The persistent gender pay gap, particularly in relation to indigenous women, shows that we do not value motherhood

How much do we value mothers?

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How much do we value mothers?

Te Aroha Grace (Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei) is a judge for the NZ Women of Influence Awards, Director of Relations at Figure Group, and was previously Director of Innovation at Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

OPINION: At te ao Māori we keep our ancestors close. But lately I’ve been reflecting on what my various ancestors must be thinking about the position of mothers today.

I have been reminded again how vulnerable indigenous women are through some statistics that were presented to me about the wage gap and the fact that we are penalizing women for what I believe to be their superpower: the ability to have children.

Consider the position of the mother in the home. If we were to ask ourselves what motherhood does for human consciousness and capacity development, how much would we value that role? And as an additional salient question, how much would we pay to do that job?

READ MORE:
* Time to talk about the pay gap
* How parenthood continues to cost women more than men
* How parenthood continues to cost women more than men

I have been asking men how many would change their current job to be the primary caregiver for children in the home. From my reading, 80% of them have a default opinion that this is not their role or at least think they actually have other priority roles. To me, this is the legacy of the gender inequality issues we face.

If we value the future, we should value our children, but do we value the role of caring for them?

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Think about what motherhood has been doing for us, no small thing: they have been generating and nurturing the future and at scale (increasing the world’s population). From that perspective, companies benefit from what mothers do, but companies have traditionally shown little support for motherhood beyond legislative obligations.

If Wāhine Māori only earn 81% of what a Pākehā man earns, they have nearly 20% less to spend on housing, education and retirement.

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If Wāhine Māori only earn 81% of what a Pākehā man earns, they have nearly 20% less to spend on housing, education and retirement.

And then there is the issue of mothers entering or returning to a paid workforce that ignores them for their unpaid experience and therefore assigns them low-paying jobs. The statistics prove it.

Every year Statistics New Zealand announces our pay gap, which has stood at just over 9% on average for over 10 years. But in some areas it is much higher, because evidence shows that for every dollar a Pākehā man earns, a Māori woman earns just 81 cents.

A pay gap is the average difference between what people earn. It is caused by many things, such as pay inequality (paying people differently for the same job because of gender or race), pay inequality (holding back promotion for some people), and outright prejudice and discrimination.

Most worryingly, of the reasons women earn less than men, only 20% can be justified by giving birth and being the primary caregiver. This means that 80% of the reasons we pay our women less is due to conscious or unconscious bias.

Let’s play with the statistics. If Māori women earn only 81% of what Pākehā men earn over their lifetime, they have 19% less to spend on food and housing, 19% less to spend on their children and education. When they retire, they have 19% less savings to live on, even though they are likely to live much longer. Which is the reason? There are none.

In my indigenous child care legacy, once the baby was born, it was more often the men who would wrap the baby, put it close to their chest, and proceed to care for the children. The nuances of women’s attitude made them much more strategic in an empathic sense, so that value was highly appreciated and practiced regularly.

Sadly, as the Western economic empire grew, mothers were left out and now here we are, where economic sovereignty seems pale, outdated and masculine. It’s not even my language, it’s the language of the industry.

Somehow along the way we have stopped valuing women for their strategic powers and wisdom. I applaud the mahi of the MindTheGap team who are trying to change the law so that companies are required to report their pay gap. If that helps rebalance what has been out of balance for so long, now is the time. At a minimum, the effort will be honorable and worthy.

It is time to honor and support the indigenous women of our community, who are the most vulnerable people in the world due to the classic mistreatment they have suffered by dominating monocultural programs.

They have waited too long.