How can we expect to achieve gender equality for all genders, when Maori, Pacifica and Asian women are not even equal with Pakeha women?

National Council of Women President and Gender Equal NZ spokesperson Vanisa Dhiru says we cannot hope to achieve true gender equality when we are leaving some groups of women behind.

Yesterday’s Public Service Workforce Data report shows that while ethnic diversity in the public service overall is increasing, the ethnic pay gap is not, with Maori, Pacific and Asian women under-represented in the top tiers of management and over-represented in lower paid occupations.

The report shows that Pakeha women have had the largest increase in salaries in 2017 but pay gaps for Maori, Pacific and Asian women have actually worsened.

“How can we expect to achieve gender equality for all genders, when Maori, Pacifica and Asian women are not even equal with Pakeha women?” says Vanisa.

“What we know about discrimination and inequality is that it does not operate in isolation. So for these women their experiences and opportunities are affected by both sexism and racism. This creates worse outcomes for them than for other groups of women.”

It is important to recognise the effects of homophobia, transphobia and other forms of oppression too. “It’s not enough to achieve equality for Pakeha, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual women” says Vanisa.

Gender equality is a universal human right to which everyone is entitled. As well as closing the gender pay gap, true gender equality would look like:

• All genders having equal opportunity and encouragement to learn
• All genders supported, encouraged and fairly represented in leadership
• All genders having an equal standard of living
• All genders having their paid and unpaid work valued

“Too often we treat pay inequality as an individual issue and we hear things like ‘why don’t they just ask for a raise?’ Gender inequality is a society wide, structural issue – it’s about structural systems and social norms. Celebrating individual achievement is great, but it doesn’t shift these norms enough. The public sector needs to show leadership here. Some organisations are setting a good example already and we commend them on their work.”

“It is good to hear that the State Services Commission is investigating the development of practical guidance for employers around understanding and measuring workforce diversity, including for pay gaps” says Vanisa, “we need employers across all sectors to be absolutely committed to ensuring that ethnic pay gaps have the same scrutiny afforded to them as gender pay gaps – and recognise the intersection between racism and sexism.”

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