How MPI is closing its gender pay gap

Woman working on a farm with an iPad

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) helps maximise export opportunities for New Zealand's primary industries, improve sector productivity, ensure the food we produce is safe, increase sustainable resource use, and protect New Zealand from biological risk. MPI has more than 2,900 staff working in over 60 locations in NZ and overseas. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries has identified that a lack of women in top leadership is one of key the drivers of their gender pay gap. So it's more impactful for them to monitor the number of women in leadership than the gender pay gap alone.

Champions for Change: How do you measure, and continue to measure, your organisational gender pay gap?  

MPI QuoteMPI: We are tracking our organisational Gender Pay Gap (GPG) annually. We report our gap to the State Services Commission to inform their annual Human Resource Capability data. Contributing to this dataset allows us to compare to other public sector agencies which is a useful benchmark. That said, we also report internally to our leaders and branches on a more regular basis (quarterly) to allow more active management and monitoring of the gap.

When we first started focusing on the GPG, we spent a great deal of time analysing all of our salary data from every angle the data would allow us to, to try and get a better understanding of the different drivers of our organisational pay gap.

Whilst it’s very easy to get lost in the data and spend a long period of time navel gazing into figures, ultimately the organisational pay gap is a high-level measure of many factors that are at play. Because it’s based on an average, it also has the risk of masking issues.

So while it is important to spend time understanding what your organisation looks like, and whether there are specific areas that could be driving your pay gaps more than others, once you have formed a picture of this, time and energy is better spent on measuring what you need to address.

For example, at MPI we have identified that lack of women in our top leadership is one of the drivers of our gender pay gap.

It will now be more impactful to monitor trends of the numbers of women in different types and levels of our leadership, than the GPG alone.

But to really get the long term change to the level of women in leadership (and in turn GPG) we know from research, that we need to see more flexible work options for both men and women at the top levels, so we are also exploring what metrics will help us monitor our progress in this area.

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What barriers exist, and how are you overcoming these? 

Due to the complexity of the different drivers of the gap, helping people understand what the organisational pay gap measures is an ongoing challenge. We are attempting to be really clear on what it actually means and that it is not all about women and men being paid differently for the same job. In fact, for us, this is a really small component of our gap (only 1%) so whilst it is hugely important to address, it is not where we want to completely focus our attention. 

We also know we need to make salary data and processes more transparent if we are to have an impact on our pay gap and this can create some nervousness.

We are therefore making much more information available to all our staff, at all times and also providing robust diagnostic data to our leaders to help them make more informed and fair remuneration decisions.


What support and/or guides do you use to assist you in the process? 

SSC have published guidance and run workshops which have been really useful in knowing where to start. There are also some great tools available on the web, from government organisations across the world. 

We have now developed some of our own data tools to support us to achieve our action plan, and to inform key decision makers.


What insights would you give to support other organisations looking to measure their gender pay gap? 

  • 4 insights from MPIOur number one piece of advice is that addressing the Gender Pay Gap needs to be part of a wider Diversity and Inclusion strategy. The other enablers that will help us to close our gap include normalising flexible working, recruiting for more diversity, increasing awareness of unconscious bias and an enhanced focus on inclusion activity.

  • Find other organisations that look and feel like yours and talk to them about what they are doing. Share ideas and be open about the issues we face.

  • Talk openly with people in your organisation about what you are seeing and what you are focusing on.

  • Spend the time to understand your organisation, but don’t get obsessed with the data. Once you know what needs to change, think about how you will measure and report on that. The gender pay gap is complex, and won’t close overnight, but once you understand some of the drivers you’ll be able to identify aspects that you can measure and make visible change in quite quickly.