Occupational segregation refers to the separation and clustering of men and women in particular occupations.

Occupational segregation has long-term impacts on women’s economic independence, as occupations where women more commonly employed in are more often lower paid or have fewer long-term prospects than occupations where men are more commonly employed.

Those in gender-segregated workforces can experience:

  • low incomes and undervaluation
  • underutilisation, such as underemployment, where part-time workers would take more hours if available
  • limited pathways into higher-income work
  • underutilisaton of skills and talents.

Occupational segregation has both horizontal and vertical dimensions

Aotearoa New Zealand has a pattern of horizontal segregation, with some industries clearly dominated by either women or men.

In the year to December 2023, 60% of working women were concentrated in four industries:

  1. Health Care and Social Assistance (17.1%)
  2. Retail Trade and Accommodation (16.2%)
  3. Professional, Scientific, Technical, Administrative and Support Services (12.8%)
  4. Education and Training (11.5%).

Occupational segregation is a driver of the gender pay gap and presents issues for women in employment to the degree to which segregated workforces experience low incomes and undervaluation. In certain occupations where the work is, or has been, predominantly performed by women, wages have often been lower than occupations where the work has been performed predominantly by men. 

There is also vertical segregation, where men are more prevalent in managerial positions. Vertical segregation is more prevalent in the private sector in New Zealand, with women holding 28.5% of all director positions and 26.4% of executive management positions across the NZX-listed companies (as at 31 July 2022). In comparison, women hold 55.9% of senior management roles (Tiers 1 – 3) in the public sector, including 48.8% of Tier 1 roles (as at 30 October 2023).

Much of the Ministry’s work programme, including actions in Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine Women’s Employment Action Plan, are focused on improving social and economic outcomes for women and girls either directly or indirectly addresses occupational segregation.

Further reading: Employment

The Ministry has published a range of reports and resources on women and employment. 

Further reading: Gender Pay Gap

The Ministry has published a range of reports, action plans, and resources on the Gender Pay Gap.