Urgent and deliberate action needed to combat biases that contribute to the gender pay gap

Urgent and deliberate action needed to combat biases that contribute to the gender pay gap

March 7, 2017

The Human Rights Commission says the need for urgent and deliberate action to combat biases in the workplace is now crystal clear, following the release of research into the ‘unexplainable’ causes of New Zealand’s gender pay gap.

The research report, Empirical evidence of the gender pay gap in New Zealand, carried out for the Ministry for Women, is the first comprehensive research of the factors behind the national gender pay gap since 2003.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue says, the research confirms that 80 percent of the gender pay gap is in fact due to both conscious and unconscious bias and that, while the results are even worse than suspected, it means that what needs to be done now is very obvious.

“Negative biases and stereotypes are continuing to negatively impact the recruitment, pay and promotion of women in the New Zealand workforce and that’s unacceptable. We need urgent, deliberate, and affirmative actions at all levels, to combat the issues they face.

“Actions taken to address these biases should include:

  • unconscious bias training for key personnel involved with the hiring, professional development and promotion of employees in organisations,
  • continuous feedback checks implemented and carried out to ensure critical employment and promotion decisions are made impartially and without bias,
  • regular publishing of gender pay gap data to identify, isolate and eliminate causes of the gap.

“Gender blind recruitment practices and transparent promotion pathways should become so deliberate in practice that they are part of an organisation’s DNA,” Dr Blue says.

“By regularly reviewing internal processes around recruitment and promotion, and publishing and understanding their gender pay gap data, employers will be in a much stronger position to eliminate the gap,” Dr Blue says. 

Dr Blue also says that while the roll out of the new pay equity principles across the labour market will partly address the gap by revaluing traditionally lower paid, female dominant occupations, employers also have a responsibility to their employees to ensure they are fairly treated and paid.

“Employers, regardless of Government legislation, should carry out regular audits to ensure their workers were being paid fairly and any pay differentials are promptly addressed.

“Good employers know that by ensuring that their workers are treated fairly at every stage of the employment process, they will have a more settled and productive workforce and become the employer of choice.”

Human Rights Commission

The Commission works for a free, fair, safe and just New Zealand, where diversity is valued and human dignity and rights are respected.