Women still behind in gender equality

SWEET BUSINESS? About 36 per cent of women in a survey have personally experienced a gender-based pay gap at work.
SWEET BUSINESS? About 36 per cent of women in a survey have personally experienced a gender-based pay gap at work.

Kiwis like to think we're ahead of the pack when it comes to gender equality in society, business and politics, but the reality is a little different.

A survey of 1000 Kiwis, to mark the recent launch of the Women of Influence awards, shows that women's perceptions more accurately reflect the current situation compared with those of men.

New Zealand is ranked sixth globally in terms of gender equality and political empowerment, according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2012, but we are 16th for gender pay equality, and only 15 per cent of our top companies have senior women leaders.

In the survey conducted by Westpac, a joint partner with Fairfax Media in the awards programme, 76 per cent of women respondents felt they had too little influence in business, while 53 per cent of men thought it was about right.

A majority of both men and women agreed that their workplace didn't have as many women senior managers as men. A majority of women also didn't think they had the same opportunities as men to be leaders, but men disagreed.

Most of the women surveyed thought New Zealand benefited from having women of influence, while men didn't see it that way.

While 81 per cent of women thought we needed more women leaders, men were divided on that. Some 7 per cent of men thought there were already too many, compared to just 1 per cent of women.

However, the men surveyed said they saw women leaders as equal or better in some ways to their male counterparts, with a more empathetic, less egotistical approach and better communication skills.

Nineteen per cent of the men saw women leaders as worse than men, citing reasons such as ruthlessness, bullying, emotions getting in the way or weakness.

The survey highlighted a number of generational, educational and personal experience gaps in the results. Younger people, those with more education and those who personally knew a woman of influence were more likely to say New Zealand needed more women leaders. It was the same for women in the peak age group of their working careers - those aged between 35 and 54.

About 36 per cent of women had personally experienced a gender-based pay gap at work, although fewer younger women - 27 per cent - had done so. About 15 per cent of men claimed to have suffered the same thing.