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The Green Party's Metiria Turei on fixing New Zealand's gender pay gap

It’s the gap that just won’t close, and Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has a plan for how women can achieve equality in their salaries.

Hi, I’m Metiria, and I’d like to know how much you get paid. I know it might seem a little forward, but I really want to know. In fact, I’d like all of us to know how much each of us is getting paid – and then I want all women to get paid the same as men for doing the same work.
Talking about how much we earn is one of those taboo subjects – some people find it uncomfortable. I get that, but the truth is, if we don’t have pay transparency, we’re never going to have equal pay. And equal pay is what we really want, right?
Pay equality is an issue that won’t go away. We’ve all heard the statistics: in New Zealand, women earn 12 per cent less in hourly earnings than men; by the same measure, for every dollar a European man earns, a Māori woman earns just 78 cents. I think that’s shameful.
Too often the gender pay gap is explained away with poor excuses. You may have heard some of them yourself: “Women choose to work in low-paid positions” or “It’s because women take time out to have children” or, my personal favourite, “Women don’t know how to negotiate salaries or pay rises.”
Call me radical, but it’s 2017 and I don’t think women should have to beg to be treated the same as the guys. The gender pay gap exists because of discrimination, pure and simple. So what can we do about this problem?
Well, some people believe employers should just make sure women are paid the same amount as men. Unfortunately, we’ve had that same hands-off approach for years, including from government, and it clearly isn’t working.
I’d argue pay transparency is the first step in achieving the equality we want. Last year, the State Services Commission published figures revealing a staggering gap between the average salaries paid to women and men in the same public sector agency or department – up to 39 per cent in some cases.
There was no naming and shaming of individuals but the act of making it public was enough to make a small dent in that particular sector. If I was one of those women who worked in one of those roles, I’d be pretty peeved, but I’d also be arming myself with that information for my next pay review.
The Green Party wants to see pay transparency across the board. We think all employers should keep pay data on hand, so employees can ask for it should they want to. That way, you’ll know what you’re really worth, and you’ll be able to fight to get what you’re worth.
We can fix the gender pay gap in New Zealand, and it starts with greater transparency.

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