Ladies, From November 30 You’re Working For FREE: A Deep Dive Into NZ’s Gender Pay Gap

November 30 is #NoPayDay, where Kiwi women are effectively working for free for the rest of the year because of the gender pay gap. We look into any progress on pay-gap reporting for New Zealand businesses – and speak to some women with strong opinions. This story originally ran in November 2022, and has been updated with 2023 statistics and information (some good news – last year #NoPayDay was on 28 November, meaning we’ve recovered two days. Small wins!?)

Amy*, an Auckland accountant, isn’t (ironically enough, given her profession) allowed to talk about pay rates or even tiered pay scales with her colleagues, let along ask about the company’s gender pay gap. She thinks she’s probably paid less than a male colleague doing effectively the same job, but hasn’t asked about it, because it’s known to be a no-go zone within the company. “I actually don’t understand why some people are precious or secretive about what they’re paid. Everyone should be free to discuss their pay with their colleagues or whomever they choose.”

Sally*, an administrator from Napier, realised while talking to a male colleague doing the same job that there was a large pay gap, and successfully made her case for a raise. “I wish I’d known earlier, because I effectively lost thousands of dollars. Money I really needed.”

So, yeah, New Zealand’s gender pay gap. Not great. It’s hovered, stubbornly, at around nine percent (currently, 8.6) for the last decade. YES, DECADE. Were intelligent aliens to turn up and hear that women are paid eight to nine percent less than men, they might be shocked, but unfortunately, we’re more used to it.

No, there’s no single answer, but there’s an obvious question to ask: why hasn’t legislation been passed to require New Zealand businesses to publish their pay-gap stats? It’s mandatory in New Zealand’s public sector. It’s mandatory for private businesses in countries including the U.K. and Australia.

Kirsty*, a Wellington business exec, feels she’s paid fairly well, but is passionate about this issue on behalf of friends and, really, all females. “Honestly, I can’t believe pay-gap reporting is still voluntary in New Zealand. Unbelievable.” Kirsty is a fan of the Gender Pay Gap Bot (@paygapapp), which has 234.8K Twitter followers.

The bot was created by a U.K couple: copywriter Francesca Lawson and her software-developer partner Ali Fensome, during a Lockdown. On March 8 2022, International Women’s Day, when UK-based organisations tweeted #IWD2022 to hail the occasion, @paygapapp replied stating the gender pay gap in that organisation. The bot went viral. A Twitter user created a thread about the employers who subsequently deleted their #IWD2022 tweets.

The bot’s source? Data published following a 2017 government mandate that required every U.K. company with 250 or more employees to report the difference in earnings between male and female workers.

“The compulsory reporting in the UK helped create this marvelous little honesty monster,” Kirsty says. “I want a bot for New Zealand! Companies have to be made to tell the truth, unfortunately. The system is set up to be unequal as it’s always been (thanks, patriarchy) so unfortunately laws have to be made to keep them [companies] honest – and let women and men see what’s really going on.”

What Is #NoPayDay?

November 30 is the third annual #NoPayDay, an initiative by Global Women New Zealand (a collective of female New Zealand business leaders). They’re urging Kiwi women to ‘down tools’ today to raise awareness of the gender pay gap. Our 8.6 percent gender pay gap means that for every 365 days the average Kiwi man is paid for, the average Kiwi woman is only paid for 333 days. And so today, the 334th day of the year, marks the point at which women are effectively working for free til year’s end.

Year on year, New Zealand’s gender gap has decreased by 0.6%, moving from 9.2% in 2022, to 8.6% this year. This is a positive shift, but it has only decreased the pay gap by 52 hours and 32mins in real terms.

Although the year-on-year trends point to New Zealand making progress in closing its gender pay gap, the “Eight Percent Matters” campaign serves as a reminder to New Zealand society that although the pay gap figures may be seemingly small, they still have a significant impact on women’s’ lives. 

Says Theresa Gattung, Chair of Global Women, “The year-on-year figures show positive signs that our gender pay gaps are closing. However, we can’t become complacent, as the gap won’t continue to close without sustained, intentional action.

“As a country we have come a long way in recognising the latent value of a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce; however, the existence of the pay gap means more needs to be done. We want New Zealanders to use this day to talk about topics like pay equity and pay transparency with those around them – whether it’s asking HR about your organisations pay gap to revisiting your DE&I strategy in a leadership meeting. We need to keep challenging ourselves to do better until there is no pay gap to talk about.”

Mind The Gap

Dellwyn Stuart (CEO of feminist organisation YWCA Aotearoa New Zealand), and Jo Cribb (former Chief Executive at the Ministry for Women) have created MindTheGap – a campaign/initiative determined to help close the gender pay gap.

On International Women’s Day in March, MindTheGap launched a national Pay Gap Registry. This shows, for the first time, whether a New Zealand business is publishing its gender and ethnic pay gaps. The registry, which features the chairperson’s and CEO’s names, launched with 47 large employers onboard. 75 are now publishing, and others promising to do so by a certain date. The numbers don’t show on the registry – a button redirects you to a webpage that shows them.

How Pay Transparency Can Help The Gender Pay Gap

So what is pay transparency? There are degrees, but generally it means enabling employees to compare their wages with others in their workplace or sector to determine whether they’re paid appropriately. The Ministry for Women has published case studies on how pay transparency works in Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, and the U.K.

Yes, some people will cite privacy concerns, but is pay transparency really such a crazy idea? Could we gradually become more comfortable with it because we know it’s widely beneficial? Perhaps rather than an employer saying ‘Sally earns X’ and ‘Steve earns X’, it could tell employees doing the same work that ‘the highest pay is X and the lowest is X’.

Change Inside Workplaces                               

Angela Meyer is the co-founder of Project Gender, a social-change agency commissioned to provide insights’ research, campaigns and workable solutions. Angela, also co-founder of feminist network the Gender Justice Collective, recently became the New Zealand financial sector’s first gender-equity consultant. Global company Mercer, which provides or manages investment funds as Mercer Financial Services, employs her to go into its clients’ workplaces should they wish.

“My offer is to look at their gender pay gap, at their opportunities for engaging female customers, or female employees internally, from a workplace-wellbeing perspective. I put together a report on what they can do, help develop a strategy for them, then can help implement it.” She says there’s definitely an appetite among businesses for tackling this issue.

“Also the Pay Gap Registry is a really powerful tool because we know that businesses are competitive, and we’re in a very tight labour market. Lots of people [applicants] are asking organisations about their ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance] goals. If businesses are actually reporting on their gender pay gap, that’s a signal for the talent who are looking to move [jobs].” Closing the gender pay gap is pressing, she says. “It’s embarrassing we haven’t done it.”

She thinks #NoPayDay sounds great. “I like the idea of putting something on your email signature that says ‘hey just so you know, this is the case’.”

Whether we’re writing an out-of-office email, signing a petition, spearheading a national campaign, or starting a conversation at work, proactive steps can help push the needle a little. Men, you’re welcome to join us.

‘I’m Mostly Here To Enjoy Myself’: The Deliciously Horny New Memoir That Is All About Pleasure

I'm Mostly Here To Enjoy Myself is delightful new memoir, out this week, which tells the story of Glynnis MacNicol, a child-free and single...

Invisible Illnesses: ‘Why Coeliac Disease Is A Lot More Than Just Having a ‘Funny Tummy’ After You Eat Gluten…’

For those who have Coeliac Disease, having a little crumb or trace of gluten can mean a raft of horrible symptoms, that can take...

Money, Honey: Inside the Life and Budget of a Wellington Sales Manager on $122,000 a Year

How much are we all earning? How does your profession add up? How are women your age spending their money? Is everyone in debt?...

The Divorce Diaries: ‘I Set a Trap on Facebook to See if My Husband Was Cheating. It Worked.’

It's one horrible thing to say you've caught your husband cheating on Facebook... but for Capsule reader Kelsey, the twist was that she caught...