Work equality eludes women say advocates

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 09:00 08/03/2014

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New Zealand women have much to celebrate on International Women's Day today, but they have yet to achieve equality in the workplace, women's advocates say.

"In New Zealand we can celebrate that legally we have equal rights in every aspect, which is a very important advance," National Council of Women Manawatu branch president Helen Chong said yesterday.

However, there were still areas of society where that did not translate into practical reality.

"The gender wage gap is quite big," she said. "I think it takes women up to the middle of February of the following year to equal the wage of men in the 12 months of the year, so there is an increasing feminisation of poverty in New Zealand. That is an issue that women are very aware of."

Zonta Club Manawatu branch president Nicola Schreurs said most of society would like to think men and women were treated equally, but "there's an underlying current that means that women aren't progressed as much as men possibly are".

There were not enough women going into top leadership roles, such as chief executive or other "big decision-making roles", she said.

Grant Thornton International Business Report figures, published to mark International Women's Day, showed that the proportion of senior roles filled by women had remained static at 31 per cent in the past 10 years, said Grant Thornton New Zealand partner Stacey Davies.

This was against a global average that rose from 19 per cent to 24 per cent.

New Zealand had fallen to 15th in the world from fourth place among countries surveyed in 2004.

Jackie Blue, women's rights commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, said women were "still under-represented at the board tables of power in our country" despite more women than men attending university.

Ms Davies said women in New Zealand were more educated than they had ever been, but the numbers in senior management were static at best and starting to be overtaken by the rest of the world. In 2010, 59 per cent of all tertiary graduates were women, holding 64 per cent of bachelor degrees.

"The way forward is difficult," Dr Schreurs said. "Obviously most women will want to have family as well as career. Maybe men get to focus on their career and let the family run parallel, whereas with women the family and career overlap.

"Because it's not running in parallel, there are often compromises made. I think if there was some way that women didn't have to compromise and there was some level of recognition where women shouldn't have to compromise, that would be the ideal."

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- Manawatu Standard

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