Is HR in denial over equal pay?

A judge from this year’s YWCA Equal Pay Awards says most employers are aware of the issue but few think they’re a part of the problem.

Is HR in denial over equal pay?

Awareness over equal pay is now far greater than it’s ever been before but many employers still remain sceptical that they’re part of the problem, says one industry expert.

“Every employer that I’ve dealt with would say they don’t intentionally set out to pay people differently,” says remuneration specialist Susan Doughty.

“Companies are really quite surprised when they start looking at it and realise they were doing things a certain way which led to this outcome.”

Doughty, who is a partner in EY’s talent and reward practice, says pay disparity is largely a result of unconscious bias impacting any number of stages in the employment process.

“Unconscious bias is alive and well and it happens right from the point HR advertises for people through to how HR recruits them, selects them, rates their performance, progresses their pay and promotes them,” she says.

“In all of those steps along that line, there is some form of unconscious bias that can potentially be applied and it’s one of the major factors behind the gender pay gap.”

According to the Auckland-based HR figure, even the most well-meaning employers will never be able to close the gender pay gap if they don’t look at earlier factors and tackle the problem in a holistic way.

“Some employers don’t understand that this requires a fully-integrated approach,” she says. “It’s not just about doing one thing, you have to do a range of different things to create that kind of workplace and tackling unconscious bias in definitely one of the biggest barriers.”


Doherty, who is also on the judging panel for this year’s YWCA Equal Pay Awards, will be hosting a workshop on the topic next week at the Ministry for Women in Wellington.

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