At the beginning of 2021, the TEU Council endorsed a gender equity vision and strategy, developed by the National Women’s Committee. One of the key objectives of the strategy is to achieve the fair and appropriate valuing of women’s work in our sector.

In 2020, comparing pay for all women against all men, the pay gap was around 10%. Moreover, when compared with pākehā men, the gender pay gap is much larger – about 14% – because Pasifika, Māori, and Asian men get paid less than pākehā men. Critically, the gap continues to be much more significant for women of some ethnicities.

Pasifika women are the lowest paid group by ethnicity and gender. Studies have shown that the higher the proportion of women, or of an ethnic minority, employed in an industry, an occupation, a firm, or even a work team, the lower the average pay.

The somewhat good news is these gaps have been closing since 2017. But this has not occurred by accident. It has been the result of some 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 were actively fought for by unions – sometimes over years – and together they have contributed to lifting the average hourly rate for women.

There is ever increasing evidence that women in academia are disproportionately at lower levels of the academic hierarchy and over the course of their lifetimes are paid somewhere in the range of $400,000 less, on average, than their male colleagues. Recent research has highlighted how the inequity is far more pronounced for wāhine Māori and wāhine Pasifika.

But it gets worse. We know that general staff occupations, which have had a longer history of female dominance, are consistently paid lower than comparable roles traditionally filled by men.

As a result of this, TEU is starting work to progress gender pay equity for some of our lowest paid female dominated workforces. Recent amendments to the Equal Pay Act are designed to support progress in this area. Other unions have shown us 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 equity claims.

In particular, campaign leaders from The New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa met with TEU activists and staff for a Suffrage Day cocktail hour last Friday to share their considerable experience regarding how their members won pay equity for teacher aides and their ongoing campaign to do the same for their library, admin, and clerical members.

If you want to know more or join the campaign planning team, please contact Sarah Proctor-Thomson or Irena Brörens.