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July 24, 2020

Addressing New Zealand’s ethnic pay gap

Source: Information Age

 

2020 has been a year of change, both for better and for worse. While economic and health impacts of COVID-19 have been at the forefront of news and media, the pandemic also exposed a long-standing issue that spans both history and geography – inequality.  

 

A few weeks ago, I attended a virtual event hosted by our client, Global Women. The roundtable discussion, Closing the Ethnic Pay Gap, addressed the intersection between gender, ethnicity and pay, and how New Zealand can turn the impacts of COVID-19 into a more positive and equal future for ethnic minorities.

 

Being from the United States, I found this event to be hugely relevant, informative and insightful. In the wake of the US-born Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, it is apparent the pressures of the pandemic are bringing inequality to a head on a global scale.

 

Here in New Zealand, while the cultural makeup may be different, the fundamental issue of inequality remains the same.

 

During the event, Lisa Lawrence (President, National Council of Women NZ), Judy Matai’a (Chief Executive, Anglican Trust for Women and Children) and Fezeela Raza (Principal Advisor Diversity & Inclusion, Auckland Council) discussed how we, as individuals and organisations, can work to close the gender and ethnic pay gap.

 

Here are some of the key takeaways and tips to open up the conversation and demand change in a post-pandemic world:

 

What’s measured counts. Organisations need to pull back the curtains on wage inequality and analyse pay gaps at the intersection of both gender and ethnicity, not one or the other. The best way of doing this? Using data and analysis.

 

Each year, Auckland Council carries out a gender pay gap analysis and uses its figures to implement D&I (diversity and inclusion) strategies for a more diverse and inclusive organisation. This year, according to Fezeela Raza, the Council took an intersectional approach overlaying ethnicity with gender. The results found a clear hierarchy – within the organisation, over 8% of senior leaders are European. Only 4% of senior leader applicants are Maori or Pasifika, despite them representing 25% of Auckland’s working population.

 

At the senior level, representation of gender and ethnic diversity is imperative. Organisations need to set targets and benchmarks to hold themselves accountable for inclusivity, and the only way this can be measured is through data and analysis.

 

Everyone needs to be accountable. The impetus cannot fall on D&I teams alone – individuals need strong mentors and organisations need strong leaders.

 

Chief Executive Judy Matai’a shared the importance that women in power need to place on diversity and equality in the workplace, from the bottom up. “As a CEO, I have a platform to bring attention to these issues. I place high value on having strong mentorships programmes that open doors and identifies boundaries. These might sound like easy steps, but most organisations still haven’t achieved this.”

 

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Inequality is not an easy subject to address. It leaves individuals feeling uncomfortable and organisations lacking initiative. Against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the BLM movement, it is imperative we have confronting conversations to change the status quo.

 

During the discussion, Lisa Lawrence noted a sense of complacency that reverberates across New Zealand culture, lending to social and political apathy. “We are in the 21st century and this is unacceptable; this should be last centuries vintage history. It is time for New Zealand to get uncomfortable and to eliminate individual and political apathy and start having open and honest conversations.”

 

To find out more about Global Women and its initiatives, visit https://www.globalwomen.org.nz

 

#opinion

 

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