New Zealand has a long history of leading the charge on women’s rights.
In 1893, it became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote. In 1972, the country enacted legislation that ensured men and wonder are paid equally for equal work. In 2018, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern became the first world leader to go on maternity leave. As a result of these efforts, the Pacific island nation already has the sixth smallest gender gap in the world, according to the World Economic Forum.
Now, it has taken another bold step to close the gap. This week, the New Zealand parliament unanimously passed an Equal Pay Amendment Bill that ensures that women in female-dominated industries receive the same remuneration as men in different but equal-value work.
The bill comes amid the growing realization that much of the pay gap worldwide stems not only from inequities within industries and job functions but that industries and job functions themselves are valued differently depending on whether they are dominated by men or women. For example, as discussed in The New York Times, in the United States, janitors (typically male) make 22% more than housecleaners (typically female). Information technology specialists (typically male) make 27% more than human resources specialists (typically female). A 2016 Cornell University study found that such disparities account for more than half of the gender gap in the United States.
This new bill is a big step forward for gender equality in New Zealand and around the world. It not only helps level the playing field, but also helps reveal the often hidden, and perhaps unconscious, ways in which we wrongly assume men provide more value than women.
What other jobs and roles do women typically play that have gone underappreciated by our societies and undervalued by our economies? What more can we do to properly honor and value them?