Speech for the YWCA Equal Pay Awards

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi kia koutou.

Thank you, Sarah, for your warm welcome and for inviting me to join you in honouring this year’s YWCA Equal Pay Award winners.

I would like to acknowledge Monica Briggs and Susan Doughty from YWCA Auckland; and the award sponsors AUT, Coca-Cola Amatil NZ; and SkyCity Entertainment Group.

To the business leaders and your colleagues represented here tonight, congratulations on being award finalists.

I am delighted to be here as Minister for Women. What a way to start my portfolio – being amongst such amazing individuals and organisations absolutely committed to making a difference for women in Aotearoa New Zealand.

I am so proud to see such a variety of organisations represented – large and small – and organisations from the private sector, public and community sectors. Your leadership makes a very real difference in your communities, as well as to women who now know that they are paid more fairly.

My role as Minister for Women is to improve the lives of women and girls and advocate for their interests and aspirations. I am delighted to be in the role, and have hit the ground running with a whirlwind of meetings and media appearances as the new Minister for Women.

I will be working with my colleagues across Government to ensure that all our policies reflect the views and needs of New Zealand women and girls.

My priorities include: pay equity, pay transparency and closing the gender pay gap, and increasing the numbers of women in private sector leadership.

My own background is that I was a transport planner before I was an MP. One day at work I learnt that one of my male colleagues in a similar role was being paid more than me. This didn’t add up for me - I knew I brought in more work, I knew that I outperformed him on all metrics, and yet I still wasn’t being paid fairly.

Fair pay for women is a very important issue for me. Although the gender pay gap has lowered to 9.4 percent overall in the past year – any pay gap is concerning. Any pay gap means that women are not getting a fair deal. The consequences of women being underpaid are massive. Not only do women earn less each year, but it adds up over a lifetime.

Although Kiwisaver is still recently new, the balances of female members for Kiwisaver are 19 percent lower than for males. According to the ANZ, women are likely to retire with almost $80,000 less in their Kiwisaver accounts than men.

We have to change this.

I hope that together more New Zealand organisations will be proactive about closing their gender pay gaps. I imagine if every employer applied the lessons that everyone in this room has demonstrated in their efforts to close the gender pay gap.

By closing your gender pay gaps, not only do you benefit women you employ, but you give all staff a fair go, and generate more productive, inclusive working environments.

Taking these steps will also help you attract and retain talented employees.

I have said one of my first priorities is addressing the gender pay gap in the public sector. 

To achieve this, I will work with the Minister for State Services and the State Services Commissioner to lead change in the core public service. We can do better. Women have waited long enough.  Government should be leading by example.

I am interested in the way pay transparency can be used to address the gender pay gap. It is early days but I am looking at what is working overseas. The secrecy around what people are getting paid at work has not served us.

I am concerned about women on lower incomes, working part-time or in multiple jobs. That’s why I support increasing the minimum wage. There are 350,000 women in New Zealand Aotearoa who are in precarious work.

The Government is working to increase women’s participation in high-demand jobs and to address pay equity.

I am especially committed to ensuring everyone gets a fair go – Māori, Pasifika, women of colour,  Asian women, migrant and refugee women, young and older women, women with disabilities, trans-women and everyone working in women-dominated occupations that have been undervalued simply on the basis of gender.

The Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles created recommendations from a tripartite process involving government, unions, and employer representatives. Giving effect to the Joint Working Group recommendations is a key step towards achieving pay equity.

This government has announced that we will halt progress on the Employment (Equal Pay and Pay Equity) Bill. We are looking at ways to ensure that legislation adheres to all the principles of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity.

This Government commits to valuing women in the workplace and valuing vocations that have traditionally been women’s work: the work that provides for others, cares for people who need care – the work that for too long has been mostly around minimum wage standards.

It is my third week as Minister for Women. We have lot to do to make significant progress for women and workplaces in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

Let’s recognise that we also can’t do it by ourselves. Coming together tonight and celebrating successes is how we can increase our collective efforts.

Tonight I congratulate all of you here for your commitment to closing the gender pay gap and championing this cause. You are true leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand for this commitment.

I wish you all the best on continuing the good work you are doing.

Kia ora koutou