UC commits to gender pay parity research and action

05 March 2020

The University of Canterbury (UC) is investigating gender pay parity for academics following recent findings by UC researchers Associate Professor Ann Brower and Associate Professor Alex James showing that female academics in New Zealand are likely to earn $200,000 less than male counterparts over their career, despite equivalent research performance.

  • Pay_parity_NWS

    The University of Canterbury (UC) is celebrating International Women's Day with an #eachforequal activation on campus where the actions into gender pay parity will be announced.

The announcement is being made at UC’s International Women’s Day celebrations at Haere-roa, the new UC Student’s Association building, on 6 March at 10am.

UC has responded in a very constructive way, Associate Professor James says, making information available so that further research could be conducted into the university’s own records. “We think UC might be one of the first institutions to analyse its own data so comprehensively, which means that we can learn more about the situation on our own doorstep and then work to make improvements.”

UC’s Executive Director of Human Relations Paul O’Flaherty is already preparing to introduce measures to combat gender pay disparity at UC, with full support from Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey. “We are totally committed to pay parity for all staff and will work to address these issues and any other areas of improvement that we identify,” he says.

“We accept that some early analysis on academic staff selection and promotion at UC shows that we need to increase the number of female academic staff recruits and ensure they are appointed on merit at levels equivalent to appointments of males.”

Research suggests a range of possible causes behind the gender pay gap, such as unconscious bias in recruitment, promotions and retention, female academics applying for promotions later than male counterparts, and the cultural environment in different disciplines. “Within UC we have areas that are doing better than others, so we are looking at ourselves, at where those areas of good practice are, so we can learn from that,” Associate Professor James says.

Research at UC will also take other factors into consideration such as ethnicity. “Intersectionality, where factors such as gender and ethnicity meet, generally doesn’t serve people well,” she says.

UC has committed to action on gender pay parity during this year, including forming a working group of female academics to investigate underlying causes, a review of the academic promotions processes to improve equality of access for female staff, a review of recruitment and selection processes, and a pilot of unconscious bias training for recruitment staff.

Further work will be done to investigate pay parity for non-academic staff at the university.

Associate Professor Brower and Associate Professor James’ research paper Research performance and age explain less than half of the gender pay gap in New Zealand universities, published in international journal PLOS ONE in January, examined pay and research performance across the sector using data from 2003 to 2012. The research was a world-first in quantifying a nation’s academic performance and pay.

A new paper to be published later this year will draw on more recent data, up to 2018, to see whether the pay gap between male and female academics has improved.

UC is well placed to lead on gender pay parity nationally and globally, having set an outstanding example of female leadership with Vice-Chancellor Professor De la Rey, Chancellor Sue McCormack and University of Canterbury Students’ Association (UCSA) President Tori McNoe at the helm. Four of UC’s five colleges are also lead by female Pro-Vice-Chancellors.

O’Flaherty and Associate Professor Brower will speak at UC’s International Women’s Day event, encouraging women and men to support gender pay parity.  


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