Genter on gender pay gap and sexual harassment

One of the aims of new Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter is to close the gender pay gap.

“Well, the gender pay gap still exists, and it’s particularly bad for women of colour – Maori and Pacific women, it’s incredibly high. It’s over 20%. For women on average, it’s close to 10%. We were making progress, and for the last decade, it’s stagnated. And I think there’s a real opportunity with a new government to take a much more effective approach.”

She also hopes the US Weinstein scandal will encourage more victims of sexual harassment in New Zealand to speak out.

‘I certainly hope so, and the ‘me too’ hashtag was used in New Zealand. I think many people would have been very surprised and saddened to see just how common it is for women – and people.’

Interview transcript from Q + A:

JULIE ANNE GENTER
Interviewed by Jessica Mutch

JESSICA Julie Anne Genter joins me now. She is the new minister for women. Congratulations on your new role.

JULIE ANNE Thank you.

JESSICA I want to start off asking you ¬– you label yourself as a feminist. What does that mean to you?

JULIE ANNE To me, it just means that women are equal to men and should be treated as such. Historically, we’ve had a whole lot of unconscious bias at play, which has created invisible barriers for women, and particularly women of colour, and so we need to, as a society, recognise that’s been the case and have systems and policies in place to correct that.

JESSICA I want to talk to you first about sexual harassment. There’s been a lot of attention on this globally with Harvey Weinstein and this hashtag ‘me too’. Do you think that will encourage women to come forward globally and also perhaps in New Zealand as well?

JULIE ANNE I certainly hope so, and the ‘me too’ hashtag was used in New Zealand. I think many people would have been very surprised and saddened to see just how common it is for women – and people. It wasn’t just women to experience some form of sexual harassment or violence, and talking about it is probably the first step to us really starting to address it. The Harvey Weinstein case in the United States has been really interesting and unprecedented in that, I think, it’s gotten more traction because the women who were his victims have power in their own right. They’re celebrities. And so the fact they’ve come forward with that has gotten more attention, and I think we need to recognise that sexual harassment is really about power, not sex, and that many women will not, have not been, in a position where they’ve been able to speak openly about it, particularly if the person who is their harasser has power over them in the workplace.

JESSICA Do you think it is a problem in New Zealand as well, and if so, why are more people not coming forward?

JULIE ANNE Absolutely, it will have been a problem in New Zealand, and you could see that even in Parliament a few years ago. Some of my colleagues very bravely spoke out about being victims of sexual violence, and I was even shocked at how widespread it was for women in parliament. And I think the reason that it hasn’t been addressed is because of this power issue, where so often women in more vulnerable situations, if they do bring their complaint, they might be treated with suspicious or they might not be believed, and so what we need to do is ensure that there are clear policies and safe pathways for women and any person experiencing sexual harassment to make a complaint, to address the situation, and, you know, under our legislation in New Zealand, employers have an obligation to ensure that their employees and their customers are free from sexual harassment, and we have two different pathways for making a complaint – one under the employment relations act, one under the human rights act. And the Human Rights Commission in particular is a great place to go and ask for advice, if anyone out there is experiencing sexual harassment and wants to find out what their options are for making a complaint.

JESSICA Because the British prime minister, Theresa May, recently has come out and said, ‘Look, in Parliament, we need to have a set of guidelines,’ because of all of the scandals that have come out there. Do we need to have that in the New Zealand parliament as well? What’s been your experience?

JULIE ANNE We do have a policy in our parliament. Perhaps we could more proactively advertise that and ensure that employees working in Parliament understand their rights, and of course, employers and all of us as parliamentarians, other people who are working as managers in Parliament need to understand your obligations and responsibilities to ensure that people feel safe. I mean, that’s what this is about. It’s people need to feel safe and comfortable, and they have a right to live without feeling that they’re being harassed.

JESSICA What has been your experience about the culture in Parliament?

JULIE ANNE Well, I think that it’s unfortunate that we haven’t yet got equal representation of women in Parliament. I think that changes–

JESSICA It’s only 38%,

JULIE ANNE Yeah, and 38% is better than what it has been. It has been closer to 30% for the last few terms. So we’ve gotten up closer to 40%. My experience in the Green party has been fantastic, because the Green party has since its inception had very clear policies aimed at encouraging female representation and female leadership, and we’ve proven that that’s a success. I mean 75% of our caucus now is female, and they’re incredible competent, capable women. I think we have to recognise that if you don’t have clear policies like that, you will not get equal representation. And I know there are women who think, ‘I don’t want to be there just because I am a women; I want to be there because of merit.’ The reality is because of unconscious bias, women are not represented just because they are women. Unless we have those specific policies in place to improve representation, it’s not going to happen.

JESSICA Have you experienced that bias personally on your journey to Parliament?

JULIE ANNE So, it’s interesting for me, because I worked in incredibly male-dominated fields, so I was a transport consultant. I worked at a company, I was the only female transport consultant in my office. I did have that experience of finding out that some of my male colleagues who were, you know, perhaps not quite as effective as I was, were being paid significantly more than me, and that was quite a surprise. Even though the men around me and the managers, they really did want to encourage me, this still happened. Being the only women finance spokesperson and the only women on the finance and expenditure committee. What I noticed about that is that it’s really important that women are, and particularly women of colour, involved in the decisions and policy at that high level, whether it’s finance and economics or transport. The decisions that get made around those policies affect women’s everyday life. And women have a very different experience – and children – in the city, and we have the ability to ensure that they are safe, that they have equal access and opportunity, that they are paid fairly for their work. And that’s what we need to achieve if we want a fair and successful society.

JESSICA Because that’s one of your coalition agreements. You want to be able to get rid of the gender pay gap in the public sector. You’d like to lessen that, and that’s one of the things that you want to be judged by. We’ve got a female prime minister. We’ve got a female governor general. But only one New Zealand woman is leading a NZX50 company. What does that say about us and the gender pay gap, do you think?

JULIE ANNE Well, the gender pay gap still exists, and it’s particularly bad for women of colour – Maori and Pacific women, it’s incredibly high. It’s over 20%. For women on average, it’s close to 10%. And I think that it’s been stagnating, and so we made progress on it. You know, we started, say, 20 years ago. We were making progress, and for the last decade, it’s stagnated. And I think there’s a real opportunity with a new government to take a much more effective approach that will finally close that last bit of the gap, but it takes some willingness to accept the evidence around what is going to be an effective policy, and so we’ll start by leading. You know, state services, we’re going to try– We are going to close the gender pay gap in the core public service.

JESSICA How long?

JULIE ANNE I think we can do that within four years, and I think we should be aiming to do it as quickly as possible.

JESSICA How will you do that, though?

JULIE ANNE You make the chief executives of government agencies accountable, put it in their KPIs. We know that there are a whole lot of policies and steps and systems that can be taken to close the gender pay gap, and we just need to push those levers a little bit harder.

JESSICA Isn’t it more important, though, that women are judged on their ability, rather than forcing people to even things out like that? Or is it just not happening by itself?

JULIE ANNE Well, we know 80% of the gap that currently exists is due to what are called unexplained factors. And so a lot of that is things like unconscious bias. And some other policies that this government will also address, like paid parental leave, flexible working hours. All of those contribute to the pay gap, and we can do something about it, and we will.

JESSICA What about a quota for women on boards?

JULIE ANNE I think that– I mean, I personally am passionate about at least leading the conversation about how quotas are effective and they work.

JESSICA Do you think that we should implement them?

JULIE ANNE I think that we need to have a debate and a discussion about it? And I think that, you know, the Green party–

JESSICA What’s your view, though?

JULIE ANNE The Green party is just an example of how– We don’t call it a quota, but we say we’re going to have co-leaders – a female leader and a male leader, we’re going to aim for a gender- balanced approach to our list. And that encourages women to step up and put themselves forward, and then what we found in the last election is that women were dominating our top 10, because they’re capable. So we just need to recognise that the reason that women aren’t there is because they’re women, not because they’re not capable and competent. And so we need those systems and policies that are very deliberate to reverse this, and I know that in New Zealand, the NZX has recently implemented a diversity policy, and it will be really interesting to see if that does make a difference, so they have to account for diversity. They have to give a clear policy. And if they don’t make progress in that area, then they’re going to be held accountable.

JESSICA I just want to be clear, though. Do you support a quota for women on boards personally? Do you think it’s the best way to go?

JULIE ANNE I know that overseas, in some countries, it’s been incredibly effective. And some countries, while they’ve had requirement around quotas, they’re not meeting their targets. So I think that we’ll start with a conversation, and any legislative requirement would require getting buy-in from our partners in government, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to build the political support.

JESSICA So yes from you?

JULIE ANNE Yes, I think that there’s evidence that it’s effective, and if we can’t achieve it otherwise, then I think that we should be exploring it.

JESSICA All right, we’ll have to leave it there, but thank you very much for your time this morning. I really appreciate it.

Sexual harassment certainly needs to be exposed and dealt with better, but care needs to be taken to allow for justice to take it’s course, to not get too ‘PC’ about it, and to not alienate peeople (particularly men) who generally support confronting and reducing sexual harassment.

Watch the interview here.

 

43 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  November 6, 2017

    Saw Julie Ann banging on about something or other on 1ewes last night while dong something else. Something scary about this lady. It’s in those eyes.

    • Gezza

       /  November 6, 2017

      Eek! *dong = doing

    • Pickled Possum

       /  November 6, 2017

      Morena Gez. Gotta link for that particular interview.
      Want to see about the hapz with the eyes!! 😎
      and what she has to say, about how sexual-harassment is about Power not Sex.

      • Pickled Possum

         /  November 6, 2017

        Hey Gez forget it found it … sorri know yaw busy packing and such like. 😉

        • Gezza

           /  November 6, 2017

          Don’t you start! I’ve already had: “Have done that list yet? You DO that list! TODAY ! I’ll be ringing you later to see if you’ve done it!” from you know who, on the blower @ 8.57 am.

          • Gezza

             /  November 6, 2017

            (I told her to stop harrassing me, or otherwise I’ll start ringing her up and harrass her back!)

            • Pickled Possum

               /  November 6, 2017

              Hmmm harassment eh! Comes in all forms it seems.
              What can I say butt,
              You are a good human.
              Suck it up bro!
              She is yaw Ma. 😉
              and Kia Kaha bro.
              Just repeat after me … Yes Ma Yes Ma
              21 dayz to go bro. FreeDom!!!
              Take a concrete pill if YA have to!! Jez. Gez.

  2. Blazer

     /  November 6, 2017

    this doesn’t seem…very balanced…..’I mean 75% of our caucus now is female, and they’re incredible competent, capable women’

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 6, 2017

    Well, we know 80% of the gap that currently exists is due to what are called unexplained factors.

    Really? How? I’ve seen analysis that doesn’t show anything like that.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 6, 2017

      Took a look at the study the Ministry for Women cites in support of that claim by Genter.
      It finishes:

      Similarly, the OECD in its report “Closing the Gender Gap” (OECD, 2012) find considerable variation in the unexplained component of the gender pay gap
      with the unexplained component varying from 15% in Australia to 137% in Slovenia.
      As detailed earlier, the unexplained residual can encompass any unobserved differences in
      characteristics or preferences between males and females as well as discrimination against females in the labour market. Therefore, the “unexplained” cannot be unproblematically equated with the extent of labour market discrimination against females. Such unobservables include personality, attitudes, motivation, and ambition for example. While many of these will be difficult to quantify, one set of unobservables that could be included in future research is the subject studied by those that undertook bachelor’s qualifications or higher. For instance, recent research by Frölich (2007) finds that the subject of degree was an important variable
      in explaining gender wage differences in the UK.

      I think we can take those percentages with a very large grain of salt.

      • Mefrostate

         /  November 6, 2017

        Here’s the latest & greatest on the unexplained gender gap in NZ.

        https://motu.nz/our-work/population-and-labour/individual-and-group-outcomes/what-drives-the-gender-wage-gap-examining-the-roles-of-sorting-productivity-differences-and-discrimination/

        Finds women are paid 16% less (per unit of output) than men, and strong indications that it’s due to gender discrimination.

        • Women take time off to have children, which is conveniently ignored by people like Ms Genter. This would naturally drive the total earnings down.

          • Mefrostate

             /  November 6, 2017

            Ok, but if you’d bother to read the study I linked you’ll note that they account for factors like that and still find a gap that is likely the result of gender discrimination.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 6, 2017

              I did read it and they don’t account even for education let alone what kind of education or what kind of job they are in. It’s a load of rubbish.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 6, 2017

              … yet another load of rubbish, I should have said.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 6, 2017

              They don’t even know how many hours they work.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 6, 2017

              Education only matters to the extent that it drives productivity, that’s why you never got paid very well for your PhD in yelling at lefties.

              The brilliance of this particular analysis is that it observes productivity directly. So unfortunately people predisposed to dismissing the gender gap with cries of “but women are less educated/work fewer hours/have less experience than men” will find themselves on sinking sand.

              If you’d actually read the paper you’d realise “they don’t even know how many hours they work” is a ridiculous critique, since it’s dealt with through several techniques & sensitivity tests.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 7, 2017

              Garbage in garbage out, Mefro. You can’t deal with missing data by making assumptions which is effectively what they do.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 7, 2017

              I notice that of the 135 references to productivity in that report there are exactly zero discussing the data itself and the approximations, assumptions and selections in it. Yet the entire study depends on it and they are vast and numerous according to the Stats Dept. Ridiculous.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              Look I don’t think you’re interested in genuinely exploring the issue, I think you’ve taken an ideological side and are trying to poke holes in the study to avoid having to challenge your priors.

              But just in case you do have an open mind:

              You can’t deal with missing data by making assumptions which is effectively what they do.

              Economists have to deal with less than perfect data all the time, and have developed a bunch of techniques to do so. We then test those techniques by putting them through robustness & sensitivity checks. These show a gap ranging from 11.6% for a simple head count (obviously understates the gap), through 15.7%, 16.4% and 16.9%. So while the lack of hourly data does create some uncertainty, the gap is highly likely to be within this range.

              I notice that of the 135 references to productivity in that report there are exactly zero discussing the data itself and the approximations, assumptions and selections in it. Yet the entire study depends on it and they are vast and numerous according to the Stats Dept. Ridiculous.

              You mean except for the whole section on data which explains what the LEED is, highlights its limitations, and explains that productivity is calculated as output-per-worker-hour (i.e. the textbook definition of productivity)?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 7, 2017

              Yes, I do mean that. All the approximations, assumptions and selections that go into calculating that “output-per-worker-hour” are left in the black box. I get that economists deal with imperfect data. I just decline to believe that analysis of imperfect and missing data gives credible or robust results.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              They explain it, Alan. Output is directly reported by firms. Head-counts are directly reported by firms. Adjusting those to hours is the greatest limitation of the data, as acknowledged by them.

              They account for this limitation with 4 different methods which show an unexplained gender gap of 11% to 17%. Unless you’re going to give us a specific critique of why the Fabling & Mare method would mis-count hours in such a way that would over-state the unexplained gender gap, you’re free to do so.

              Otherwise, I’m forced to believe you’re just plugging your ears and throwing mud at a solid addition to the literature, just because you don’t want to admit that a taste-based gender gap might exist.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 7, 2017

              I’m quite happy to admit that a taste-based gender gap might exist. However, I doubt it is large since as David points out it would give a competitive advantage to businesses that exploit it. I have read the Statistics Department account of how their productivity indexes are generated and it gives me no confidence that they mean anything much and certainly nothing that anyone can interpret with confidence.

              They may well be a solid addition to the literature but I hope no-one bases any important decisions on them. I certainly wouldn’t.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              However, I doubt it is large since as David points out it would give a competitive advantage to businesses that exploit it.

              You’ve overlooked my response to David, which is that taste-based gender preferences would by their very nature be irrational, so this argument is a non-starter.

              But you also demonstrate that in your rush to rubbish the report, you overlook a finding which actually fits your theory: taste-based discrimination is more prevalent in less-competitive years.

              I would use this finding to argue that making markets more competitive is a crucial tool for reducing gender discrimination. But sadly you’re not interested in basing any important decisions on this finding.

              Donal Curtin makes the same point: http://economicsnz.blogspot.sg/2017/09/competition-is-good-for-womens-pay.html (he loves the paper’s method btw, and doesn’t get tied up on the perfectly reasonable productivity measure & hours technique).

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 7, 2017

              Making markets more competitive is desirable without needing another excuse. It doesn’t matter if management gender preferences are irrational because the markets are not and would punish irrational behaviour. The data is selective for large corporates, excludes self-employed, excludes public service, health and education sectors, fails to identify part-time and temporary workers, averages across all levels of skill and all kinds of industries, doesn’t identify capital, training, management or intellectual property contributions from staff.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              Most of the points you make are obviously false to anyone who has actually read the study, has more than half a brain and an open mind. I won’t waste more of my time refuting them solely for your benefit.

              Funnily-enough, I do think one of your points here is actually decent, but you’ve proven yet again that you’re clearly not interested in good faith exchange of ideas. Mea culpa for giving you another shot, I guess.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  November 7, 2017

              Yes, mea culpa. When presented an argument based on the inferred perfect rationality of “markets” you can’t expect much.

        • David

           /  November 6, 2017

          “Finds women are paid 16% less (per unit of output) than men, and strong indications that it’s due to gender discrimination.”

          Why doesn’t a company hire only women then? They are 16% cheaper, that’s a huge competitive advantage.

          • Mefrostate

             /  November 6, 2017

            What the paper finds (and it’s annoying that you won’t go read it yourself) is that the gender gap disappears in industry-years when competition is high. So your point is somewhat supported in that when budgets are tight firms are forced to look past gender and pay people what they’re actually worth.

            But in profitable industry-years, there’s more spoils to be shared among the employees, and disproportionately more of those spoils go to the men.

            • David

               /  November 6, 2017

              I have read it, any so called science that presents it’s summary as a haku is highly suspect.

              “So your point is somewhat supported in that when budgets are tight firms are forced to look past gender and pay people what they’re actually worth.”

              This makes no sense at all.

              “But in profitable industry-years, there’s more spoils to be shared among the employees, and disproportionately more of those spoils go to the men.”

              If this is true, then companies are prepared to spend 16% more on men just because of their gender bias. This then creates a huge competitive advantage for women. Why is this not exploited?

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 6, 2017

              Your question assumes complete rationality, but misses the fact that taste-based gender discrimination can only occur if employers are not acting rationally. And the report finds that firms get closer to rationality when the belt is tight, but irrationally favour men when there’s cream to be shared:

              We found higher unexplained gender wage gaps in industry-years with higher-skill workers, especially when the firms in the industry faced little competition. This result is consistent with theory. Both high-skill workers and low competition are associated with higher firm profits, which mean there is more surplus to be divided between the firm and the employees, and more potential for gender differences in how much surplus the employee captures.

            • David

               /  November 7, 2017

              You can just as easily read that conclusion differently;

              Highly successful, profitable firms are staffed mostly by men. Therefor, if you want a highly profitable, successful firm, your better off employing men.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              Those effects are calculated at the level of each individual firm, David, looking at variation in competition between different years. Your criticism is misguided, and ironically demonstrates the same kind of sexism that probably generates the exact gender discrimination we’re discussing.

              Your logic could easily flow from “successful firms are staffed mostly by men” through “we were very profitable this year, that must be due to our brilliant men” to “the men deserve bigger bonuses than the women”.

            • David

               /  November 7, 2017

              “Your logic could easily flow from “successful firms are staffed mostly by men” through “we were very profitable this year, that must be due to our brilliant men” to “the men deserve bigger bonuses than the women”.”

              Quite correct, it can then go to ‘men are just better than women’. The data from this report would correlate with this conclusion.

              Perhaps I should present it as a Haku?

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              Sorry to burst your sexist bubble, David, but the report found that women were no more productive than men. But men still get paid more. So not only is “men are just better than women” pithy & unhelpful, it’s also wrong in this context.

  4. What does she mean-‘women and people.’ ? Are women not people ?

    ‘Women of colour’, oh, spare me.

    I am not in favour of quotas, I find the idea that women need to have their hands held and be encouraged very insulting indeed. We are not backward children.

    • Do you prefer, “Non-white-Anglo-Saxon women”?
      How do you, Kitty, define such a group of women?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  November 6, 2017

        Maori and Pasifika, of course. ‘Women of colour’ is meaningless. everyone has a colour.