GWN: shaping a future for public sector women

Our vision

New Zealand’s public service values all women and champions and empowers them to realise their full potential.

Our mission

GWN strengthens and connects women’s networks throughout the public sector, and provides guidance, support, opportunities and resources. Our work ensures that women have resources to flourish and contributes to creating a diverse and inclusive public service.

Our purpose

GWN leverages the wealth and value of the women’s experience and knowledge through its networks to address issues for public sector women including imbalances in gender roles, advancement, and leadership in the public service. Using our collective strength, we help achieve the potential of a diverse and inclusive public service by ensuring greater visibility, support, and connectivity for women’s networks across all agencies.

“Women in New Zealand’s public service are having a significant impact and agencies are making important headway in addressing gender equality. By continuing our support for GWN and networks that are empowering women to succeed, we all contribute to a stronger and thriving public sector.”

Naomi Ferguson, GWN Sponsor and Commissioner, Inland Revenue

Key data points:

2,141 members at December 2019: 824 in Wellington, 943 in Auckland, 374 in the South Island

112 agencies at December 2019: 74 in Wellington, 59 in Auckland, 35 in the South Island

7 Women in Public Sector Summits held in 2016–2019

3,500+ Summit registrations 2016–2019

1,600 LinkedIn followers since March 2019

GWN membership

August 2017 - 800

December 2018 - 1,400

October 2019 - 2,100

Public sector women are:

61.1% of the public sector workforce.

50% of public sector chief executives.

Experiencing a pay gap of 10.5%.

Source: Public Service Workforce Data 2019, State Services Commission

“As women’s networks mature, they are helping senior leadership teams to tackle their agency’s gender equality issues, supporting professional development and shaping workplace culture. Women’s networks need to maintain momentum into the future if we’re to fully leverage women’s potential in the public sector.”

Karin Schofield, GM Enterprise Strategy, Governance and Performance, MBIE

Challenges we still face

Women’s networks have grown and significant progress has been made on a number of issues for public sector women in recent years, but there are still challenges to be addressed.

Challenges for GWN

  • Many women in the public sector are not aware of women’s networks and the support they can access.
  • Not all women in the public sector have access to the support of a women’s network in their agency.
  • Not all women in the public sector have access to women’s networks in their region, particularly if they work far from Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.
  • Success for women’s networks is dependent on committed individual members which makes networks vulnerable when members leave or change priorities.

Challenges for the public sector

  • Low-skill and low-paid roles are still primarily held by women and career advancement in these roles is more difficult.
  • Gender parity in senior management or key decision-making roles has not yet been achieved.
  • A 10.5% gender pay gap still exists for all women in the public service and a lack of pay transparency can prevent women being able to gauge if they are paid appropriately for their roles.
  • Inconsistencies persist across agencies and with individual managers in the application of policies affecting working mothers.
  • Women still report fear of adverse consequences for adopting flexible work to accommodate their work-life balance.
  • Men can feel uncertain on how to help but their involvement and support is essential and welcome.
  • There is more work to be done to address unconscious bias, harassment and discrimination in areas like recruitment practices, workforce management and promotions.
  • Women in some groups can face additional barriers for their entry to and progress in the public sector workforce, for example, a gender pay gap of 27% still persists for Pacific women.

Our strategic priorities for 2020-2025

To build on our progress and address the challenges that remain GWN has identified six priorities.

Focusing on these priorities will strengthen GWN and women’s network networks in the public sector and ensure positive outcomes for individual women.

Connect and support more women’s networks and help them use their influence

Result for GWN:
Women’s networks throughout the country are flourishing, connected, and influential and their voices are heard.

Results for women and the public sector:
All women have access to a network to support them to thrive and work in healthy and safe workplaces.

Advance public sector goals for women

Result for GWN:
Public sector women are informed about policies, initiatives, levers and resources which they can use to advance their careers and achieve their potential.

Results for women and the public sector:
Equity in pay and opportunities.

Celebrate wāhine Māori and women’s achievements

Result for GWN:
Women’s networks are an essential channel for illuminating successes and role models to inspire action and change.

Results for women and the public sector:
More women are confident, inspired and motivated to advance their careers in the public sector.

Increase professional and personal development

Result for GWN:
Networks are known and valued for boosting skills and sharing development advice and opportunities for career advancement.

Results for women and the public sector:
The public sector workforce has more people achieving their potential.

Ensure GWN is sustainable

Result for GWN:
GWN continues as the primary point of contact for women’s networks and is adaptable and responsive to changing needs.

Results for women and the public sector:
Women in the public sector continue to be supported to thrive.

Support other employee networks

Result for GWN:
Growth and connection of employee networks in the wider public sector strengthens GWN’s contribution to system-wide change.

Results for women and the public sector:
The public sector is more inclusive and women and women in all their diversity feel valued and included.

How we will achieve change

  • GWN will implement a suite of activities over 2020–2025 to make progress toward our vision. We are focused on:
  • Increasing awareness of and access to GWN and women’s networks across the public sector.
  • Providing women with events that enable them to connect, be inspired and learn, including access to Women in Public Sector Summits in Auckland, Wellington and a new South Island Summit.
  • Sharing information and experiences to help networks influence changes on gender
    and ethnic pay gaps and gender equity for all public sector women.
  • Continuing to work with public sector Chief Executives and other key stakeholders
    on initiatives that affect change.
  • Making inter-agency links between women’s networks and supporting new networks to start up.
  • Supporting the startup of other employee networks with resources and advice.

“By 2025, I anticipate being able to celebrate all of GWN’s achievements and progress for women and the public sector.”

Ruth Shinoda, Chair, Government Women’s Network

Progress to date


Government Women’s Network (GWN) is formed.

Public sector gender pay gap is 14%

Women on public sector boards is 43.4%

Women are 30% of Chief Executives in the public sector.

Support given by senior public sector women.


March: GWN website launched.

April: First annual Women in Public Sector Summit, Wellington.

June: Auckland GWN launched.

August: GWN awarded ‘Highly Commended’ Diversity Works award in ‘Emerging Diversity’ category.

October: GWN’s Sponsor, Naomi Ferguson, receives Women of Influence award.

December: Women on public sector boards stands at 45.3%.


GWN invited to join Te Hora Officials Group to support Papa Pounamu, public sector CE champions for Diversity & Inclusion.

August: GWN’s first email newsletter goes out to 800 GWN members.

November: 1st annual Women in Public Sector Summit, Auckland.


January: GWN’s membership is 800.

May: Southern GWN launches.

July: Cross-agency funding is received from public sector agency Chief Executives.

GWN begins providing support to other employee networks in the public sector.

July: Launch of the Gender Pay Action Plan.

September: Suffrage 125 celebrations are held in women’s networks nationwide.

GWN’s te reo names are launched.

December: ‘Flexible by default’ work pilot begins for public sector.


January: GWN’s membership is 1,400.

No gender pay gaps for starting salaries in the public sector.

Women are 61.1% of public sector workforce.

March: GWN LinkedIn page launched.

May: Inaugural survey of GWN members is conducted.

September: Women are 50% of Chief Executives in the public sector.

November: Public sector gender pay gap is 10.5%

At least 15 agencies are trialling flexible-by default approaches.


January: GWN’s membership is 2,170.

GWN LinkedIn following is 1,600.