Gender pay discrimination

Yesterday’s Herald poll said 65% of women believed that there was discrimination against them at work simply because of their gender. The Employers and Manufacturers Federation (whose former CEO was Alasdair Thompson) have come up with a brilliant solution which no women would ever have considered. They say women should apply for high income jobs!

The EMA is in tune with the Minister of Women’s Affairs who said in response to the poll that women needed career guidance to address this “thing called unconscious bias”. I am picking up a pattern here. Unequal pay is women’s fault due to our lack of confidence and ambition rather than being due to the bias of employers with strange ideas about women’s value and productivity!

Hekia Parata also said that one of the reasons for gender pay inequity was because “women are still the only child bearers”. Very true Hekia, women are still child bearers and this is not likely to change dramatically in the future. But it doesn’t mean women should get paid less!

I met with the Minister of  Women’s Affairs and the Minister of Labour a couple of weeks ago. They won’t support my Equal Pay Amendment Bill because they reckon the law is fine and any one can ring up a Labour Department Inspector and take a case. I asked women workers about this and they told me the following:

  1. Labour Inspectors are rare – there about 12 in NZ
  2. Labour Inspectors don’t deal with systemic issues and have no training in gender pay equity
  3. Women cannot ask a Labour Inspector for help if they don’t have any grounds to ask this and they have no access to workplace pay data to even establish grounds for concern.

So the current law is not working and the Government are not prepared to change it. The Minister shows a bit more interest in the Pay Equity Bill proposed by Judy McGregor but I am not holding my breath for this proposal either.

I am holding some forums on equal pay issues and the first one is in Auckland this Thursday August 4 at the Trades hall at 7pm.

Watch this Green website for more events because we won’t be giving up on this issue until we get some progress!

6 Comments Posted

  1. I’m sure the reasons for the pay gap are varied, and that they include both choices made by women in terms of their employment; decisions made by employers, in terms of what skills they value and which individuals they support and empower to progress through the hierarchies they create; how our society values women’s experiences as mothers and how we make it possible for women to combine mothering with a strong commitment to their careers; and which jobs are seen as ‘women’s jobs’ and (not coincidentally) underpaid, ensuring that large numbers of women are stuck in underpaid areas of work. Having said all this, the government does have to take some responsibility, especially when it comes to the gender pay gap within government services. I know, for example, that it took more than 3 years to argue about and push through a (limited) review of the gender pay gap in the education service under the previous Labour led government, only to have its publication blocked by this current government, who don’t want to have to answer any questions or take any responsibility for the appalling fact that there are almost no female principals of co-ed. secondary schools, fewer women in leaderships positions within schools (despite the fact that women make up the majority of teachers) and that the situation is even worse in the primary sector.

  2. I dont disagree with anything Photo says, but I’m not convinced that its the gist of the debate.

    The issue appears to be that one year out from higher ed, there is a numerical difference between what on average the boys earn and what on average the girls earn. One year out. So there no mass childbearing, or any of he other easily identifiable career-history-based reasons for that difference.

    Catherine and co blame this on “the system”, stating there has to be something wrong with the system for this difference to appear at one year out, and that it follows that we need some sort of legislation to fix it.

    I dont believe that this is a symptom of the system being broken, but an artifact of choices made by those taking their first steps into employment.

    Thus the most reasonable fix for this choice problem must be, as Catherine quoted at the top, “women should apply for high[er] income jobs”. If they start out applying for the same jobs boys do at year one, then at the end of the first year we would then see what if any differences there are.

    I’m convinced nursing is to blame. The health services are amongst the country’s biggest employers, and women are enormously over-represented in the less well paid end of the health services: Nursing and other similar jobs.

    Fix that and I’m sure the first year and every other year’s numbers will look very different.

  3. There should be a gender pay gap considering –
    1/ On average, men have more work experience than women (because women take more years off for child care)

    There is a similar difference between women who take time off to have children and women who stay at work to follow a career path.

    2/ On average, men are more qualified than women (no longer applies to younger generations, but still applies overall because of higher qualifications for men vs women for people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, who qualified back in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s).

    3/ Many women rejoin the workforce after having children, into part time jobs, often requiring much less skill (and lower wages) than their original career.

    There shoudl be equal pay, for equally qualified and experienced people, who are equally good and productive at their job.

    And that’s where the problem lies – two people may be equally experienced and qualified, but one may be far better at the job. How do you pay them what they are worth without appearing to be biased?

    There are merits in Catherines bill, but perhaps finding out what other people earn ( and if it’s fair) would be best looked at privately by independent third parties.

  4. This is the reason why all employees should be on salary awards & NOT negotiated contracts. Anyone doing a similar job, should get similar pay regardless of gender, race or any other reason for discrimination !!
    I’ve even heard of companies offering jobs & higher wages to staff who ‘look the part’, as opposed to whether they can perform the role ?? Kia-ora Koutou Katoa

  5. A big part of the issue is raising the status of many jobs that are predominantly done by women that require considerable skill and experience, yet are barely paid the minimum wage and have working conditions and job security that are amongst the worst there are. I’m thinking of school support staff, rest home and home support workers etc. There is no way people expect young school leavers to have the skills and maturity to do this work and yet they are paid the same, it is absolutely disgraceful!

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