Jo Cribb lifts the bonnet on our gender pay gap – and doesn’t like what she finds 

32.7 percent.

Among news about curves and masks and testing levels, this figure got lost. 

It is the pay gap between private sector male and female chief executives based on the total renumeration they received last year.

In August in the midst of Level 4, Strategic Pay released their analysis of how 1029 New Zealand organisations paid their 187,000 employees last year. It’s not pretty reading.

For those of you in the know, you’ll be aware we have one of the lowest gender pay gaps in the world. It’s been stuck around 9 to 10 percent for a decade. 

But if you lift the bonnet on the numbers and dig around, like Strategic Pay did, there is no room to be smug.

Strategic Pay based its analysis on looking at the complexity of roles (like job sizing) and included benefits (like car parks and bonuses) in the mix.

Taking all that into account, they calculate our gender pay gap is actually closer to 18.5 percent. 

It’s worst in the private sector. Mid-level professional males in our corporates received 12 percent more base pay than their female colleagues (about $1083 more per month before tax). 

Then, on average, male employees received 46.6 percent more bonus payments than female employees and were given cars worth 20 percent more, or car allowances worth 32.2 percent more.

One of the interesting findings was that women are still paid less for the same job size. For female workers, a ‘$100,000 job’ was noticeably larger than for males. 

And we haven’t even considered the large differences between groups of women – the gender pay gaps for Māori and Pacific women we know are substantial. 

Gender pay gap deniers, and yes there are many, argue that women being paid less is defensible: we want flexibility and work fewer hours so should expect to be paid less, or don’t want promotions, or don’t have the right skills and so on.

What Strategic Pay has shown is that even if we have the experience and skills and are promoted to those senior roles, and work full time, we will be paid less. 

Even if we make it to the dizzy heights of the boardroom, we will still be paid 22 percent less and the boardroom pay gap increases.

If we follow the Australian experience, the Covid construction boom and skill shortages in key trades dominated by male workers will drive our gender pay gap up. 

But the numbers here gloss over realities. Behind these percentages are real workers and their families, with groceries to buy, rents to pay, kids’ shoes and car repairs to save for. 

Many New Zealand families depend on the income of women workers.

For example, in 2018/19 there were about 70,000 sole parent households led by women who worked either full- or part-time who were living in some degree of material hardship.

That’s a lot of kids relying on women’s too-low wages.

So there is a lot more at stake than who gets the best car park when we pay women less.  

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