Hidden factors fuelling the 12 per cent gender pay gap

08 Mar, 2017
Professor Gail Pacheco

Women are lagging men in the pay stakes but it’s more likely to be down to hidden biases than a lack of skills for the job, according to AUT research.

The research, undertaken by Gail Pacheco, Professor in the School of Economics at AUT, and Director of the NZ Work Research Institute for the Ministry for Women, shows traditional factors only account for about 20 per cent of the gap. The rest is “unexplained”, which is likely to be perception about behaviour, attitudes, and assumptions about women in work, including bias – both conscious and unconscious.

Women’s Minister Paula Bennett expressed disappointment at the findings of new research which shows bias and perceptions about women in the workplace are what’s driving the Gender Pay Gap.

“The Gender Pay Gap has remained static for a decade now at around 12 per cent. This new research shows that the traditional reasons for women lagging behind, including the types of work they carry out, family responsibilities, education and age are not the main reasons,” Mrs Bennett says.

Over the past decade women have become more educated. Fewer girls than boys leave school without a qualification, they achieve higher in NCEA and 60 per cent of tertiary graduates are women. New Zealand is consistently one of the highest in the OECD for women’s participation in paid work, and more women are working in fields which have previously been dominated by men.

“I engage with businesses all the time and I know employers don’t set out to create a pay gap. They want to treat staff fairly. It would be great to see employers to look at doing a gender pay audit. I’d also encourage them to look at whether women are being promoted into positions they deserve, implementing solutions including rigorous recruitment processes, and clear career progression criteria.”