“Well, as far I’m concerned, the little ladies can get any job they want. What’s the problem?”— Uncle Bert at Christmas dinner
When faced with a situation like the above, we’ve gotta be prepared.
Equal Pay is an undeniable issue in New Zealand, reinforced by statistics and women all over the country with lower pay than men to prove it.
To inform equal pay deniers like Uncle Bert strongly and succinctly, here’s a play-by-play of what to say when you need to school someone on the importance of fixing the gender pay imbalance.
“How do you even measure the gender pay imbalance? That figure can’t be 100% precise”
New Zealand’s gender pay imbalance is the difference between what women earn on average and what men earn on average. This is usually expressed as the ratio of women’s average hourly earnings to men’s. The National Income Survey provides the data for determining the difference in average pay between men and women. In 2016, the imbalance was 13.6%. The 2015 survey shows that women's average weekly earnings from wages and salaries ($432 a week) were 61.1% of men's earnings ($707 a week). Statistics New Zealand prefers to measure the gender pay imbalance by looking at hourly pay, because it measures pay for a fixed amount of work- one hour. It is not directly affected by the number of hours a person works, or periods without pay.
“But women and men aren’t paid differently because of gender, that’s illegal!”
Yes, it is illegal. But a 13% gender pay imbalance still exists due to a few factors.
First, working in roles or areas of work that have been historically dominated by women, for example aged care work, nursing, and secretarial work, can mean that women are paid less than areas of work dominated by men. Secondly, people making pay decisions may not realise that they are making them based on gender or other factors. This is called unconscious bias. Finally, a lack of women in senior management, hidden pay systems (where employees are not aware of others’ salaries or wages) and disparities in starting salaries can all leave women vulnerable to lower pay.
“Women are far better paid than the old days, though.”
If you look at the skills, conditions, degree of effort and responsibility involved in a job, you can compare two different jobs. For example, if a man and a woman are both home care workers, then they will be paid the same wage. This is equal pay. If one woman is a home care worker and another male is a corrections officer, but the skills, conditions, degrees of effort and responsibilities involved are the same, this means they do work of the same value. They should be paid the same wage. This is pay equity.
“But if women wanted to be paid more, they should just train for higher-paid jobs…”
The women who work in these lower-paid, historically female-dominated jobs do so because they believe in the work that they do. This does not mean they should be paid less than they’re worth. Professions such as home care work allow older people to stay in their own homes- saving money and giving them their own independence.
“The women at my work get paid exactly the same as me, and that goes for our industry too.”
That’s great for the women at your work, but campaigning for equal pay is also about everyone working together to make change in positive and inclusive ways. Some women work in businesses where there’s a high staff turnover, making speaking out difficult. They may work on a part-time or casual basis, so they don’t often see their colleagues or employers to discuss these issues. There may not be a union presence there to organise on their behalf.