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Empowering women key to closing gender pay gap

Tuesday, Sep 5, 2017, by Sheryl Blythen

One of the key strategies organisations should use to ensure they are contributing to closing New Zealand’s gender pay gap is to actively support female employees in their career development, says Diversity Works Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie. Figures released by Statistics New Zealand last week showed that the gender pay gap is the smallest it’s been in five years. It's down from 12 per cent in the June 2016 quarter to 9.4 per cent in the same quarter in 2017, with Women's hourly pay rising more quickly in the past year than men's. “It’s great to see the gender pay gap closing but there is still work to be done,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie. Researchers at Motu Economic and Public Policy recently released a study that showed men and women added the same value to their workplaces, but historically, the average woman was paid only 84 cents for every $1 for the average man. The findings support research released earlier this year by the Ministry for Women, which indicated that 80 per cent of the gender pay gap is caused by factors such as conscious and unconscious bias, and the differences in behaviour between men and women. Only 20 per cent of the pay inequity can be put down to differences in education, occupation, industry type or hours worked. “There are several practical steps businesses can take to improving gender pay equity in New Zealand, and putting in place initiatives to empower women to move into more senior or leadership roles will have a powerful impact,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie. READ MORE: Practical solutions to the gender pay gap Diversity Works New Zealand runs a popular Aspiring Female Leaders workshop which gives women the tools they need to tackle new career challenges and take on management roles. Workshop facilitator Sue Watson says women need to acknowledge that the gender pay gap is real. “Women should also find out what the gender mix is in their organisation’s senior leadership and governance teams, and understand the company’s policies around gender diversity,” she says. This knowledge puts women in a strong position to make a case for advancement, Watson says. “Look for ways you can support your organisation’s commitment to gender diversity. Tell them you are willing to step into a leadership role and you would like leadership development opportunities.” Women also need to start emphasising their businesses, financial and strategic acumen, she says. “We tend to over-represent our soft skills, such as collaboration and team leadership. Instead, lead with the value you add to your organisation.” The next Aspiring Female Leaders course will be held in Auckland on 26 September. Click here for more information to book a place on the course – seats are limited.

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