By Vaughan Granier

Numerous industries in New Zealand are either dominated by men or dominated by women. There’s a name for this problem: occupational segregation. The following facts quantify the problem:

  • According to the Ministry for Women, around half of all women and men work in occupations where at least 70 per cent of workers are of the same gender.
  • In the year to March 2021, nearly half (47.2 per cent) of working women were concentrated in just three industries: Health Care and Social Assistance, Retail Trade and Accommodation and Education and Training.
  • Women hold just 28.5 per cent of all director positions on NZX-listed companies.

Sexism is prohibited by law – specifically, the Human Rights Act 1993. There’s also the Equal Pay Act 1972, which prohibits discrimination in pay on the basis of sex (note you can read further on the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace in New Zealand).

Australia is ahead in laws designed to prevent sexist discrimination as the Government has enacted the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022.

While we wait on such a law in New Zealand, it’s worth asking what we can do to implement change, so staff enjoy the best employee well-being possible.

Here are seven ways that people responsible for HR at your company can effect change.

1. Raise awareness and education

Promote gender sensitivity through training programmes that address unconscious biases, stereotypes, and workplace behaviours. Also, educate employees about the benefits of diversity and foster a culture of respect and inclusion. How to get it done?

Simply search for ‘corporate diversity and workplace sexism training’ on the internet and book your training.

Remember, psychosocial safety – including keeping staff safe from discrimination – is an employer’s legal responsibility.

2. Implement equal opportunity policies

Develop and enforce policies that promote gender equality, including fair recruitment and promotion practices, transparent pay scales, and family-friendly policies such as parental leave and flexible working arrangements.

HR Assured can help you write a workplace policy for employees from scratch, or adapt one of our legally-sound templates to shape your Equal Employment Opportunities policies, discrimination, or Bullying & Harassment Policy.

3. Pay attention to updates on the gender pay gap – especially in your industry

New Zealand’s Ministry for Women monitors the gender pay gap across a range of industries. Pay attention to this and check your salaries accordingly.

In 2022, the national gender pay gap was 9.2 per cent. Look at whether your workplace can balance things to be part of the change.

4. Creating safe reporting mechanisms

Make sure you have multiple channels for employees to report problematic and/or non-consensual behaviour at work. Every business must have a detailed grievance procedure that allows for escalation if the employee isn’t satisfied with the result. Better to find out about any misconduct in the workplace at the time that it happens, not years later like some allegations which have arisen in the media recently. This way you can act proactively before any patterns of harassment become engrained or conflicts of interest arise. It’s important to allow your employees to enjoy their legal right to have office romance however, so we’ve prepared a guide for employers and staff to help you distinguish this.

The last piece of the puzzle is the investigation. When any allegations of discrimination and harassment arise in your workplace, an employer needs to conduct an unbiased investigation into the incident.

If you need advice on how to conduct a workplace investigation, HR Assured’s Telephone Advisory Team is just a phone call away.

5. Promote women’s networks and affinity groups

Encourage the formation of women’s networks and affinity groups within male-oriented industries. These communities provide valuable support, networking opportunities, and platforms for sharing experiences and best practices. Either join existing groups with an internet search specifying what you want or form your own.

6. Foster accountability for your business’s leaders

Hold leaders and managers accountable for fostering an inclusive work environment that is free from sexism. Encourage diverse leadership representation and make diversity and inclusion metrics part of performance evaluations. Report on their achievement in each annual report, so that you’re publicly accountable.

7. Collaborate with industry associations

This way, you can develop sector-specific initiatives that address sexism and promote gender equality. Share best practices, conduct research, and establish benchmarks for progress. Also, encourage your staff to attend, share or follow social media-spread campaigns such as #togetherinblack launched recently by Auckland HELP and other specialist sexual violence services (also used to mark International Women’s Day), or consider supporting #metoo campaigns.

Becoming an Accredited Employer is worth considering, as this sets a high standard for achieving workplace equality in terms of gender, diversity and pay.

Employee well-being: the guide

HR Assured is people management software, a knowledge base and legal support to you can grow your workplace culture without being burdened with reinventing the wheel every time you need a fresh policy or contract.

As part of helping New Zealand businesses achieve employee success, we’ve created an eBook on employee well-being which is yours, free. Simply click through to download it.

Implement small changes today and they’ll begin adding up, so your staff enjoy the best employee well-being possible.

If any of this information has raised questions about how your business can embrace gender equality in the workplace or you have another matter you need advice on, please reach out to our workplace relations experts via our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service.

Not an HR Assured client? To learn more about how HR Assured can help your business, contact us here.

Vaughan Granier is the National Workplace Relations Manager for HR Assured NZ. He has over 24 years’ experience in international human resources, health and safety, and workplace relations management. With over 10 years working in New Zealand and Australian companies, he provides in-depth support to leadership teams across all areas of HR, Health and Safety, and employee management.