A recent study by researchers at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research provides strong, definitive evidence that sexism is mostly to blame for the gender pay gap in New Zealand.
The study found that, on average, women in New Zealand’s workforce are paid 84 cents for every $1.00 a man earns, despite there being no statistically significant difference in productivity levels between male and female employees.
“This study is different to most previous wage gap studies in that it tests whether men and women are paid different wages for adding the same amount of value to their employer,” said lead researcher Dr Isabelle Sin, Fellow at Motu and Principal Investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini.
Motu study dispels some common arguments
The researchers analysed New Zealand tax data for 50 per cent of the working population from 2001 to 2011, to determine how much of the overall difference between women and men’s pay could be attributed to women being employed in industries that pay less.
“We found that women were over-represented in low-paying industries like food and beverage services, but this explains a mere 7 per cent of the entire gender wage gap,” Dr Sin said. “If you add in the fact that women also tend to work in low-paying firms, we can say that 12 per cent of the overall gender wage gap is due to the particular industries and firms where women work.”
The study then looked at productivity and wages of New Zealand men and women in private, for-profit organisations with five or more employees. Using employee-level data linked to business information, they found that on average, Kiwi women are paid 16 per cent less than their male counterparts for making a contribution of the same value to their employer.
Overall, the data suggest that sexism is a drag on large segments of New Zealand’s economy, with the gender wage-productivity gap as high as 40 per cent in some sectors – in finance and insurance, telecommunications, transport equipment manufacturing, water and air transport, and electricity, gas and water, and rail.
“It’s worth noting that these are all sectors that have the potential for monopoly-created profits and have low competition,” said Dr Sin. “To put it simply, our research suggests sexism is likely to be a major driver of the gender wage gap. What we’re going to do about it is another matter.”
NEW paper: women & men add same value to their firms, but average woman paid only 84 cents for every $1 for average man. pic.twitter.com/chAMk1fAXd
— Motu Research (@moturesearch) August 28, 2017
Quality of the data make findings difficult to ignore
Professor Tava Olsen from the University of Auckland, Director at the New Zealand Centre for Supply Chain Management and Deputy Director, Industry and Stakeholder Engagement at Te Pūnaha Matatini, described the results as “pretty definitive”.
“There is a gap and [because the study researchers] were able to get firm-level data on productivity, there’s really no explanation for it other than implicit bias or sexism,” said Professor Olsen.
The Motu research is a lot harder to ignore than previous studies due to its sheer size and the nature or quality of the data collected, she added.
“It’s not until you get a really big study like this that you can say ‘Oh yes, there is actually a problem here.’ Obviously, this isn’t the first study to show gender pay gaps, it’s just a very clean one in terms the data they got access to,” she said. “I doubt there are many countries who allow researchers access to their tax data… If you think about it, it’s pretty phenomenal.
“So I think this is quite important research in terms of showing there is a real gap. There is a problem here and it’s not really okay,” said Professor Olsen.
“Hopefully, companies will start putting procedures in place to check themselves and try and start looking at their own gender gaps.”
Sin I., Stillman S., Fabling R. (August 2017). What drives the gender wage gap? Examining the roles of sorting, productivity differences, and discrimination. Motu Working Paper 17-15 Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
Te Pūnaha Matatini is a major contributor to the Aotearoa-New Zealand Science Journalism Fund, which recently awarded $20,000 in funding to several New Zealand science journalists to cover stories ranging from genomics to driverless vehicles to climate change.
This first round of funding received 20 applications, with six projects involving journalists from a variety of media outlets across the country being selected.
“Overall, we were extremely impressed with the range and quality of the applications – from established science journalists to relative newcomers, from a range of media and from around the country,” said the fund’s founder Dr Rebecca Priestley.
We’re delighted to announce first round of funding! We had 20 applications and have funded 6 projects https://t.co/ANuD79A5Id 1/8
— NZ Sci Journalism (@scijournofund) August 20, 2017
Controversial technologies to be covered
Within the fund’s category on ‘Controversial technologies: Should we even go there?’ Te Pūnaha Matatini is funding three projects to a total of $10,000, as follows:
- $4,500 to Naomi Arnold (New Zealand Geographic article)
- $4,000 to Simon Morton (RNZ’s This Way Up feature)
- $1,500 to William Ray (RNZ’s Our Changing World series)
All of the projects are expected to be published by the end of 2017, after which they will be available under Creative Commons licence. Science journalists from around New Zealand will then have a second opportunity to apply for funding through the Aotearoa-New Zealand Science Journalism Fund in early 2018.
“Round one showed that journalists want to work on important science-related stories and that there is appetite to fund them doing so,” said Dr Priestley. “We are looking forward to seeing these projects come to fruition and to working on securing funding for round two.”
How to support the Aotearoa-New Zealand Science Journalism Fund
Interested readers and organisations wishing to support the fund can do so by emailing Dr Rebecca Priestley at email@example.com or through the Aotearoa-New Zealand Science Journalism Fund Press Patron crowd-funding page.
Te Pūnaha Matatini investigator Dr Rebecca Priestley has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize.
Dr Priestley is a senior lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington in the Science in Society Group. She has been an Associate Investigator in Te Pūnaha Matatini since the Centre was established in 2015.
Te Pūnaha Matatini is one of ten national Centres of Research Excellence. Its research focuses on the science of complex systems and networks, and applies this to study problems in society, the environment, and the economy. Dr Priestley co-leads a project in the Centre that studies public engagement by researchers.
“Dr Priestley is unique amongst New Zealand’s science communicators”, says Prof Shaun Hendy, Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini. “She is not only an accomplished science writer and journalist, she also has academic standing as one of New Zealand’s leading historians of science and has undertaken pioneering work in the study of science’s engagement with society.”
She received the $100,000 prize from the Prime Minister at an event in Wellington today, joining Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Dr Michelle Dickinson, Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Prof Hendy, as previous winners of the prize.
“We’ve placed public engagement and communication of our research at the heart of our mission” added Hendy, “and so it should be no surprise that Te Pūnaha Matatini has become the meeting place for New Zealand’s leading science communicators.”
Some of Dr Priestley’s prize money will be used to establish New Zealand’s first fund to support science journalism. Te Pūnaha Matatini will also contribute to this fund.
“As newsrooms shrink, it is getting harder for the media to cover science,” says Hendy. “For science engagement to work well, journalists need to be able to take the time to cover science stories critically. We hope this fund will help sustain independent science journalism in New Zealand.”
Congratulations to Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Acting Deputy Director Dr Siouxsie Wiles who was named a Blake Leader 2016 from the Sir Peter Blake Trust on July 1.
Siouxsie leads the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland. She has spearheaded many efforts to combat barriers for women in science, including running a successful crowd-funding campaign with Executive Manager Kate Hannah earlier in the year to send copies of Dr Nicola Gaston’s book Why Science is Sexist to senior decision-makers in science. Siouxsie has also been praised for her willingness to speak out on scientific issues of public importance.
Read more about Siouxsie’s leadership skills at the Sir Peter Blake Trust website or watch the Sir Peter Blake Trust video below.
As leading researchers and science communicators, Te Pūnaha Matatini investigators were regularly sought after by local and international media in 2015 to offer expert opinion and comment on a vast range of subjects.
The launch of Te Pūnaha Matatini was profiled by RNZ’s Our Changing World – (Science of complex systems.)
Shaun Hendy appeared regularly on RNZ Nights as a physics correspondent, and was featured in a number of articles across both mainstream and digital media.
The science behind being part of a crowd (NZ Herald, also featuring other investigators)
Bigger cities make brighter ideas (NZ Herald, also featuring other investigators)
New Zealand’s Economy: Shaun Hendy (Radio Live)
Marsden Fund comes under the microscope (NZ Herald)
We don’t need no innovation (National Business Review)
Ingredients to grow innovation (TedXAuckland talk)
Siouxsie Wiles is a regular science commentator on RNZ and also appeared regularly throughout the media in 2015.
Building blocks of bias: Lego and gender (TedXAuckland talk)
Michele Hewitson interview: Siouxsie Wiles (NZ Herald)
Flu the next global disaster (Stuff)
Should we be worried about a MERS pandemic? (The Paul Henry Show)
Women in Science (The Wireless)
Michelle Dickinson, winner of the Callaghan Medal for science communication, is a trusted name in science media in New Zealand. Michelle was regularly a featured contributor for NZ Herald, RadioLive and Newshub.
Science and tech: heart disease (NZ Herald)
Trusty sunscreen does hard yards against rays (NZ Herald)
Nanogirl: Would you eat a burger grown in a lab? (NZ Herald)
Science and Tech: Self-driving car (NZ Herald)
Science and tech: Michelle Dickinson (NZ Herald)
It’s about how much you want to pay (NZ Herald)
Nanotechnology Series (Radio Live)
Women in Science (The Wireless)
Pierre Roudier hosted a recurring segment on RNZ Monday nights called “Soil Science” and appeared on TV3’s Newsworthy.
Other Te Pūnaha Matatini investigators whose research featured in the media in 2015:
Twelve Questions: Alexei Drummond (NZ Herald)
Smartphone data to help fight the flu (NZ Herald)
Is humanity the asteroid or the dinosaurs? (NZ Herald)
Ten climate change canaries (NZ Herald)
Twelve Questions: Richard Easther (NZ Herald)
Kiwi scientist reviews The Martian (NZ Herald)
Would you buy an electric car? (NZ Herald)
Iwi shown path for growth (Rotorua Daily Post)
Research identifies strategies for Māori economic development (Māori Television)
Climate of Hope – Q & A with Suzi Kerr (NZ Herald)
Age of resilience (RNZ)
Easter Island Extinction Blamed on Environment (Nature World News)
Rapa Nui Population Decline: Demise of Easter Island Society Linked To Environmental Constraints (International Business Times)
Productivity stats get a nudge (NZ Herald)
Expats say let’s keep monarchy (NZ Herald)
Flag options put in front of public before referendum (Wanganui Chronicle)
New Zealand Picks a Challenger for Nation’s Flag (New York Times)
New Zealand Debates Replacing Union Jack Flag, But With What? (New York Times)
Food poverty’s impact on agriculture (Bay Of Plenty Times)