Why race needs to be part of the pay gap con­ver­sa­tion

The pay gap makes for some un­com­fort­able sta­tis­tics. But, as The Hits pre­sen­ter Stacey Mor­ri­son points out, it’s even worse for Ma¯ori and Pa­cific women

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Talk­ing about the gen­der pay gap, and work­ing to rec­tify it, is go­ing to bring up some un­com­fort­able feel­ings. But it’s time to have these con­ver­sa­tions – and feel the dis­com­fort. It’s par­tic­u­larly un­com­fort­able to note the larger pay dis­par­ity that dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties ex­pe­ri­ence. On top of our dis­com­fort on gen­der bias, we’re go­ing to delve into racial bias? We’re re­ally go­ing there? Hold on tight – yes we are.

The Motu Eco­nomic and Pub­lic Pol­icy study of 2016 con­firmed that women in New Zealand are get­ting paid 16% less than men for do­ing the same jobs, but when it comes to Ma¯ori women the pay gap is 22%, and 26% for Pa­cific women.

Why would it be that women of Ma¯ori or Pa­cific Is­land de­scent are paid so much less, not only than men, but than their fe­male coun­ter­parts who iden­tify as NZ Pa¯keha¯/Euro­pean? I think the bot­tom line is be­cause em­ploy­ers can get away with it, so they do. If they can save money by pay­ing some­one less, they will.

But why do Ma¯ori and Pa­cific women put up with it? We are bat­tle-weary, and there are cul­tural and sys­temic forces at play that are some­times sub­tle, some­times overt, but ul­ti­mately make us doubt our worth. If we doubt our­selves, we per­haps don’t even truly be­lieve we de­serve more.

Many of us were told through our school lives to ex­pect a lit­tle less, to aim a lit­tle lower. The way those mes­sages were given were some­times framed as com­pli­ments ‘You’re ac­tu­ally quite bright’ or, when we step out­side of our ex­pected range, ‘Are you sup­posed to be in this class? This is physics’. These are ex­am­ples of an un­com­fort­able truth of the bias that ex­ists in our school­ing and our work­places.

To me, di­ver­sity in lead­er­ship teams, seed­ing streams to sup­port women – Ma¯ori and Pa­cific in­cluded – into lead­er­ship will help ad­dress a nat­u­ral in­cli­na­tion bosses have to value peo­ple who they feel an affin­ity to, and sim­i­lar­ity with.

I work in me­dia, and pay is talked about in a strange way. There are al­ways ru­mours of what peo­ple get paid; it’s com­pet­i­tive.

I was very glad to hear from a woman in me­dia who wanted to know if I thought the pay she was be­ing of­fered was enough for her role and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties – it wasn’t. I was chuffed she trusted me enough to ask for ad­vice, and that I could share what I know of the in­dus­try to urge her to go for more. As women we can sup­port each other just by be­ing will­ing to share in­dus­try knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence.

An­other friend knew she was paid a lot less than men she worked with, yet she was car­ry­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties they didn’t. We got her a meet­ing with an in­flu­en­tial player the bosses needed to im­press, and just like that – she got a pay rise.

An en­ter­tain­ment agent once told me they had been shocked to no­tice that Ma¯ori and Pa­cific per­form­ers are of­fered dras­ti­cally less than oth­ers. They tried to fig­ure out why that could be – some peo­ple may ar­gue it’s about ‘main­stream ap­peal’, but as Taika Waititi and Rose Matafeo prove, it’s not as if a wide range of peo­ple can’t en­joy Ma¯ori and Pa­cific per­form­ers.

The un­com­fort­able truth is that al­though there will be in­di­vid­ual break­throughs – and we must cel­e­brate those – we need col­lec­tive change to prop­erly ad­dress the gaps.

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