Focus on gender pay gap

18:54, Feb 25 2013

Equal Pay Day last Thursday might have passed unnoticed but for media releases from organisations such as the Federation of Business and Professional Women. The day marks the number of extra days that women would have to work from January 1 to earn as much as men did in the previous year. It fell three days later this year than last year.

The FBPW statement included official statistics showing the average hourly wage for women is $25.12 while for men it is $29.09. Federation president Carolyn Savage expressed disappointment.

Her organisation is unlikely to have been mollified by the World Economic Forum's most recent annual Global Gender Gap Report, which ranked New Zealand sixth in the world for closing the gender gap on several key measures. But for economic participation and opportunity we ranked 11th. Almost all countries had made progress in closing the gap between men and women in healthcare and education, but only 60 per cent of countries narrowed the economic gender gap.

Labour MP Sue Moroney used Equal Pay Day to chide Women's Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew, who told a parliamentary select committee the correlation between gender and low occupational status was "debatable". The gap would close (Ms Goodhew said) if women did jobs that men had traditionally done.

The gender gap in wages, more to the point, is not necessarily a consequence of discrimination. The different life and career choices by men and women need considering.

More encouraging for women, research from Barclays Wealth & Investment Management in the UK shows the gender pay gap among entrepreneurs is not just diminished. It is reversed. High-net-worth female entrepreneurs earn 14 per cent more than their male peers. The researchers said women may be better rewarded in a more entrepreneurial environment, which is more market-driven, than within a more traditional job role in which pay must be negotiated.

Whatever the reason, the result reinforces the case against Equal Pay Day expressed by a Forbes magazine writer (a woman). Women should not be aspiring to earn as much as men, she challenged. They should aspire to earn more.