New research on equality in the workplace shows the playing-field is still tilted towards Pakeha men.
The Human Rights Commission says on every measure women, Maori, Pasifika, people with disabilities and young people get much less of a fair go at work.
It is calling for employers to bring in special measures to get underrepresented groups into top jobs.
The research showed the unemployment rate for Maori and Pasifika aged between 25 and 44 is three times that of their European counterparts.
Men aged between 45 and 64 are paid five percent more than women of the same age, and about 85 percent of people on private-sector boards are men.
Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue said she was not suggesting quotas, but something must be done.
"Special measures can mean a number of things, they can be having internal targets you want to measure and match, it can be transparent recruitment and promotion pathways.
"Our Human Rights Act and our Bill of Rights Act both allow for special measures."
She said the public sector should be representative of the people it serves.
Ms Blue also wanted the Government to set a 2020 target for evening out pay rates - and for the state sector to reveal any pay gaps annually.
The National Council of Women says that unconscious bias is the reason why Pakeha men still earn more than women.
Council president Rae Duff said unconscious bias was ingrained in society and that needed to change if women were ever to have the same opportunities as white men.
"The problem is it requires a cultural change in New Zealand, it's everybody's problem, we have to start right from the beginning with individuals, with families, with communities - it's not just an employer's problem, it's the Government's problem as well."
Ms Duff said women traditionally worked in sectors that were low paid.