Women earn less than men because they are seen as pushovers
when they don't negotiate hard and are seen as
"ball-breakers" when they do, a psychologist says.
The drivers behind the gender pay gap are being highlighted
by the YWCA Equal Pay Awards, which aim to recognise
companies striving to tackle the issue.
Women earn 13 per cent less than men, according to the latest
Statistics New Zealand income survey, despite legislation
against discrimination on the basis of gender.
Awards panelist Galia BarHava-Monteith - a psychologist,
executive coach and co-founder of the women's career
development trust Professionelle - says "subconscious bias"
is partly to blame.
When managers make decisions, such as whether to hire someone
or give them a pay-rise, they often draw on stereotypes - for
example, that men are authoritative and leaders, while woman
are warm, motherly and enabling.
However, those stereotypes are often subconscious, which
means decisions might be biased without managers realising
Ms BarHava-Monteith gave the example of a group of senior
managers looking to appoint someone for a new opportunity
involving international travel.
An ambitious, hard-working woman in her mid-20s might be very
capable, but the managers could pass on her because, if
recently married, they might assume she would start having
Ms BarHava-Monteith said subconscious bias also came into
play during negotiations.
"If [women] do negotiate, that goes against the stereotype
that people in the room have, which is uncomfortable, and
then they get judged for it."
Some employers might appreciate women who take a "gung-ho"
approach to negotiations, but it could be seen as too
"So women find themselves in a double-bind. How do you walk
that fine line of not being a pushover and actually
negotiating, but not coming across as a ball-breaker?"
Women in leadership positions also had to tackle subconscious
bias. If they were "overly feminine" they were seen as too
weak, while if they were authoritative and energetic they
were seen as "bitches".
Ms BarHava-Monteith said companies should have transparent
conversations about decision-making, ensure women were on
selection and negotiation panels, and have transparent and
systematic talent identification processes in place.
"In organisations with very robust talent management
processes, women do better," she said.
Remuneration specialist Susan Doughty, who also sits on the
YWCA awards panel, said bias could come into play when
companies set their starting rates for men and women.
"Sometimes the decision-making is persuaded by the strength
of the negotiating position to begin with ... so often you
can see that a male might start higher in a pay range, rather
than a female."
Ms Doughty said the managers responsible for hiring and
setting pay should develop statistics around pay rates for
men and women, and look at the decision-making criteria to
ensure there was consistency.
* To learn more about the YWCA Equal Pay Awards and to get
advice on salary negotiation skills, visit www.ywcapayequity.org.nz