Graph | Women in the Labour Market | Professionelle

By Fiona Fenwick

Very recently, Professionelle Board Trustee Fiona Fenwick, represented Professionelle at a multi-Government agency seminar on policy issues facing women in the workplace. Below she shares her observations.

On March 3rd, I joined over forty interested individuals representing organisations including the Ministry for Women, The Treasury, and Statistics New Zealand at the Treasury in Wellington to discuss issues facing almost fifty per cent of the working population. It followed on from several papers given at the recent Labour employment and Work (LEW) Conference held by Victoria University of Wellington in November 2014.

The basis of the session was to recognise the need to understand the workforce well in order to contribute to New Zealand’s economic development and productivity growth.

It was stated in the seminar introduction,

“Those present who are involved in gathering data and statistics should not lose track of listening to the people as well as looking at the numbers.”

Personal Experiences

This is something I continued discussing after the event… how could Professionelle, through its thousands of members who represent all aspects of the workforce, get involved to flesh out the numbers and share real stories that could help shape future policies. We will pursue this and see what we can do to ensure our members’ voices and views are heard.

Presentations were made on :

Women in the Labour Market

Women in the Labour MarketStandouts for me:

  • identifying particular growth in the 55+ age group
  • confirming women still bear the primary responsibility for unpaid work
  • confirming that Air Crew (stewardess) remained the top career choice for young girls (unchanged since 1979)
  • women are seriously under represented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

Mothers in the New Zealand workforce:

Wkgmum2crp_173x145Standouts for me:

  • recent research shows as children grow older, so does women’s dissatisfaction with their job
  • stress for working women increases with the age increase of youngest child.



Women in Paid Employment – The Care Factor:

granddad_184x123Standouts for me:

  • 24% of grandparents in NZ proved childcare even though not living in household.


Issues for Women’s Leadership Pathways:


Standouts for me:

3 areas contributing to ‘leaky’ leadership pipeline for women

  • unconscious bias
  • re-entry after career breaks
  • lack of flexible working.

Also, women need good coaching to assimilate into their corporate culture and have difficulty in women finding suitable sponsors within their organisation. There were seen to be stigmas attached to working flexibly which was more about perception than reality.

It was said that “women see no advantage in over selling themselves” – often to their detriment.


So, overall a very interesting morning with some new data, but, even more, confirmation of what many of us have seen first hand through our careers. If you’re interested in reading more in this area, have a look at the reports collected here (the most recent is 2015) :’s-leadership-pipeline-2013.

It’s good to know that there is strong inter-agency dialogue continuing in this space, but even better to be reassured that our voices count in shaping the policies that affect every one of us and the generation following.

We will keep monitoring and providing opportunities for input.

Your stories

What stories can you share in the comments below, that show how things are – or are not – getting better for women in the labour force here in New Zealand? We’d love to hear and to pass them on!

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