Closing the pay gap for women

At least half of the senior leaders in the public sector will be women by the end of next year and workplaces will be flexible by default, the Government has decided.

An action plan was launched last week aimed at eliminating the public service gender pay gap.

Parents will no doubt rejoice with the news their daughters will occupy the same status in the public sector as their sons.

Many females  in New Zealand work in occupations that are more than 80% female and these  tend to be lower paid. Women are under-represented in higher-level jobs, a government website says.

The gender pay gap is a high-level indicator of the difference between women’s and men’s earnings. Factors contributing to the gender pay gap include the jobs women do.

While there are some notable exceptions in New Zealand today, women are more likely to be clustered in a narrow range of occupations and at the bottom or middle of an organisation.

The skills and knowledge women contribute in female-dominated occupations may not be recognised or valued appropriately in comparison to other jobs.

More women combine primary care-giving with part-time work, which tends to be more readily available in lower-paid occupations and positions.

It seems incomprehensible women are not receiving the same pay as men for the same jobs. Women have been taking more public roles in both public and private companies. Women in the public service are being recognised for the work they do. But more can be done.

There has been the unimaginative argument circulating for years about selecting the right person for the job. Looking at the leadership of some of New Zealand’s companies, it is difficult to believe the men are the best on offer.

Also, the discrimination women face if they take time out to have children needs to be addressed.

The Government is aiming to introduce balanced leadership to the public service, as a first aim. Ministers say the Government has a leadership role to ensure women are treated fairly and, by the end of next year, it is planned to have at least half of the leadership roles going to women in the top three tiers of leadership.

Type New Zealand women company directors into a search engine and the results are astounding. Jane Campion and Niki Caro are displayed alongside fellow film directors Sir Peter Jackson, Taika Waititi and Lee Tamahori. Actual company directors, like New Zealand Post chairwoman Jane Taylor and her deputy Jacki Lloyd, do not appear.

Earlier this year, a report revealed the proportion of women in leadership positions in New Zealand companies has hit an all-time low, and is one of the worst globally. Consulting firm Grant Thornton International’s annual Women in Business report says New Zealand companies have slid backwards in their proportion of women on leadership teams.

It may come down to convincing more women to step up to the next level of leadership rather than making it compulsory. Not everyone wants to be at the top, instead preferring to provide their best efforts as part of the team rather than the team leader.

One part of the Government plans stand out. By the end of this year, there will be no gender pay gaps in starting salaries in the same roles in the public service.

This should not need to even be considered in 2018.

There will be criticism of the Government for interfering in the running of public service departments, but the work has to start somewhere. Young women need a career path to follow, particularly one led by females accomplishing great things.

Only when women lead equally in the public and private sector will they not be seen as an aberration.

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