So Alasdair Thompson put his foot in it. According to the NZ Herald, he said:
In a debate on gender pay equity, Mr Thompson said women deserved to be paid according to their productivity, just like men, and backed equal opportunity.But he said that among many factors affecting work, women could be more likely to put their careers on hold while having children and take more sick leave. He suggested once-a-month “sick problems” could be behind the days off.
The comments about the “once-a-month sick problems” seemed to have created the most outrage. A multitude of comments, from both sexes, generally decrying the comments seem to be the outcome. Which is understandable. I haven’t seen any evidence in my dealings with working with women, and even if there were, they would be impossible to separate from my “take time off to watch the football” days, which I doubt many women do.
But the problem is much worse in my opinion. It goes much further than a simple gender debate about pay equity.
Here’s a quick quiz to illustrate (try and answer honestly based on your gut feeling):
- Person A works 40 hours a week at job XYZ. Person B works 35 hours a week at job XYZ. Should Person A get paid more?
- Person A works 40 hours a week at job XYZ. Person B also works 40 hours a week at job XYZ. Should they get paid the same?
Ah, the ol’ trick question survey!
Did you answer yes to both? Or did you go “this has got to be a trick”!
Ok, heres the same questions, with a twist:
- Person A works 40 hours a week at job XYZ. Person B works 35 hours a week at job XYZ. Person B has been the top producer at the company for several years. Should Person A get paid more?
- Person A works 40 hours a week at job XYZ. Person B also works 40 hours a week at job XYZ. Person A is a stand-out employee, highly productive and crucial to the companies success. Should they get paid the same?
The only difference is that the second survey actually includes a concept of productivity. The real problem, is that Alasdair Thompson and, judging by the comments I’ve seen, and my own experience, still equate productivity with hours spent at work. In my opinion, this is the attitude that needs to be tossed out. We should be outraged that people who are differently productive are treated the same.
But measuring productivity is hard, and probably even more controversial than gender pay differences. And so NZ continues to meander down the productivity stakes…