A Common Story

The stats are abundantly clear; we do not have gender equality. 


  • Thought Leadership
March 03, 2020 Dellwyn Stuart

Inequality is all too common and often plays out in economic disparity.  Most women have experienced it to varying degrees over their lifetime. Let’s use the example of Kirsten (she could be you, me, a friend, your mother or any woman in New Zealand).

Kirsten grew up in New Zealand. When she reaches primary school Kirsten starts to get pocket money—this is when economic inequality begins for many women. She receives $10 each week, compared to the boys in her class who receive $13.00. This pay imbalance only increases as we age.

By the time Kirsten graduates from university, despite being more qualified, she is earning less than her male colleagues. When Kirsten decides to have children, during her pregnancy she faces discrimination at work with her employer reducing her duties and not adequately accommodating her needs. After her child is born, with mounting bills to be paid and mouths to be fed, Kirsten has to return to work. She arranges to work part-time and has to give over a significant portion of her income to childcare services.

Kirsten sees an opportunity for a promotion but the job is full-time and her employer will not allow any flexibility within the role. She needs flexibility because Kirsten, like so many New Zealand women, shoulders more of the unpaid work in the home than her partner. Kirsten does the maths and works out that because childcare is too expensive, her family will actually be financially worse off if she got the promotion, even with better pay. She ends up not applying.

A few years later, Kirsten and her partner get divorced.  A reality for so many other marriages across New Zealand (7.7 marriages in 1000 end in divorce). She becomes the primary carer for her young child. Her first priority is her family’s security – she needs a rental home. Finding housing is a struggle as she is not ideal on paper – a single mother on a part-time wage.

When Kirsten’s child reaches high school age it becomes easier to pick up more hours at work. She’s now in a better financial position than before but she’s earning considerably less (9.3% less) than her male colleagues. Her situation is still precarious and there is little room for unexpected costs.

Fast forward a few years; Kirsten is now at retirement age. Despite working all her adult life in paid and unpaid capacities, due to her time out of the paid workforce raising children and managing a household, her superannuation is significantly less than that of her male colleagues.

Kirsten’s story may not be the same as yours. You may have taken different turns along the way or perhaps your story is still unfolding. Or maybe you have seen loved ones experience something similar. What is certain is that Kirsten’s story is not uncommon.

The stats are abundantly clear; we do not have gender equality. 

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