From a young women's perspective: Part 3
Mind the Gap: Irihapeti
Mindthegap NZ will launch a public pay gap registry in March 2022. Nearly 50 years on from the Equal Pay Act, three wahine say it’s time for change.
Part 3: Irihapeti Edwards works in finance and international relations, one of the youngest people ever employed by Deloitte (aged 18).
It’s 2021, and the systems that govern our society actively strive towards equitable outcomes. All families in New Zealand have enough to eat, stress-related illnesses are at an all-time low, and gender discrimination in the workplace is non-existent. Oh, and there’s flying cars.
Perhaps these were the initial hopes in 1972 when the Equal Pay Act was established to ensure fairness between men and women working in professions that require the same (or substantially similar) level of skill, effort or responsibilities. Despite this, pay gaps still persist 49 years later, perpetuating outcomes that have a disproportionately negative impact on women, the disabled, Māori and Pasifika, and other minority groups.
As a young, indigenous Māori woman, I belong to at least two of these groups. My childhood of growing up in a low-income household, surrounded by overt wealth disparities from a young age, felt like a far cry from the corporate workplace I would enter at 18. I was both intimidated and exhilarated. Now, aged 22, faced with the knowledge that these pay gaps still exist nearly 50 years on from the establishment of the Equal Pay Act, I just feel intimidated.
"Conversations around wage gaps and financial inequality offer a lifeline to those who suffer from the silence of this indifference"
Wage gaps directly inflict insidious impacts on the lives of people who belong to these groups and their families. Less income than one is entitled to can also be directly correlated to lower quality of life, stress from financial concerns, inability to meet financial obligations and a decline in one’s health. In my opinion, New Zealand’s existing wage gaps are nestled somewhere between indifference and authorisation. Here’s why.
Conversations around wage gaps and financial inequality offer a lifeline to those who suffer from the silence of this indifference. Organisations like MindTheGap NZ have taken the initiative to dismantle this indifference, and created a Public Pay Gap Registry, an effort they hope will encourage organisations to report and correct pay discrepancies in the workplace.
MindTheGap believes that the Equal Pay Act alone has not and will not be effective in addressing these issues, and that we desperately need new legislation. Mandatory pay reporting is not a new concept, and already reinforced by the likes of Australia and the United Kingdom. Mandatory pay reporting creates a climate of transparency, and the data collected allows organisations to create actionable steps towards tangible solutions.
The measure of any great nation can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable. For this reason, I urge the government to follow in the footsteps of organisations like MindTheGap NZ, and explore more ways to reduce existing wage gaps, including by incorporating mandatory pay reporting into legislation.
‘Nations can be measured by how they treat their vulnerable’
In 2072, 100 years on from the Equal Pay Act being codified into law, it is likely that we still will not have our flying cars. However, the actions we take now could see more women in higher paid jobs, more diverse representation in executive positions, dramatically reduced wealth inequality, and legislation that got it right. Our social attitude towards wage injustice can shift from indifference to action, and set clear precedence for the future to come.
This story was originally published on Stuff on November 7th 2021. Click here to see the original.
The Mind the Gap campaign
We want an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone is paid fairly for their work; where pay discrimination based on ethnicity, gender or ability no longer exists.