Occupational segregation refers to a pattern where men and women are more commonly employed in a particular occupation or sector.

Occupational segregation can have a long-term impact on women’s economic independence, as occupations where women are more commonly employed are often lower paid or offer 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
  • under-use 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 March 2024, 60% of working women were concentrated in four industries:

  1. Health Care and Social Assistance (17.3%)
  2. Retail Trade and Accommodation (16.2%)
  3. Professional, Scientific, Technical, Administrative and Support Services (12.7%)
  4. Education and Training (11.6%).

Occupational segregation is a driver of the gender pay gap and presents issues for women in employment, as the gender-segregated workforces with more women employees experience lower incomes and undervaluation than workforces with more men employees.

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 31.0% of director positions across NZX-listed companies, including 36.4% of director positions on S&P/NZX50 companies (as at 31 December 2023). 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).

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.