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Integrated approach needed to eliminate gender pay gap

Tuesday, Mar 7, 2017, by Sheryl Blythen

Reducing the gender pay gap in New Zealand requires an integrated approach, and the Government and business community will need to rely on a variety of strategies, says Diversity Works NZ Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie. Cassidy-Mackenzie has welcomed new research commissioned by the Ministry for Women that shows that the difference in the earnings of men and women can’t be explained by differences in education, occupation, industry type or hours worked. The report, released today, indicates 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. “These findings are in line with international research and reinforce the message we have been sending to local businesses in recent years,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie. “But it’s invaluable to have New Zealand-based research to draw on and Minister Bennett should be commended for investing in this study.” One of the first steps to closing the gender gap, which sits at 12 per cent and appears to have stalled in the past decade, is helping organisations understand the difference between pay equality and pay equity, she says. “This is not about paying a female and male employee with the same skills and experience an equal wage for the same work; it’s about looking at the complex factors that have resulted in women, on average, being paid less per hour than men.”  It’s also important employers understand that while unconscious bias training is one strategy that could help move the gender pay gap, it’s not a “silver bullet”. “When we look at the organisations in New Zealand that are having the biggest impact when it comes to empowering their female workforce, it’s apparent that a comprehensive approach that adopts more than one programme or initiative is the key to success,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie. ANZ Bank is an example of a business that has put in a number of measures to ensure that women are supported and empowered, including targeted recruitment policies, 50/50 gender split talent programmes, return to work initiatives and a personal commitment to gender balance from ANZ executives. ANZ Senior HR Business Manager Gina McJorrow says in the past year ANZ has marked two important milestones, hitting the 40 per cent mark in women in leadership – up eight per cent in six years – and closing the remaining gender pay gap. “Building a diverse and inclusive workforce continues to be a priority for ANZ. We strive for true equality in our policies and practices. And the best part is that this is not at the expense of either gender, but for the benefit of both,” she says. “All organisations need to be vigilant about the multiple biases that influence a gender pay gap, in particular the inequity on leadership roles. Companies need to target these and strive towards creating an equal gender balance.” Championing gender diversity and being part of the solution for equity and fairness is part of a proud tradition at New Zealand law firm MinterEllisonRuddWatts: the organisation has 60 per cent female employees and the highest female partner percentage of any top-tier law firm in the country. MinterEllison has taken several different approaches to empowering female staff, including profiling strong female role models in the legal industry, publicly supporting gender diversity within the media and industry events, introducing flexible work practices and supporting charitable initiatives aimed at improving the lives of women from different walk of life. MinterEllisonRuddWatts Chair Lloyd Kavanagh says: “Our award-winning programmes and initiatives continue to support women, and all our staff, to forge the careers and lives that they want. “Employers have a responsibility to recognise their workforce based on merit, rather than gender or other hidden bias.” Cassidy-Mackenzie says Diversity Works New Zealand will continue to work with public and private sector organisations to share gender diversity success stories and promote best practice for taking action on the gender pay gap. Read the research report here.

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