About Us: A brief overview
The National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women (NACEW) is the longest standing ministerial advisory body in New Zealand’s history. In its 43 years, NACEW has had particular opportunities to make a difference to the employment of women. In conjunction with social advocacy groups, Council members have worked for better employment conditions for women, and supported their participation in the workforce. Women’s pay, the ability to be in the paid workforce while caring for dependents, and women’s choice of work have all been of concern to NACEW.
The Council has not confined itself to particular disciplines or work areas in its pursuit of the interests of women in employment. Our approach has been to act on the most pressing issues affecting women’s employment opportunities and outcomes. This has included addressing immediate needs, identifying emerging employment issues for women and undertaking research about cross-cutting concerns that will not necessarily be addressed by employers or government agencies.
Membership and role
NACEW was set up in 1967 following lobbying by the Joint Committee on Women and Employment, which represented the New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women, the New Zealand Federation of University Women, YWCA of New Zealand, and the New Zealand National Council of Women. Ten members attended the inaugural meeting on 21 February 1967 including two departmental representatives and five ministerial appointees. By its third year, the membership of NACEW was formalised to include members from the Federation of Labour and the New Zealand Employers’ Federation. At the time of its tenth anniversary in 1977, NACEW included representatives from the State Services Co-ordinating Committee and the Combined States Services Organisation, and in the 1990s representation on NACEW was extended to include representatives of the Office of Youth Affairs, Te Puni Kokiri and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.
The Council also formalised its terms of membership in 1978 stipulating that members would be appointed for a term of three years with the possibility of two further three-year terms. If appointed to the position of Chair, a member may serve for a maximum of 12 years in total.
As set out in its Terms of Reference NACEW’s role is to:
- advise the Minister of Women's Affairs on matters referred by him/her concerning the employment of women;
- express views and make recommendations as appropriate to the Minister of Women's Affairs on matters relating to the employment of women;
- make representations or submissions as appropriate to public bodies such as Commissions of Inquiry subject to the approval of the Minister; and
- promote the dissemination of information on the employment of women in New Zealand and overseas.
Over the years NACEW has undertaken the following key activities:
- advocating for legislation and policies to improve women’s employment circumstances
- conducting quality research
- promoting information to women through publications and its communication’s activities.
NACEW has always been involved in advocating for legislation and policy to improve women’s employment circumstances.
The Council was heavily involved in advocating for equal pay legislation in the early ‘70s. It recommended to the Minister at the time that he set up an independent Commission of Inquiry on how best to implement equal pay and the Council’s recommendations were reflected in the Terms of Reference.
Following this, the Equal Pay Act 1972 provided for the phasing in of equal pay over five years. It aimed to remove discrimination based on employees’ gender and extended legislation to the private sector which had previously applied only to the public sector. The Council was also involved in ensuring that research into how the legislation worked practically was carried out.
NACEW produced information and tools to support Human Resource practitioners to assess and address pay and employment equity in the private sector.
Parental leave and childcare policies and human rights legislation have been and continue to be strongly supported by the Council.
NACEW has contributed considerably to the policy landscape through the quality research it has conducted. From the outset, research on women and employment was very limited so NACEW saw that as a priority and has maintained it.
The Council identified key areas to research in its early days, such as the occupational distribution of women and the use of child care facilities.
Since then, the Council has produced numerous research documents on a wide range of topics. These have always been robust pieces of work and meant NACEW’s advice has always been evidence-based.
One of these research projects produced the book Beyond the Barriers: The State, the Economy and Women’s Employment in 1990. That was a comprehensive study which examined the impact of government policies on labour market activity.
Another key piece of research was The New Zealand Childcare Survey in 1998. A total of 3,809 families participated in the survey which today is still an authoritative study into the school age and early childhood care and education arrangements of working parents.
Recent research commissioned by NACEW includes a report on the relationship between working shorter hours and low paid, female-dominated occupations and an international literature review on flexible working arrangements.
The Council has been very active in promoting information on employment to women.
As early as 1968, NACEW published Education of Girls in New Zealand to encourage parents and young teenage girls to consider taking maths and science at schools. Within a few years, statistics showed an upward trend in the number of secondary school girls choosing maths and science subjects.
In recent years, the Council has again focussed on younger women’s choices. It produced brochures to encourage young Maori and Pacific women to consider self-employment as a career option.
The Council has been an integral part of a range of groups who have worked hard to improve the employment of women in our country.
One of NACEW’s strengths is its collaborative approach with other New Zealand organisations. Right from the start the Council has had representatives from relevant government agencies. This provides NACEW with advice about government work programmes relevant to its own portfolio. This collaborative approach enables NACEW to focus its work to add value to the government’s work programme or to address gaps in the area of women’s employment.
NACEW is a product of the last 43 years – a period that spans three generations. A woman aged 35 in 1967 looking to return to the workforce after bringing up her children is now 75. Her daughter, now possibly in her forties, has likely spent more time in the paid workforce than her mother did and spent less time bringing up children at home. Her daughter, possibly in her early twenties is likely to have her first child at 29 after more than ten years in the workforce, possibly including periods of full-time and part-time work, and has a tertiary qualification. NACEW has helped to promote changes that have given each of these women such differing lives.
Throughout the years there have been many changes that influenced the agenda pursued by the Council, for example, the women’s movement, the changing economic situation – periods of high unemployment and of full employment – growth of the tertiary education sector, new technology, the creation of new jobs not imagined 43 years ago, the growth of the service sector, the increase in tourism, changes in rural New Zealand, changes in the demography of New Zealand and many others.
NACEW remains a forum for experts in women’s employment to discuss issues and concerns about women’s employment. With its role as an independent advisory council to the Minister of Labour it had the power to influence government at the highest levels. In addition, the skills and deliberations of NACEW are available to Ministers as a conduit for information about the employment of women.
NACEW seeks alliances with appropriate organisations particularly its partners. Each NACEW member also brings their own experience and knowledge to the table. This expertise has been of critical importance to NACEW’s success.
On 1st July 2012 the ministerial responsibility for NACEW was transferred from Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson to Women’s Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew. Consequently, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is now responsible for supporting NACEW.
This transfer aligns NACEW’s work more closely with the portfolio of Women’s Affairs, particularly the priority to improve women’s economic independence.
 Now known as the Federation of Graduate Women.
 Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) was formed from the amalgamation of the Federation of Labour and the Combined States Services Organisation and now has a representative on NACEW.
 Now known as Business New Zealand and still has a representative on NACEW.
 In 1988 the State Services Co-ordinating Committee became the State Services Commission.
 NACEW Annual Report 1989/90, p. 7. Later Ministry of Youth Affairs and now Ministry of Youth Development.
 NACEW Annual Report 1993/94, p. 7.
 NACEW Annual Report 2002/2003, p. 4.
 NACEW Annual Report 1976, p. 4.