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Widening gender pay gap disheartening, says UC professor

Widening gender pay gap disheartening, says UC professor

November 13, 2012

Statistics New Zealand’s report on an increase in the gender pay-gap was extremely disappointing to read and disheartening for young women currently sitting NCEA and tertiary qualifications, a University of Canterbury (UC) professor said today.

The gender pay gap has increased from 12.85 percent to 14.18 percent in the year to September according to Statistics NZ’s quarterly report.

Professor Lucy Johnston said the news was not helpful for young women striving to perform well in order to enhance their future job opportunities.

``With repeated reports of girls outperforming boys at school and increased participation of women in all levels of tertiary education it is difficult to explain, never mind justify, this recent leap in the pay differential between men and women.

``We are repeatedly told that the pay differential, and other workplace inequalities such as female representation in senior management, will change and that it is just a matter of time as more qualified women join the workforce.

``The latest report is evidence that this is not the case, that passively waiting for change is insufficient and that active intervention is needed to address these inequalities.’’

Professor Johnston said positive discrimination and quota systems might be short-term solutions but in the longer-term a culture shift was needed.

The current outdated stereotypes of women only being suited to `women’s jobs’ and not being suited for demanding jobs, such as management, needed to be challenged and replaced, she said.

Research, including some conducted by Professor Johnston, has shown the continued existence of such stereotypes and the impact they have on recruitment and promotion processes - often without the awareness, or explicit endorsement, of the evaluators.

Women were evaluated less positively than men with identical qualifications and experience when applying for jobs typically filled by men, such as management positions. Women are more likely to be successful in such applications if they dress and talk in a more masculine way – wearing a suit rather than a dress and having a deeper voice, she said.

``Role models and encouragement are essential for young women and we must make every effort to promote and endorse successful women and we must ensure that to become successful women do not need to become `like men’.

``Diversity - in terms of sex, ethnicity, age and other factors - in the workplace enhances success and decision making; employers need to recognise this in the recruitment and retention (through pay parity and promotion) of women,’’ Professor Johnston said.

The Statistics NZ figures differed from the latest New Zealand Income Survey which last month showed the gender pay gap had reached an all-time low. The New Zealand Income Survey showed that the gender pay gap had decreased from 9.6 percent to 9.3 percent in the last financial year.

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