Researchers have shown it is still necessary to prove there is a gender pay gap, and that closing that gap may be an even bigger hurdle.
University of Waikato’s Suzette Dyer and Fiona Hurd from AUT have been working together on the project, which examined the attitudes and beliefs of Human Resource Management students, most of whom were women.
The research subjects were future Human Resource leaders, who may well be tasked with making crucial decisions on people’s pay and employment one day, as well as influencing the kinds of policies promoted across organisations. The first part of the students’ paper was to explore unequal gendered outcomes, the second was looking at the interventions designed to address those. The researchers found it was possible for students to be taught to understand there was systemic inequality, but they often baulked at the idea they (or anyone else) could do anything about it.
Dr Dyer says a hundred year history of unequal pay didn’t mean students actually understood it already. “What is positive is that they got systemic discrimination. For them to begin to come to see in a non-confrontational space that these things are real. When they leave and experience it themselves, then at least they’ve got a toolkit to deal with it.”
The next challenge is to get students to think about making change, or taking action. Dr Dyer says for some the problem is just too big. “They didn’t feel they could do anything. Others perceived that some ways of changing things were actually discrimination against men.”
Dr Hurd says their research shows why it is so important to teach HR students about inequality. “It reinforces that unequal outcomes are an ongoing concern in the contemporary workplace and that as educators we need to look further at how we teach people to change that dynamic.”