Gender Pay Equity in the Tertiary Education Sector.
In 2022, the gender pay gap is around 9% when women's median hourly pay is compared withn the median pay for men. But, when the median hourly wages for european men are compared with women of different ethnic groups, the gender pay gaps are much larger – 10.2% for european women; 14.8% for Asian women; and 19.2% for wāhine Māori and wāhine Pasifika (see Mindthegap.nz and Ministry for Women for more information)
There has been some narrowing of this gap since 2017 through landmark pay equity settlements, increases to the minimum wage, more low paid workers being paid the Living Wage, and low paid occupations in the public service winning pay increases in response to government expectations for pay equity. These wins have been actively fought for by unions – sometimes over years – and together they have contributed to lifting the average hourly rate for women.
Below is more information about what gender pay equity is and what members can collectively do to progress it.
What is pay equity?
What is pay equity?
- ‘Pay equity’ is about having the same or similar pay for different jobs where the work is of equal worth or value. If one occupation has the same challenges and required skills and educational level as another occupation, then they should be paid the same.
- Pay equity differs from ‘equal pay’. Equal pay means two people who are doing the same job are paid the same regardless of their gender (or any other demographic characteristic).
- Historically, workers in female-dominated occupations have experienced undervaluation of their skills, experience and contributions based on their gender.
- Campaigning for Gender Pay Equity is about correcting undervaluation of female-dominated workforces.
Is there pay inequity in Aotearoa New Zealand?
- In 2021 the gender pay gap was 10.8% based on average hourly earnings of men and women across all sectors (Based data from the Household Labour Force Survey; Analysis by Craig Renney, Economist for the NZCTU as at 27 September 2021).
- Research shows that women doing the same work as men, add the same value to their employers, but are paid less. A large proportion (80%) of the gender pay gap is unexplained – i.e. driven by factors that we don’t have measures for such as conscious and unconscious bias and differences in choices and behaviours between men and women (Pacheco, 2017). https://women.govt.nz/sites/public_files/Empirical%20evidence%20of%20GPG%20in%20NZ%20-%20Mar2017_0.pdf
- The gender pay gap varies for women of different ethnicities. Wāhine Pasifika women earn 27.4% less on average than Pākehā men; wāhine Māori earn 24.6% less on average than Pākehā men (Analysis by Craig Renney, Economist for the NZCTU). There is a Pasifika Pay Equity Inquiry currently being run by the Human Rights Commission, see: https://pacificpaygap.hrc.co.nz/
Is there gender pay inequity in the tertiary education sector?
We might expect that people are paid equitably when there are stepped pay scales guiding remuneration. However, evidence suggests that even in this context there is still gender and ethnicity pay inequity for women and ethnic minorities even when factors like performance, qualification and experience in the tertiary education sector are taken into account.
- Canterbury University Associate Professor Ann Brower found women in academia are paid $400,000 less over their lifetime for doing the same work as men (Brower & James, 2020) even when research performance and age were taken into account. Only 50% of the gender pay gap for academics was explained in this study. See
- Research by Drs Serena Naepi (2019) and Tara McAllister et al. (2019) has also highlighted the gender and ethnicity inequity in academic hierarchies.
- We know less about gender pay gaps for general staff in our sector however, based on research and evaluation in other related sectors we might predict pay inequity. For example, the Clerical and Administration workforce in DHBs was found to be subject to sex-based undervaluation and an interim pay rate adjustment was made to 15 role profiles of administration and clerical roles in 2020. It is likely that administrators and clerical workers in our sector have experienced similar gender inequity. Library workers are also an occupational grouping where there appears to be undervaluing. There is a current claim progressing for Library assistants employed by local government bodies.
Why is TEU looking at gender pay equity?
- Our TEU goals include "improving pay and conditions for their members" and "fostering inclusive, equitable workplaces".
- The majority, approx. 57%, of our membership are women.
- The gender pay gap impacts members in occupations as wide-ranging as academic work, library work, administration and cleaning. Thus fighting gender pay inequity sqarely aligns with TEU’s core goals.
- Our TEU whāinga emphasise our commitment to standing together and lifting up the most vulnerable. Tū Kotahi, tū kaha, awhi atu, awhi mai. We need to lift those most significantly impacted by inequity and discrimination first.
Listen to one of our fantastic members, Dr Cybele Locke, talk about the history of fighting for pay equity in Aotearoa below:
What is TEU doing to progress gender pay equity?
TEU members have begun mahi to progress gender pay equity for some of the lowest paid female-dominated workforces across the sector. The different parts of the Tertiary Education Sector require different approaches and significant opportunities are before us in two parts of our sector.
Pay equity in Te Pūkenga Structures & Processes
Within the vocational and skills education sector we are working hard to ensure equity for staff and students is prioritised in the development of the Te Pūkenga operating model and built into the organisational structures and processes. We have submitted an equity briefing to the senior leadership team and the National Women's Committee have met with Te Pūkenga equity team to outline our expectations for staff equity. As an important first step in progressing equity, TEU is advocating for pay parity for all workers across the network within the negotiation of the collective agreements. Once this is achieved there will be more mahi to do to progress gender and ethnicity equity.
Pay equity in Universities: Libraries and Clerical & Administration
We have learnt from other unions that it may take time and lots of collective effort, but it is possible to tangibly make a difference in women’s lives through gender pay equity claims. In 2020, amendments to the Equal Pay Act were designed to support individuals, unions and employers in raising and settling claims.
In September 2022 we raised two claims for some of the lowest paid, female-dominated occupational areas, in libraries and in clerical and administration roles across our eight universities.
Six actions you can take right now
Initiate conversation about 'gender pay equity' with a colleague, friend, work team.
Read about the Gender Pay Equity claims TEU has raised for low paid workers in university libraries and clerical administration.
Hold a gender pay equity lunchtime/ morning tea.
Invite a speaker to your Suffrage day or International Working Women's Day events to talk about pay equity.
Go talk to general and allied workers on your campus. Tell them about TEU's work and ask if they want to be part of a union that stands for pay equity.
Sign up for becoming an active part of the gender pay equity claims campaign in your university or contact the National Women's Officer to get involved with advocating for equity in Te Pūkenga.