Our Equal Pay Day is Coming Up

Our Equal Pay Day is coming up – it’s been dubbed Red Bag Day – IPP Angela McLeod tells us about it:


As an organisation, we’ve been lobbying on issues affecting women for over 70years.  Equal Pay is included in our policy and has been debated since the inception of BPW NZ.


In 1957 we joined with the NZ Federation of Graduate Women and formed the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity.


In February 2009, the Minister of State Services, Hon Tony Ryall, axed two pay equity investigations, saying that they generate an additional form of remuneration pressure that is unaffordable in the current economic and fiscal environment.


A group of us that had kept in touch since the Quality Flexible Work Legislation Coalition took exception to this and we started discussing ways we could open up discussion on pay and employment equity.


Not long after, the government announced that it would be closing the Pay and Employment Equity Unit at the Department of Labour.


We were really riled now and organised a rally on the steps of parliament the day they closed the Unit – 30 June 2009.  That was the catalyst for the forming of the Pay Equity Challenge Coalition.  We launched on Suffrage Day that September and the rest they say, is history!


What is pay equity?


The Websters online dictionary didn’t have a definition for the phrase pay equity so we need to separate the terms them marry them up again, if tha is at all possible.  Most times I see a Tui billboard: Pay Equity, yeah right.  For the purposes of this essay, I thought that I had better rise aboe my emotions and offer some logic.


So let’s look.


Pay: to remunerate


Full pay: the whole amount of wages or salary; maximum pay; especially, the highest pay or allowance to civil or military officers of a certain rank, without deductions.


Wordnet is more like plain English: pay; something that remunerates


Synonyms: remuneration, salary, wage, earnings


Equity: equality of rights; natural justice or right; the giving or desiring to give, to each man his due, according to reason, and the law of God to man; fairness in determination of conflict claims; impartiality


Synonyms: fairness


So therefore – pay equity is fair remuneration.

It is fair – natural justice, a right


There is more to it than just pay – there are employment conditions and leadership by women too.  For now though, let’s just look at pay.  We want to be paid the same as a man for work of equal value – that’s equity.


I’ve found that the best measurement of pay equity with regards to gender is to use the gender pay gap.  This shows the difference as an average over all industries.  And its not looking good.


Per hour worked the difference is $3.70 (about 12.6%).  On a weekly basis the difference is nearly 19% or $230.


$3.70 – the price of a cup of coffee.  Per hour


$203 – a grocery bill.


What causes the difference in pay?


  • higher proportion of women than men in the lowest paid jobs
  • female dominated workplaces tend to be lower paid
  • non-unionised workplaces have a higher discrepancy
  • big pay gaps in the public sector – who’ve had legislation since 1960 – defence has one of the highest gender pay gaps at 38.81% and ther are a number of competitors: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 27.5%; Crown Law 26%; State Services Commission 26%; and Building and Housing 25%
  • one year after entering employment the average income gap between men and women with a bachelor’s qualification or above was around 6%, after five years(2002-2006)the average income gap had increased to 17 per cent.
  • An independent job evaluation report showed that when compared with male dominated jobs of correction officers and cleaners, school support staff such as teacher aides and administrators were paid as much as $8 an hour less
  • other pay and employment equity investigations in education have shown areas where women employees are not being treated fairly or are being discriminated against in terms of pay, career advancement and the value of their work.
  • And our young women think they have it – their grandmothers, mothers and aunties all fought for it so we must have pay equity, right?
  • lack of women in decision-making roles and empowerment in the workplace
  • lack of openness and transparency – we don’t know what we’re paid



Why do we need to reduce the gender pay gap?  Why do we need to fight for fair remuneration, for pay equity?


1.  Women need to be valued and empowered.  An engaged workforce is a happy workforce and is infinitely more productive than one that isn’t.  Corporates know this.  They spend money surveying their workforce, some run an engagement survey every year.  What does productivity mean?  More output from current inputs.  A higher return on investment.  Women make up nearly 50% of the paid workforce – wouldn’t it make good business sense to be sure they’re happy?

To reduce child poverty.  A woman is more likely to spend her money on her family and this is a good thing.  Child poverty has so many far-reaching implications.  If we could reduce it through reducting the gender pay gap, we would set the next generation up for so many things not the least of which is building their capacity to be productive workers themselves.  We can’t reduce child poverty when their mothers are in poverty.  I don’t want to diminish the role of the stay at home mum – its unpaid work and not measured for the economy.  It should be – but that’s another paper!  One US study found that if married women were paid the same as men for doing comparable work, their family poverty rates would fall from 2.1% to 0.8% and for single mums, the rates are cut in half – from 24.3 to 12.6


2.  Women make up just over 50% of the population – and we spend.  Whether we like it or not, women tend to be the purchaser in the family.  Ask any self-respecting car salesperson and they’ll tell you its the woman who nakes the final decision on the family car – same in real estate.  How many times have you seen on Location, Location, Location – its up to you dear, from the man?  Whether its true or not that a woman will always hammer the credit card, our spending makes the economy tick.  Reduce the gender pay gap and more there’s more money in the economy.


3.  Reduce violence against women.  Women who are employed are less likely to be subject to domestic violence than those who are housewives or unemployed.  Data from the Home Office British Crime Survey show that among women aged 16-29 13.1% of those who were unemployed and 11.5% of houswives were assaulted by partners in the previous year.  Compared with 5% of those in full-time work, 9.6% of those in part-time work and 7.4% of students.  Among women 30-59, 4.4% of housewives and 3.2% of unemployed were assaulted as compared with 1.9% of full-time workers and 2% of part-time workers.


4.  Household poverty increases the likelihood of being assaulted in the home by a partner.  The same British Crime Survey found that among women in households that earned less than £5000pa, 10% were assaulted in the previous year – and £5-20k 3.7%, more than £20k 3%.


And, domestic violence is more prevalent in families that are unequal.  Women who are more economically dependent on their husbands (not employed or earning much less than their husbands and with young children) suffer more domestic violence than marriages that are equal.


5.  Increase in productivity – higher productivity is in the interests of the whole economy.  Where have we heard that before?  And an increase in productivity is an important element in the increase in social well-being.  This is in the Statement of Intent of the Productivity Commission!  A UK study suggests that a decrease in gender pay gap would significantly increase productivity and that £23b would be added to the UK economy.  £23b – that’s about $66b.  Do we want that?  A study was done here in NZ by Goldman Sachs estimates that closing the gender pay gap would boost GDP by 10%


My question is – what is the hold up?




How we can reduce the gender pay gap


1.  Make the legislation effective.  We have two Acts – the Government Sector Equal Pay Act 1960 and the Equal Pay Act 1972.  Where was the biggest pay gap?


What happened is the Employment Contracts Act.  It reduced employees to individuals and most contracts have confidentiality clauses which include discussions around remuneration.  We can’t talk about our pay.  Which means we’re not open and transparent about how much we’re paid – we don’t stand around the water cooler at lunchtime and share these things.  We don’t know the goalposts for negotiation.  I personally, don’t buy the women don’t/can’t negotiate mentality.  What, its the woman’s fault?  It’s like saying women get raped cos they walk down the street at night – isn’t because there are rapists?

Women don’t know the goal posts as far as salary are concerned or are told a different pay scale or starting salary than men going for the same job.  There is anecdotal evidence that suggests this difference could be as much as $10,000.


Two things – we need to talk about our pay.  Get comfortable doing it.  And – like they do in the UK, put the pay scale in job advertisements.  I wonder whether we too, change our behaviour of not asking about salary when we first look at a job.


We need to support each other; ourselves, friends, colleagues and family in being open and transparent, and educate each other.


2.  We need to support women in non-unionised workplaces or encourage them to join a union.  Collective bargaing ensures that women and men are generally on the same pay rate as each other.  The gender pay gap is lower in unionised workplaces.


3.  Given that the lowest paid jobs are mainly held by women, I think we need to seriously consider the  minimum wage.  Let’s reduce the number of working poor and child poverty by increasing the minimum wage.


4.  We need to continue to push for more women leaders and empower women in the workplace.  We need to encourage workplaces to use the pay equity tool on the Neon website and implement the findings.  The Women’s Empowerment Principles should be supported by all businesses, small, medium or large.


5.  We need to support both the Pay Equity Bill drafted by Dr Judy McGregor, EEO Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission and the Equal Pay Amendment Bill of Catherine Delahunty MP.  They both offer workable solutions whilst still protecting privacy – in a legislative sense.


Let’s do it!




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