Julie Anne Genter: The gender pay gap is 'unacceptable'

by Julie Anne Genter / 08 March, 2018

Julie Anne Genter: "The Equal Pay Act is due for an overhaul."

This International Women's Day, Women's Minister (and mum-to-be) Julie Anne Genter says it's time the Equal Pay Act was overhauled and women are fairly paid.

Women are taking the new government by storm. To have both the Prime Minister and Minister for Women having babies this year is going to force change. Our system of government will adapt to this new reality, and the country is getting the message that having babies does not preclude you from a robust professional life.

Almost every parent I have heard from has warned me of the immense challenges I face, but I am (bravely or naively?) looking forward to the adventure my partner Peter and I will have with our new baby.

This International Women’s Day, the challenges remain for women in work to try to have it all. Back in 1908 unionised female garment workers went on strike in New York to end 65 or 75-hour working weeks for a pittance. Today, the challenges to be paid fairly remain. As Minister for Women, my top priority is addressing the gender pay gap.

Any pay gap is unacceptable – and not reflective of who we are as New Zealanders. Currently the gender pay gap is 9.4 per cent, and far worse for Māori and Pasifika women. We must do better. Despite the Equal Pay Act being passed almost 50 years ago, New Zealand has a long way to go to ensure that women are treated and paid fairly.

Last month, Kristine Bartlett was named New Zealander of the Year following her victory bringing a court case against her employer. Kristine had filed the case claiming that she and her aged care colleagues were underpaid because they were women and doing undervalued “women’s work”. The Supreme Court agreed, resulting in a government settlement of $2.2 billion for care workers. Importantly, this decision paves the way for all women who have been undervalued, because they work in female-dominated industries, to seek redress. I look forward to supporting them through legislation change.

The Equal Pay Act is due for an overhaul and the Government is currently considering the best approach to ensure that women are fairly paid. In the confidence and supply agreement the Green Party have signed with the Labour-led government, we are committed to addressing the gender pay gap within the core public sector within this Parliamentary term. We are prioritising this because the government has a responsibility to led by example. I have also been out hearing from businesses about what they have done to address the gender pay gap.

It’s not all about money. The culture of a workplace has a significant impact on women. Having flexible workplaces that are family friendly is better. Having babies in Parliament ensures my workplace is genuinely representative. I do note that no one asks male MPs and Ministers with young children how they manage it all.

The #metoo movement continues to elevate women’s voices and insist on change. Women have the right to be treated with respect. We have been kept silent for far too long, and #timesup. It is long overdue that we addressed sexual harassment in the workplace.

I am looking forward to this year and the many challenges ahead of me. I am committed to improving the lives of women and girls in Aotearoa. I know our country can continue to lead the way.





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