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
WHEN IT CAME TO MAORI WOMEN THE GAP IS 22%, AND 26% FOR PACIFIC WOMEN
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.