Who is minding the gap?

The gender pay gap is alive and well in 2022. By Cathy Parker

I am writing this on International Women’s Day (IWD) after watching a stimulating webcast from Global Women entitled Break the Bias, which had a number of excellent speakers and focused, in particular, on improving women’s financial literacy.
Some of the focus was around the Financial Services Council (FSC) launching its It Starts with Action initiative to demystify money for women.

Improving financial literacy is obviously important in improving overall outcomes for women, but at the same time came the launch of the Mind The Gap website, which is encouraging and supporting companies to report on their gender and ethnic pay gaps.

All the financial literacy in the world won’t help when European women are paid up to 11 percent less than European men on average. Maori men are even worse off at 14 percent less than European men with Pasifika women earning a mere 75 percent of the European male average.

Interestingly there is a bigger gap between European men and women than between men and women of the other three cultures mentioned – Maori, Asian and Pasifika – presumably because even the Maori, Pasifika and Asian men are already disadvantaged in the pay equity stakes.

As of March 8 this year there are 103 companies participating in the register but only 47 have to date submitted their first Pay Gap report.
Looking at the large accounting firms, for example, they generally have a lowish overall pay gap three to five percent, but at partner level its around 23 percent. In the explanations they put this down to more men having served as partners for longer so have more senior roles.
With many more women achieving partnership this should start correcting itself as they rise through the seniority ranks. (And some of the existing senior male partners presumably retire!)

Some other organisations have fairly horrific gaps – ANZ Bank has a Gender Pay Gap of 22.4 percent and, as they say themselves, this reflects: “The under-representation of women in leadership and higher paying roles.”
ASB fares even worse with a 26 percent Gender Pay Gap and this is especially concerning given both companies have women CEOs (and ANZ has a woman chair).

Given that both industries have, for a considerable time, had at least 50 percent female staff this seems to reflect some significant unfairness in previous promotion policies along with strong unconscious bias.

One can only hope that in our more enlightened times this is no longer the case, but it looks like it will take some time for the pay gap to correct itself in these organisations.

Come on, this is 2022 after all.

Corporate New Zealand is big on making PR claims around being diversity champions but it needs more than just slogans and good intentions to close the gap!   

Cathy Parker sits on a number of boards and is the director of Adrenalin Publishing, the owner and publisher of Management magazine


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