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  • Our Words Matter

Here's why we should be talking about money (and why we don't)

Opinion article written by Jo Cribb, republished from

When was the last time you had a conversation with anyone about money?

New research from the Commission for Financial Capability shows more than half of New Zealand couples do not talk to each other about how much they earn or spend and they don't talk about money to their children either.

We don't talk about money because we were told it is impolite.

We fear being judged about earning too little or too much; being seen as a failure or success. Most of us would rather eat rusty tacks than tell our next door neighbour, friend or even our partners how much we earn.

In fact, a British survey found people would rather talk about their weight, STDs, drugs or alcohol problems and family fights than their personal finances.

But consider this: silence about finances fuels pay inequality.

Let's think about pay inequality. It exists because some of us are paid less for the same job but we don't know about it because we do not share what we earn with each other.

This means some employers can get away with paying some of us less than others doing the same jobs. We are even encouraged not to share with clauses in our contracts that say we must keep our pay secret.

Now I can hear the 'pay gap deniers' loudly defending current pay regimes. No one, they will say, is paid unfairly in New Zealand and if they are they deserve to be because they are less experienced, motivated, educated, valuable or whatever else.

Paying some people less than others for doing the same job is illegal.

Some responsible corporates have looked into their pay data and found they have paid women less than men for the same role and sorted it out. But some organisations have not - keeping the silence is a cheaper strategy.

It's time for pay transparency legislation where organisations are required to publish their pay data.

Its already started to happen here because our Aussie neighbours have been transparent about pay for some time, which means some New Zealand companies with Australian connections are already reporting.

Women are often in the dark about how much more their male counterparts earn.

But let's not wait for 'someone' else to fix this, we can all take action now.

We want our colleagues, friends, daughters, and neighbours to get paid fairly, so let's ask our employers 'are women paid the same as men here?'

It is just one quick question that will need an answer. If your employer knows their pay data, they will have to share it with you. Ask for the breakdown by ethnicity as well. If they don't know, they will have to calculate it. Either way, it will break the silence around pay.

But no one likes talking about money so it is likely to an uncomfortable conversation. So ask in a group or ask a representative or manager to ask.

And let's get talking about money amongst ourselves and to our kids.

Let's share the facts with our sons and daughters without gender stereotypes that serve no one well. The #makemoneyequal campaign lead by a British bank found 70% of articles about money aimed at men linked making money to being a 'real man' and the key to personal status. 70% of articles about money in women's magazines characterised women as excessive spenders and encouraged them to seek out discount coupons.

Let's get rid of the taboos about talking about money, cut through the silence, pay everyone fairly and live happily ever after.


* Jo Cribb supports organisations and their leaders to create diverse and inclusive workplaces. She is the former chief executive of the Ministry for Women.



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