruation.

4. Thompson says that he opposes the Greens amendment to the Equal Pay Act on the grounds that it would be a bureaucratic nightmare to record the genders of all staff.

Then proceeds to tell us that his own organisation, the EMA, records the genders of all its staff, hence how he gathered his evidence.

5. He tells us that employees wouldn’t want their pay and conditions revealed as part of the process of addressing pay equity, then proceeds to reveal quite alot of personal information about one of his employees.

6. When he doesn’t like the questions he bullies the interviewer and physically stands over her.

I challenge the Board of the EMA to view this video and tell us that this is the guy they want to represent them and other employers in New Zealand.

38 Comments Posted


    “…The prevalence of sexism — benevolent or hostile — was not the study’s primary focus, nor its major reveal. The more significant finding had to do with how men and women’s beliefs about sexism changed after they became aware of its prevalence.

    In addition to asking participants to record instances of sexism, researchers also evaluated the degree to which subjects tolerated sexist behavior.

    Researchers found that after recording the sexist incidents they observed, women were more likely to deem the behavior less acceptable.

    Men, on the other hand, continued to endorse sexist behavior even after becoming more conscious of it…” (cont..)



    Time to cut a few people free – I mean c’mon, this is an International Embrassment, that bleeds our credibility in effusive gusts of stupidity.

    Can’t have fertile women eh?
    Nor them having babies eh?
    anti-social sheilas……eh?

  3. As to the wider issue of pay parity and why it is difficult to achieve – there will always be occupations that require labour mobility or work in isolated areas – requiring a partner to move to where the job is – this means jobs that pay sufficiently to support a family on one income (oil exploration and mining for example, farming (even if the income is really from capital gain) also falls into this category of isolated area job.

    Otherwise there is simply the child care angle because of the inability of both parents to work the long hours expected in some executive positions without resort to nanny’s and housekeeper arrangements

    Employers simply associate the cost of child care (health leave and disinclination to work long hours – the basis for the glass ceiling) with the mothers of children, rather than the working couple who have children, and of course society leaves it to taxpayers to provide child care (including meeting the cost of parental leave).

    Maybe the problems are systemic – society expects mothers to work (work testing those on the DPB) but does not allow partners (with or without children) to get the dole when unemployed (even if looking for work). The whole system is based on women working but taxpayers affording the costs with employers receiving the extra workers for only the cost of an exta day of sick leave per year – and this is cited as a significant factor in general comparative wage rates. Really?

    But the real issues is the expectation of longer working hours for jobs above the glass ceiling – meaning childlessness, or a parental partner, or a housekeeper/nanny. This means above the glass ceiling will remain an old boys network.

    In the end the only redemptive measure is a culture of job sharing – whereby positions are filled (as in the Green leadership) in pairs so there is someone on the job through the long hours and there is the capacity to cope with peak-work load periods – I mean work life balance -sustainable professional work practice so people don’t get burnt out. Work culture that allows family life and the capacity to enjoy the local environment etc (something attractive to working here rather than offshore etc).

  4. Government intervention in the form of work testing women on the DPB will require investment in work capability (increase in supply of child care centres). This will reduce the pay gap over time (though initially it will increase as most of the women will move into lower paid work) – but the cultural impact will be a greater focus by women on their independent earning capability (it can be expected that many women in the future will improve this before separating from unsuccessful marriages and going onto the DPB).

    This is so obvious that one has to supsect the rationale for the DPB changes is to deter women in the future from separating from partners until they are economically self-sufficient (unless they are left with little choice). In the case of men separating from their partners presumably bettter co-operation in collection of child support from ex-pats in Oz is part of this wider policy.

    This speaks to research in the UK (yesterdays Dom Post opinion piece) as to the adverse consequences of marriage break up for children.

  5. I guess the main point I was trying to make was that when social changes of this magnitude happen so quickly (in a historical context) then attitudes are bound to be out of touch with reality.
    So much so that they may not be worth worrying about too much.
    Gathering not for males? Have you never gathered mussels can carried them home?

  6. Ho Owen, we appear to have burned off the other bloggers. Division of labour pre-industrial was I suspect fairly even other than hunting. Certainly gathering was not a male domain.
    We are now 21st Centuary… I suspect reductions in gender wage gap depend on over-arching polical pressures. Labour are far more active than National in this regard, and even they have had to be pressurised.
    I have seen no research into the skills used by child rearers…hence my hypothesis not yet proved….
    I also suspect the gap will not reduce when attitudes such as Mr T’s prevail at the top of the wage masters ranks as I would guess he believes child rearing has a deserved negative impact on women’s wages ….but sadly the broader attitude was not explored given the reaction to his rather silly comment…. and his response to those wanting to interview him….

  7. Well, when you look at evolutionary advantage etc and consider pre-industrial behaviour there was no gender wage gap if only because so few people earned wages as we know them. But there was a division of labour (no pun intended). Women got pregnant, and gave birth (and survived if they were lucky) and then took responsibility for nurture and raising and caring. Women made the clothes and pottery etc, and nursed the sick and wounded. In return the men protected their women and hunted and gathered and fished. Women died in child birth, men died at war, or in the hunt.
    The division of labour was quite strict and often reinforced by taboo etc.
    the risks and rewards were different but evenly shared. As civilisation developed some women rebelled – most notably the women who joined convents and hence escaped the risk of childbirth, an of brutal treatment by drunken men. Queen Elizabeth the First decided to be a Virgin Queen because she knew she could not be a “prince” (her words) if she became enslaved to the pregnancy, birth, nursing cycle that was so demanding and risky at the time.
    It’s fair to say that women only began to compete for men’s work as a result of the 20th Century Wars, and by the development of jobs that did not need physical strength.
    But custom and technology (no birth control pill) meant that working for wages was a short term excursion for the vast majority of women and many never saw the need to slave at a desk rather than at home. Many still don’t.
    Naturally, there was a gender wage gap – but this experiment in human society has only been churning away for a few decades and the pill has only given women real choice since the late fifties.
    My view is that the gender wage gap is closing faster than most predicted and certainly more women are graduating from tertiary institutions from men already and more and more women are becoming entrepreneurs and owning and running their own businesses.
    I have worked from home for most of my life and my wife and I have worked out a division of labour to our own satisfaction. Both of us have paid PAYE for only a few years of our lives. This is becoming more common, and is developing its own social milieu as both men and women live long beyond “retirement age.”
    Telecommuting is another driver of such trends. And of course, women now drive their own cars and have gained a whole set of freedoms – which many men still resent. Auto-mobility means autonomy.
    I am skeptical about government interventions and given that society is changing so rapidly and given that most of us who want to be are in charge of our own lives I would leave well alone.

    As I said earlier this current debate makes me feel stuck in a dinner party of thirty or forty years ago. Much of the outrage over Thompson’s comments seem to me to be driven by a lot of silly men indulging in an inverted feminist pissing contest.

  8. I guess Owen, as a behavioural economist, and recognising the mad ecometricalists where in fact economystics…. what is your view re the justification or not for the gender wage gap, particularly relating to motherhood. I argue it is based on flawed bias aganist the skills gained when child rearing held by wage masters and those influencing the wage masters most.
    If the market is failing it is the duty for the state to intervene. Market failure is occuring.

  9. the seventies was the boom time for the econometricians who were having a ball creating complex mathematical models and running them through their computers.
    In my humble opinion this was a wasted period in economics and created false expectations of rational analysis.
    I have always belonged to the behavioural school which recognises that human behaviour is both complex and simple and changes with time and circumstances.
    Economists virtually abandoned urban economics because “the urban land markets are too highly regulated to be subject to useful modelling.”
    Fortunately, the behavioural economists are coming back to the scene.

  10. Owen, the human capital model rose to dominance in labour market economics as an attempt to explain the gender wage gap in the mid 1970s. As a theoretical model, as you indicate suppliers of labour make choices of how to use their time and this effects the wages when they return to the labour market as is proved in part by the gender wage gap/human capital model. Samuel Polochek being one of this models main adherants. It was certainly micro-economic/theory of the firm and it used huge samples of wage data with qualifications and a variety of other parameters. It was clearly supply/demand based with womens time out of the work force being seen as a negative coefficient whereas on-site training was positive to take one of the positives. Defenders of the reasons for the gender wage gap on the grounds of motyhers absence from the work place rely on some fundamental flaws within the classical supply/demand paradigm. There is research that says indciates a negative causal relationship between wages of women and men is because they become mothers….
    An alternative method of address pay equity (equal pay for work of equal skill) is to look at the skills utilised. This looks at hazards in the work place, knowkedge needed to perform role, understanding of the wider environment, physical skills like dexterity and coordination, strength, ludgment under pressure, mental skills, communication skills and so on. When motherhood is assessed compared to say a regional manager of a Work and Income…..
    We then look at the history of the wage gap… Alice Kessler-Harris wrote a brilliant book based on the historyu in the USA called A Woman’s Wage: Historeical Meanings and Social Consequences.
    And I am not advocating for a mothers wage or for all voluntary to be paid a going-wage either …. what I am stating the methodology used to justify the gender wage gap is deeply flawed and economietric re-measuring is the wrong approach….

  11. We’ve left ol’ Thommo in the Wake thereof whatever…
    Time for him to have adventures in Antarctica (what’s left of it)
    Just give me my Penguin and I’ll be quiet…for a little while.

  12. Part of the truth can be deceptive – is not choosing to have children not also a Community event? – an economic possibility? – if not why?

  13. Sorry there is nothing neo classical about my general argument.
    Marx and Adam Smith would both agree.

    Women (and families) chose to have children. It is a voluntary activity.
    The settling of a skill based payment to individual women who have chosen to raise a child or children would involve a massive invasion of privacy. Also, many on this blog favour limiting population (not me as it happens) and paying women managerial wages would increase the supply of children.

    Do we really want to start paying all our voluntary workers a calculated wage?
    If we are concerned about the cost of child rearing as a life choice then it is best to promote working from home and telecommuting which allows women to earn high wages while caring for their family and to allocate their own time and energy as THEY see fit. I am sure most women value their freedom and independence.
    See the following study of working from home in Canada – just released. Looks like a green policy guide to me:

  14. owen’s claim pay rates are a function of supply and demand is so neo-classical economics and it fails to appreciate the societal that become legal-political solutions.
    The ecomonmetric measurement of the gender wage gap will of course “prove” the wage masters simply respond, just the women doing engineering at Auckland University would never have eanred what a fully qualified engineer would.
    If Human Capital truly measured skill it would break-down the tasks of child rearing into the compoents such the level and difficulty of decision making, judgement, physical dexterity, management of children and jealous fathers who are no longer the primary recipient of the mothers affection…. and then compare them to middle level managers in the paid work-place, whatever.

  15. Owen

    I think he probably should have said AGW denier, the shorthand “Anthropogenic Climate Change” being ACC could give us a good deal of confusion in topic and “Climate Change” does beg the question of natural or man made.

    Which begs the question of whether you are still banging on about AGW or not… which is the question you avoided, though it was clearly Phil’s intent that you address it.

    Still – I don’t think it is reasonable to go banging on about it….

    As you did not bring it up and prefer (I think) not to argue it, it is being a bit unfair to try to drag it in. The issue was I think, equal pay for equal work?


  16. As degrees become a surplus product then degree holders have a lower claim.

    Already happened; new Zealand has about the lowest salary premium for a degree of any OECD and a few more besides.

    SO the suggestion by successive Ministers that students should pay back their education costs using mechanisms like student “loans” as it is the student that benefits financially from the education turns out to be utter tosh.

  17. oh..! clever/word-playey of you..!

    but you are quite practised at such linguistic-deceptions/gymnastics…eh..?

    btw..are you now denying yr career as a paid (human-induced) climate-change denialist..?

    ..and who mentioned the holocaust..?

    ..tho that we are staring down an environmental-holocaust is indeniable..


  18. Phil
    Hard to explain why I became something I am not. (quite apart from the attempt to link me to holocaust deniers).

    The fact is that the climate changes and is always changing and has always changed. That is an undeniable reality so why would I deny it?

  19. Pay rates are primarily determined by the law of supply and demand.

    If hardly anyone wants to collect garbage then garbage collectors are well paid.
    When degrees were scarce degree holders commanded high wages.
    As degrees become a surplus product then degree holders have a lower claim.

  20. and u perhaps share with us the sequence of events that led to you becoming a (paid) climatechange-denialist..?

    i am sure that wd fascinate us all..


  21. Janine, many people don’t believe me when I tell them of my experience.
    I wanted to be an engineer and so enrolled in the Engineering Intermediate courses at Auckland University.
    As I recall there were about 80 in the group of students, and only two of them were women.
    I actually found more common ground with architectural and arts students and found the narrowness of the Engineering degree disturbing.
    But then I found that women were not allowed to complete their degree because the courses were at Ardmore and their were no toilets for women there. So even if those two women completed their Eng Int they could not become Engineers at Auckland.
    I was shocked and amazed at this.
    Now comes my sexist response. I decided to complete the engineering int but then switch to Architecture because there were many women doing architecture and heaps doing the Fine Arts degree.
    After all there are two reasons we go to University.
    But his was the accepted norm in 1959.

  22. I suspect the gender pay gap has existed for about as long as wages have been paid. If we look at the situation about 100 years ago across the western world you will find legislative provisions for lower min wages for women in many western world nations. Certainly the public sector had lower pay scales for women. There was also a prevailing attitude that mothers place was in the home … and for the rising middle class this was certainly the case but not so much for those on low wages where both mum and dad had to work…. Recall my comments on previous blogs that min adult wage was designed so that Dad had enough pay so Mum did not have to work…. and this was the first Lab Govt policy…..
    There were significant political battles to convince male trade union leaders to begin to fight for pay equity let alone what had to be done toconvince bosses and Parliament … pay Equity legislation has had a mixed political history since 1959, with National axing a Pay Equity Commission within minutes of it becoming Govt in 1990. In NZ the fight started in earnest with the PSA in the late 1940s-1950s when its leadership was its most radical by far.
    Yes the gender wage gap exists … but the tools/methodologies are poor at recognising skills in relation to pay scale. For example, compare the range of skills needed in child rearing in relation to the jobs the mother left to care for the children … or compared to the jobs her male counter-part remained in while the child rearing took place. If these skills were genuinely recognosed I suspect the gender wage could be reversed but as most the wage masters are men we won’t get anywhere fast.

  23. Owen’s comments are interesting (we are much of an age I think) as are Kerry’s. When I was at high school, I wanted to be a vet. I did all the research and applied, only to discover that I could not be a vet because I was a female and the vet school then did not take girls. In later years, I met several women who had had exactly the same experience.

    The second disadvantage I had was that the school I went to did not teach physics and chemistry (just biology) so I would have had to do a crammer. It was of course a girls’ school.
    Times have changed but some attitudes – what girls should learn, what careers they should follow – have been slower to change. As Julie Anne says, it’s that gap the bill hopes to address. Thompson is a very good example of an outdated attitude that still hangs about in some areas.

  24. But the gender gap issue cant be solved by more legislation for the workplace, we already have equal pay for the same work. The problem is not a workplace problem.

    The probem is “the same work”. SOmehow we have to get women to raise their aspirations and expectations. And yes, that is an average. I’ve worked for some really great women, but they are the exception, rather than the rule.

  25. However much that is correct.

    It means that women do not have equal opportunity in the work place because of socialisation factors. Young women do not aspire to many” good’ jobs because they perceive them as “male”.
    The existence of a gender gap in this case needs work to bridge it. Otherwise we are wasting the capabilities of many young women who may be very good at these jobs.
    We need to raise the career expectations of young women.

    I see that very plainly in the decile one school I have been working in. The job choices young women there think they have are so rotten even the DPB looks good.

    If there is a gap because of prejudice or sexism in any job steps should be taken to remove it.

    The bill is to find out if a problem exists. If the pay gap is for entirely legitimate reasons, like career gaps to have a family, then well and good. If not then we need more positive action.

    In the same way if we find there is a prejudice against young males, in entry level jobs, it need attention.

  26. “I suspect many more people, even if mostly women, want to be nurses than want to be police.”

    Oi – thats my argument 🙂

    On average (which is a bad thing to do) women choose lower paying careers at the very outset of their working lives. So the argument that becoming mums causes them to lose place in the career ladder may well be true, but is irrelevant because, it happens (usually) years after the choice to have a lower paying career is made.

    Thus the existance of a gender gap is a choice, not a happenstance.

  27. Russel says “Thompson stands by the claim that women should be paid less than men ”

    Did he ever actually say that women SHOULD get paid less? (or has that been made up?).

    I know that has been reported over and over, but in the original interview he actually said the opposite.

    If it is not made up, can you please link to where he said that?

  28. I do not see why pay rates should be a secret. It just allows those who want to perpetuate unfairness.

    Women should be getting the same pay as a Man doing the same job.

    It is a bit harder between jobs. Trying to equate different jobs is almost impossible. We have had enough trouble trying to equate qualification levels for different jobs.
    There is also supply and demand. I suspect many more people, even if mostly women, want to be nurses than want to be police.

    Owen is right in that it is harder for an unskilled young male to get a job or the same pay as the equivalent female. I suspect the opposite happens in the higher echelons of many jobs.

    Even if all discrimination is removed, however, I expect there will still be a gender difference simply because more women than men choose to interrupt their careers to have children or care for relatives.

    The Green bill means we can measure relative pay rates more accurately and find out if differences are legitimate or due to discrimination.

    It will also expose those who get huge incomes for bugger all work. probably accounting for the strength of the objections.

  29. I feel as though I am trapped in a dinner party of thirty years ago.
    Of course there is a gender pay gap.
    In New Zealand young unskilled males are paid less than young unskilled females. Obviously young unskilled females should take a pay cut.
    In the US black educated women are paid more than other women of equal education.
    Most of the gender pay gap is because high female participation rates are comparitively recent and so the general cohort has not had the same work experience as the general male cohort. Another way of saying my lot are getting old.
    The gender pay gap is closing as that work time gap closes and as more women graduate than men out of university and also are training themselves for highly paid careers.

    Taking time out to have children is now helping close the pay gap because of telecommuting. A career woman can now take four days away from the office a week to have a child and when she finally returns to work she will have a stronger CV because she has demonstrated a sought after skill – the ability to work unsupervised.
    Consequently she has a better chance of being put in charge of the next branch or overseas office.

    In the US men are proving to slow to take up the telecommuting opportunity and don’t realise it is costing them. But then, they are generally not as used to multi tasking as women.
    I suggest women focus on the future which is delivering the goods and stop wasting their effort on period pain nonsense and other passe crap. If we are going to count period pain what about hangover headache?

    Just go for the high tech future. Read Postrel on glamour and style and realise the world is now the women’s oyster.

  30. Jack — you said there was no evidence of a wage gap, so I was providing links to that. Even Alasdair acknowledged it was 12% in NZ. Some of that is due to productivity, educational differences, and time off due to parenting, I have no doubt. It’s the difference not influenced by those factors that we want to address.

    It may not be discrimination per se, I have read interesting analysis that suggests that women are more likely to undervalue their work and for that reason they don’t negotiate as high salaries as men.

    The proposed changes to the Equal Pay Act will simply make it easier for employees to have an idea of gendered pay differences in their place of employment, which presumably would empower them to try and negotiate higher salaries. The employer is already recording plenty of other facts, it’s hardly going to take more than 30 second one time to record gender.

    The EMA are afraid of giving workers more information about what their colleagues are paid because it would empower them to seek higher rates of pay. But isn’t that how the market is supposed to work? All we’re seeking to do is provide better information to employees.

    If there isn’t a gender pay gap due to discrimination, then employers should have plenty of quantifiable justification for why their female employees are paid less.

  31. Thompson, I’m sure, represents a sizable portion of our decision makers. Facts and evidence aren’t necessary when certain things are patently obvious like:
    -There is still scientific doubt around Climate Change
    -There is an endless supply of fresh water and most flows into the sea unused
    -If you tax the rich less then the economy will improve and therefore more jobs
    -Raising minimum wages will have a negative effect on the economy
    -Coal and lignite mining will be good for New Zealand
    -Spending billions on motorways will provide a good return to that investment
    -Women’s productivity is limited by monthly sickness
    When such things are so clearly true why bother looking for evidence or research to support them?

  32. Julie Anne –

    You link shows reasearch that most gender pay gap is because of
    – differences in experience and qualifications.
    – type of work
    – time off due to pregnancy and child care (i.e. women who have taken time off for their children get paid on average significantly less that women who did not and stayed on the career ladder).

    No doubt there will be some individual cases of sexism that contributes as well.

    So what needs to be addressed is women getting paid less to do the same job, with the same qualifications, and the same experience, and the same productivity.

    If the Green Party Bill makes it easier to address this, then it should be seriously considered.

    If it ignores legitimate reasons for pay differences, then it should not.

  33. Jack — where has the gender pay gap been debunked? Even Alasdair Thompson admitted there was one, though he is mistaken about the reasons.

    Here’s some of the evidence.

    “Alexander, Genc and Jaforullah (2004) concluded from four years of Income Survey data (1997-2000), and controlling for productivity characteristics including age, household type, qualifications, occupational class, marital status and location, that there was evidence of significant ethnic and gender wage differentials.”

  34. Without wishing to support Thompson and the majority of his points, I was more surprised (actually – flabbergasted) that there aren’t any official statistics to support or rubbish his central allegation that women take more time off work then men.

    How can we challenge his assertion is the absence of reliable data?

  35. Thompson is wrong; but your assertion that his attitude is justification for systematically enforcing more regulations on the basis on the unfounded assumption that the gender pay gap (which has been debunked numerous times) is on the basis of descrimination is no more right than his comment. Should we stop there, what about race? I’d like to see the Nats shoot this ridiculous piece of legislation down.

  36. Rumour has it that Alisdair Thompson has been approached by Don Brash with the view to standing as an Act candidate, and promised a position high up on the Act Party list.
    Heather Roy has said that she won’t even consider Thompson, period.

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