Make companies' gender pay gap public - Commissioner

Dr Jackie Blue (Facebook)
Dr Jackie Blue (Facebook)

Women's pay and their presence in the workplace hierarchy aren't progressing quickly enough, says Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue.

So she's now calling for a law forcing major New Zealand companies to declare their gender pay gap.

Dr Blue says she would like to see New Zealand adopt a new UK law which applies to every company with more than 250 employees.

"They tried the voluntary approach, didn't work, so they're bringing in legislation. There's going to be a penalty if they don't comply of about £5000. It's still too low," she told the Nation.

"But just across in Australia, they've been doing that since 2012 for companies over 100, so this is not like a weird idea."

In 2009 an Australian Act established the Pay Equity Unit, which conducts compulsory pay equity audits for companies with 100 companies or more.

"Most of the workforce is employed by the bigger companies, and if you really want to get that value and influence and obviously get the most improved benefit, you want to target the big businesses first."

Make companies' gender pay gap public - Commissioner

Dr Blue, a former National Party MP, said she'd like to see New Zealand follow Australia and eventually bring the threshold down to apply to companies of 100 staff or more.

While she doesn't want to use "the 'Q' word"  - quota - she says there should be an example set by the Government for women's representation.

"I want to challenge all political leaders next year in the lead-up to the election that if they form part of Government, they need to commit to a gender-balanced Cabinet.

"If anything, the Cabinet is the ultimate board in New Zealand, and if women on boards is now being accepted as good for business, it bloody is going to be good for New Zealand.

"So I don't want to hear these sort of measly, 'Oh, we appoint on merit.'"

Make companies' gender pay gap public - Commissioner

Also on The Nation, Greens MP Jan Logie agreed, saying: "I challenge anyone to say that the women in our caucus contribute less than men, and I would also look at National and the fact that they're struggling to get 25 percent of women in their caucus…"

"And the picture in the paper after the last three elections has been John Key and his key advisors - a room full of old white men."

"I think we have to have that debate," Dr Blue said. "I mean, we’ve asked nicely, we’ve implored, we’ve pleaded. Not much is happening. 

"Women's representation in Parliament has actually gone static, and I go back to the point of women in the current Cabinet - 35 percent. That's seven out of 20. 

"John Key just has to bring three more women in and he's got a gender-balanced Cabinet. That's not too hard."