Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue has had a busy few months ensuring that workplace equality is a top-of-mind issue for all New Zealand workplaces.
When Mark Richardson on TV3’s AM show suggested all employers should be able to ask female potential employees if they plan on having children, the backlash was swift and resounding. As Dr Blue stated in an opinion piece for The Spinoff, “it’s none of their bloody business.”
Dr Blue says providing comments on issues like these not only ensure we are educating people around what can and can’t be asked in an interview process, but also highlights the problems that many women face in the workplace.
“Being a woman in the workforce is hard enough, let alone being asked when or if you plan on pro-creating. These sorts of situations are not just a reminder that women get asked this sort of stuff, but also that being a working parent can be made harder if your employer isn’t flexible.
“There has been so much research done that not only confirms the huge financial motherhood penalty faced by women in the workforce, but also confirms that once women take time out of the workforce it is incredibly difficult to make-up any ground lost while taking time out to have children.
“We need to change that If we are ever to see the gender pay gap close and more women in senior leadership positions and board director roles in New Zealand,” Dr Blue says.
Dr Blue continues to push for greater pay transparency in New Zealand’s largest organisations, by suggesting legislation is developed that would see companies with over 250 staff publish their gender pay gap data.
While there is not yet legislation, positive moves have been made by the Ministry for Women recently to push for greater pay transparency and to close the gender pay gap through the release of guidelines for employers.
The guidelines were released in July and encourage organisations to take responsibility for driving change; make plans and ensure their objectives are measurable; ensure they are aware of unconscious bias and are working to address it, and maximise female talent
“By regularly reviewing internal processes around recruitment and promotion, publishing and understanding their gender pay gap data, and providing more flexibility to their staff, employers will be in a much stronger position to eliminate the gap,” Dr Blue says.
“It’s important that we continue to keep the pressure on employers to actively tackle the things that contribute to the gender pay gap. That being said, there are organisations in New Zealand that are making real progress in this space.
“At the White Camellia Awards recently, organisations such as law firm Simpson Grierson and The Warehouse, were recognised for their efforts to support gender equality in the workplace. These organisations have set a clear example to others about how we need to be approaching gender equality in New Zealand.”