The gender pay gap is the biggest it has been in 10 years, according to new data from Statistic New Zealand.Contrary to the delightful picture the Herald have chosen to illustrate their story (a white man and a white woman, both in suits, arm-wrestling) the gender pay gap is not a zero sum game, where men will lose out if women gain, and it is also not predominantly the concern of those in the higher paid roles where suit-wearing is expected. In March 2009 I wrote a longish post about what I see are the reasons for the gender pay gap. I'm not going to rehash that again here, because I agree with our guest poster from March 2010, Rebecca Matthews, who wrote then:
The quarterly employment survey shows the gender gap has increased in the year to September by 1.3 per cent, from 12.85 per cent to 14.18 per cent.
Pay Equity Challenge Coalition said it was the biggest gap it had seen in a decade.
It seems to me that there are too many people, and particularly in this government, who use further research and analysis as a shield to hide behind, because they actually don’t view the gender pay gap as a problem and don’t want to commit to doing anything about it..The only people who have ever made real progress towards pay equity for women, or indeed for other group disadvantaged by not being older middle-class or above white men who appear straight, have been workers' groups and movements led by those who deserve the improvements. Employers do not magnanimously pass on fair pay, they only do it when they are forced to. This is why we have a minimum wage; because otherwise employers would pay some people below it and as a society we have decided that is not fair. Some employers are fair, that's true, but they don't appear to be the majority, and the Market doesn't encourage that behaviour.
In other areas we have significant gender gaps too - particularly in political representation of women and appointments to boards. Talk about quotas has been slowly building for some years, in response to the inability of political parties and organisations to deal with it voluntarily and effectively. I used to be pretty anti-quota; I thought that it would undermine those women appointed or elected. But, having heard from Judy McGregor on the topic, I've changed my mind.
It is not as if there is a shortage of women who would be good in senior roles, on boards, as political decision-makers. Indeed there is some contention that more women on the boards of major financial institutions may have meant we didn't end up with all that global financial meltdown stuff. Without a TARDIS, I don't feel I can say for sure.
The shortage is instead in the area of those willing to appoint women. And if they won't start doing it, despite all the evidence of the value of diversity at the decision-making level, and decades of working to change attitudes, then maybe it is time to regulate.