A University of Canterbury researcher will spend this summer looking at the gender pay gap among local authority chief executives.
UC finance professor Glenn Boyle who will head the project said today previous studies of the gender pay gap at executive level had focused on employees of public companies, central government, or both.
"As far as I am aware, none has examined the local government situation. Yet NZ local government is in the happy position, both for females and for the researcher, of having a relatively large proportion of female chief executive (CEOs), thus permitting more robust estimates of the pay gap,'' Professor Boyle said.
A United Nations committee has urged New Zealand to close the gender pay gap.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women requires all UN countries to submit a report card every four years on the status of women.
Women's Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew has said the gender pay gap in New Zealand was 9.6 percent.
Many reports had highlighted the existence of a gender pay gap however far less certainty exists about the source of this gap.
Professor Boyle said researchers remained uncertain whether it was primarily due to discrimination or simply to differences in relevant qualifications and experience.
"Despite many ingenious attempts at overcoming the problems, researchers have inevitably been forced into a pay comparison between people who hold similar, but not identical, jobs, and have differing personal characteristics.
"In this project, I plan to sidestep these difficulties by examining the pay changes that occur whenever a NZ local authority appoints a new CEO.
"Specifically, I intend to estimate the gender pay gap by comparing the change in salary across the four possible change scenarios: male-to-male CEO succession, male-to-female, female-to-male and female-to-female."
This approach had a distinct advantage, he said. The role of a local authority CEO doesn't change when the CEO does, allowing a comparison of male and female salaries in identical, not just similar, jobs.
"Hopefully, this project will shed a bit more light on the characteristics of the gender pay gap in
New Zealand," Boyle said.
He has received a UC summer research scholarship which pays for a student to work on the project.