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NZ's pay equity progress is so slow that we won't achieve it until 2044

30 Aug 2018

The year 2044. Sixteen years is a long time to wait for gender pay equity, but it may take that long to achieve it.

That’s according to an analysis of government statistics concerning pay data over the last 20 years, and a prediction of how long it will take if New Zealand follows the same slow growth.

GSK New Zealand general manager and Global Women board member Anna Stove says 2018 commemorates the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage right here in New Zealand, but the progress towards pay equality has been far too slow.

She believes that it could take government intervention and regulations to force a move towards pay equity.

“It’s disappointing to see that New Zealand has fallen behind other international markets who have introduced legislation to mandate minimum levels of women on boards and that our statistics reflect that,” she says.

“At the current rate of progress we will have marked the 150th anniversary of the Suffrage movement here and still not achieved complete equality in this country.”

She notes that the gender pay gap is more pronounced at the higher end of the wage distribution scale. A lack of women in senior leadership roles is a key factor in this result.

She says that for NZX-listed companies this figure stands at 20% women on boards and 22% women in senior leadership positions as at 30 June 2018.

“In contrast to New Zealand’s figures, only eight boards in the ASX200 have no female representation and 53 companies on the ASX have at least 30% female directors.”

“Similarly a UK review in 2011 recommended that FTSE100 companies adopt a minimum target of 25% female representation by 2015. The number of women on FTSE100 boards reached 26.1% in 2015,” she says.

In order to fix the problem, she says legislative intervention is needed, for example the introduction of gender-based targets and enforcement.

But the UK and Australia have taken preference to quotas as opposed to quotas.

“While quota systems work better in country’s with a collectivist culture where the greater good is valued above personal achievement, targets can work better in more individualistic cultures, like New Zealand, UK and Australia, where competitiveness and achievement are valued,” she says.

She also notes that some countries require companies and government agencies to publish public figures about their gender pay gap.

She says while there is a compliance cost to businesses to analyse and report on this data, the cost to society of inaction is much higher.

“How we remunerate people sends a signal about the value we place on their worth in society. There is even evidence to suggest that right from a young age girls receive less in pocket money and gifts from relatives than boys,” she says.

“It is clear we have a systemic and complex issue in this country in terms of how we view the roles of women in our society that needs our urgent attention to resolve,” Stove concludes.

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