Survey: Work still to be done to achieve economic empowerment for women in NZ

The PwC Women in Work Index report released this week shows that New Zealand comes in fourth place in the OECD in terms of women’s economic empowerment. But the company’s diversity and inclusion leader says the conversation is only just getting started.

The ranking uses the key indicators of the equality of earnings with men, the proportion of women in work (both in absolute terms and relative to men), the female unemployment rate, and the proportion of women in full-time employment to establish its findings. 

So, according to the survey, how are we doing?

“Quite well”, says Leo Foliaki, diversity and inclusion leader at PwC New Zealand. New Zealand ranks fourth in 2014, up from eighth in 2000. We rank well compared to Australia too, which has dropped from 15th to 20th over the same time period.”

Image:  Diversity and inclusion leader at PwC New Zealand, Leo Foliaki

“But what’s heartening is the increase of commentary and debate on the subject here in New Zealand,” he says. “With the conversation on equality and inclusion, we’re new to that debate. Overseas it’s been talked to death”.

“We tend to think ourselves as a fair and open society, but now we’re actually looking at the places we’re not doing so well in terms of gender – the boardroom, senior executive roles”.

But Foliaki says it’s about more than just fairness.

“New Zealand could experience a 6.7% boost to GDP if its female employment rates were to match that of Sweden’s,” he says.

“If we can get more females into the workforce, our productivity improves. But there are a lot of issues that we need to address to make that happen”.

Foliaki says that flexible working arrangements – including the ability to work from home, the ability to start later and allowing for school drop offs and pickups for example – makes all the difference.

“It’s about having that ability to weave your life and work around a schedule, swapping week days for days on the weekend, and looking at both paternity and maternity leave in a different way can make a real difference,” he says.

“If child care responsibilities are shared, there are a range of benefits, especially in supporting career development for women. After all, men don’t have a monopoly on talent.”

“If we can get more women into senior roles and higher paid positions, into those senior ranks and the level below that and the level below that, that drives quality outcomes.”

“And when you talk about flexible working arrangements, we’re not just talking about pregnant women. Everyone can benefit. That flexibility could support a range of activities - someone training for the Olympics for example, or someone looking after their aging grandparents.”

Foliaki says that businesses must adapt their recruitment models to fully harness the advantages of an ethnically diverse talent pool to be competitive internationally.

“If you’re doing business in China, you’re going to want to attract someone with those language skills, so you might have to review your day-to-day recruitment processes to make sure you’re maximizing your talent pool.”

So is PwC walking the talk itself?

“Oh absolutely,” he says. “We’re looking at a whole range of things – recruitment policies, flexible working policies, maternity and paternity leave. We’re constantly asking ourselves 'Are we maximizing our pool of talent or are we unnecessarily narrowing it down?'”

“And there are always a way to improve”.

To view an interactive summary of the report or to download it in its entirety, click here

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