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Entrepreneurship in Queenstown

April 1 2019 by Ting Zhang

When it comes to making a living in Queenstown, many who don’t fit neatly in the tourism or hospitality sectors seek out their own sustainable income opportunities by starting their own companies or offering their skills in freelance/gig arrangements. In line with the growing trend worldwide, entrepreneurism and the gig/freelance economy are important driving forces to innovation and the retention of residents and talent in the Queenstown Lakes region.

As anyone who has met an artist/programmer/ski instructor knows, the culture in the Queenstown Lakes district encourages defining your own multi-hyphenate work title. However, there has been a troubling trend of race-to-the-bottom pricing and barter systems when it comes to asking for remuneration. Asking for the worth of products or work provided can be especially challenging for women business owners and freelance entrepreneurs. Despite improvements over time, the New Zealand gender wage gap is still more than 9% (which essentially means women work 32 days for free every year), this inequality trickles over to the freelance space, where studies show women contractors charge lower rates, are more likely to get paid late, and are 4.5 times less likely to be earning over 6 figures than their male counterparts.

These figures simply quantify the conscious and unconscious bias that negatively affect working women everyday. In addition, Queenstown’s rural location means there are less resources available to help prevent and rectify gender inequalities, making it even more crucial for women to feel empowered to ask for their worth and allies to support them. Regardless of gender, the resistance to placing a monetary value on work provided is bad for both sides of the working relationship. Whether it’s goods and service businesses being asked to prove themselves before charging, or creatives being offered “exposure” versus pay for their artistic or written works, all sides lose when this is the norm.

For customers and clients, undervaluing the entrepreneur community means there’ll be no sustainable access to talent that’s hard to come by in our limited and often transient population. For entrepreneurs themselves, not asking for a liveable price/wage means they cannot continue to offer the skills, services and goods to the community long term. Both mean Queenstown loses out on new ideas, innovation, and quality of life for locals and visitors alike. If we all understand and value the work we do and receive, encourage transparency around fair pricing, and collaborate amongst each other, rather than compete with a race to the bottom, it can raise the tide for all. In Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk ‘The Art of Asking’, she encourages everyone to “give and receive fearlessly” and to “ask, without shame.” I can’t think of a better way to help grow and retain Queenstown’s community of doers, thinkers, makers, and healers, and enrich this amazing place we get to call home.

Ting Zhang is a social entrepreneur helping organisations that do good make bigger impacts

- Ting Zhang
Please note that care must be taken with the wording of comments. Where possible, avoid negative references to specific businesses or individuals. The Lakes Weekly Bulletin reserves the right to edit or withhold comments. Comments may be reproduced in the printed edition of LWB.

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  • Daniel

    The gender pay gap could be reduced and the "Art of Asking" mentioned in this piece is a great step. About 5 years ago I was in charge of hiring at a reasonably large local employer. I needed seven staff and after interviews decided the best qualified people for the positions were 5 men and two woman.
    At the initial interviews I asked what sort of hourly rate they wanted - the five men all said between $25 to $28 per hour which was at the top end of market rates for the industry at the time. On the other hand one of the woman wanted $18-20 and the other $21-$22.
    Because I was also required to keep wage costs down I haggled rates with everyone and guess what - most of the men got about $24- $25 and the two woman got $21 and $22. The staff member who only wanted $18-$19 was extremely happy when I offered her $21.
    So there you have it everyone - ask and you shall receive.

    Posted 01/04/2019 3:15pm (6 months ago)

  • Blah Blah Blah

    Totally agree Daniel. You might not get it all but at least you have a chance

    Posted 01/04/2019 7:26pm (6 months ago)

  • Tired of hearing statistics to bend a point

    Did you know that after helmets were introduced into armies there was an influx of head injuries to medical. Therefor helmets are Bad? No, just less people died from head shots! Statistics will say what you want them to.

    What controls are you using to measure this to make such a statement? There is a wage gap but it doesn't take into account other relevant factors that justify different wages such as qualifications, hours worked, profession. You cannot reasonably say that everyone should be on the same wage. If you were to include the controls to ensure everyone was the same then you would see less "pay gap" but then as Daniel pointed out, the art of asking.

    Posted 02/04/2019 8:58am (6 months ago)

  • Plain Jane

    The biggest reason for the pay gap is the tendency for women to take much more time off when raising children. Luckily this is being split 50/50 much more often these days but rarely in the first 6 to 12 months for obvious reasons. To talk about a gender pay gap without taking this in to account is pointless.

    Posted 04/04/2019 4:28pm (5 months ago)

  • Your Name Here

    I understand it’s an issue but I disagree that ‘rural Queenstown’ further enforces that gap. If anything the lack of work force means that the ones willing should be getting more, not less.
    In this case - Queenstown is soooo much different than everywhere else! - I’d say the main reason for gender gap is women undermining themselves.
    At least here in Qtw you should always aim for more - there aren’t that many people out there willing to work, some of those who do are kids on work holiday well known for doing a shitty job and a good worker should always have good self-worth and go with it.
    Not saying there ain’t no wage gap just saying that at least one of the arguments pointed in this article is bogus... and that women should ask for more if they want more...

    Posted 06/04/2019 11:49am (5 months ago)


    You have to remember that the vast majority of people who start up a business are men, because they are for some reason willing to "take the risk", where generally women dont like the risk factor.....so therefore they should reap the profit......the overall aim in business is to be successful , ie to make as much profit as you can , and to do that, you must pay your employees as little as possible, unless they contribute as much as possible to your profit.....therefore if a woman shows that she can make more money than someone else, you pay her more.....pretty simple really.....

    Posted 06/04/2019 6:41pm (5 months ago)

  • Gig Gal

    Well said Ting.

    I started my own business because I was tired of being undervalued by employers here. Ask for more pay and most of the time you won't get it – ask for a reason, ask what you can do to be of more value and most of the time, employers don't have an answer... unconscious bias definitely plays a role!

    Data released in 2017 suggested that the pay gap is around 12% and that 80% of that couldn't be explained: ( https://women.govt.nz/sites/public_files/Empirical%20evidence%20of%20GPG%20in%20NZ%20-%20Mar2017_0.pdf )

    It is hard, but running your own business or doing gig work enables you to walk away from poorly paid jobs.

    Posted 09/04/2019 11:24am (5 months ago)