Story: Gender inequalities

Unequal pay

The women shown in this 1950s photograph of bank staff were on a separate salary scale to the men they worked alongside. The arguments used to justify separate scales were men's need to support a family, their supposed greater fitness for paid work, and the different tasks they carried out. Women could never earn more than the maximum their salary scale allowed, no matter what work they did, how good they were at it, how useful they were to their employer or the family responsibilities they had. In 1971, for example, the maximum income a woman could earn in the banking industry was $2,642 ($32,830 in 2010 terms), while the maximum a man could earn was $3,811 ($47,356 in 2010).

When private-sector equal pay was introduced in the mid-1970s, women's pay continued to be lower than that of men. Until they gained equal opportunity to move into the higher-paid positions that only men had been allowed to hold, women were trapped in lower-paid work. The invisible barrier that held women back became known as the 'glass ceiling'.

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How to cite this page:

Anne Else, 'Gender inequalities - Paid employment', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 June 2024)

Story by Anne Else, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 20 Jun 2018