Wait to see effectiveness of #metoonz

The international #metoo campaign has been picked up in New Zealand with the #metoonz campaign started by Alison Mau and supported by Stuff journalists. There are risks, care needs to be taken to respect due process, but it is good that they are trying a robust way of addressing the issue of sexual harassment and crime.

Alison Mau on the cover of the Sunday Star Times launchng the #MeTooNZ campaign.

RNZ: MeToo media campaign inundated with messages

Inspired by #MeToo campaigns abroad, broadcaster Alison Mau and publisher Stuff are urging New Zealanders to blow the whistle on sexual assault and harassment at work. ​

What was described as the “worst kept secret” in Wellington’s legal circles was certainly news to the rest of the country when online outlet Newsroom revealed serious sexual misconduct at law firm Russell McVeagh last month. It’s reported on several incidents involving several lawyers at the firm over a seven-year period.

Dame Margaret Bazley will now review Russell McVeagh, the Law Society is looking at new ways of investigating complaints, and most law schools have withdrawn from the firm’s internship and law clerk programmes and sponsorships have scrapped.

All that this was kicked off by the investigative journalism of Melanie Reid and Sasha Borissenko at Newsroom.

Individual lawyers have also given the story more legs such as former litigation lawyer Olivia Wensley who went public last week with her own experience. Among her suggestions for fixing this was an anonymous tip-off service victims or witnesses could use to notify the Law Society.

The same day broadcaster and Sunday Star Times columnist Alison Mau announced a service where people can report direct to her and publisher Stuff.

Ms Mau said she was inspired and encouraged by a former a colleague in Australia – journalist Tracey Spicer – who kicked off an investigation into sexual abuse in the media and entertainment industry there last October.

By last Monday, Ms Mau said hundreds of women had been in touch with stories she described as “heartbreaking”.

Stuff’s chief editor Mark Stevens told Mediawatch two journalists – Cecile Meier and Michelle Duff – will work closely with Ms Mau.

“That can be dialed up depending on need and outcomes. It could change at any time. Beyond that, we have support from Stuff senior editors right through to administration support,” he said.

In an article launching the campaign Ms Mau said there will be “a triage system” to assess people’s complaints.

It is important for vitims that they get things right. It is important for the campaign that they minimise the chances of getting things wrong.

What’s the actual goal of the Stuff MeTooNZ campaign?

“This is about achieving change. For individuals who suffered while their persecutors prospered. And to make this country, its institutions and its workplaces safer for those who dwell here,” stuff.co.nz editor Patrick Crewdson and Sunday Star Times editor Jonathan Milne wrote in a joint editorial published in the paper last weekend.

“It may be too soon to say whether Me Too and the related Time’s Up movement will achieve the lasting cultural change of the civil rights movement or the sexual revolution. But it’s not too soon to realise confronting sexual misconduct is a defining issue of our time,” they wrote.

When launching the campaign, Ms Mau said she wanted to hear from anyone with a story to tell in any profession or industry where “it seems this kind of criminal behaviour is rife.”

“There are certain male-dominated industries that have a problem. I can see that clearly just from the first 100 or 150 emails and messages I got,” said Ms Mau.

“I’m looking first at organisations or companies showing systemic problems with harassment and have been like that for years. We are concentrating on those because… the perpetrators are still in place and people are in danger, ” she said.

They have to be careful they don’t unfairly implicate organisations or companies.

They will need to be very careful with legal firms like Russell McVeagh (who have acknowledged problems and set up an independent inquiry into problems there).

But they can potentially do a lot of good, holding businesses and people in power to account for inappropriate and illegal sexual behaviour and harassment.

How exactly does the #metooNZ movement define sexual harassment?

There is no doubt that sexual harassment and assault is overdue for being properly addressed with, and serious perpetrators should be held to account (with proper due process).

But there is also proper concern over  pushing things to far, of making too much of relatively minor indiscretions.

These concerns have been well stated by Rachel Poulain in a question she asks of the #metooNZ movement.

See Alison Mau launches #metoonz investigation into sexual harassment in New Zealand

Broadcaster and journalist Alison Mau is launching a national #metoonz investigation into sexual harassment, supported by Stuff.

Mau says it’s an opportunity for Kiwis — mainly women, but men too — to bring their tormentors to account.

Mau said the #metoonz project — which references the celebrity #metoo social movement popularised by US actress Alyssa Milano — was for people who wanted to have a voice but didn’t know where to go.

“There’s been a window opened, if you like, for women who have something to say and are trying to find a person they can trust to say it to. I don’t want Kiwi women to miss out on that opportunity.”

Leading a team of journalists, Mau will act as the first point of contact, and can be reached on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, via email at alison.mau@stuff.co.nz or on a private phone number – 027 839 4417. Making contact would be completely confidential, and details and stories wouldn’t be shared “until and if” people are ready, she said.

It will run like any journalistic investigation, but with one crucial difference. Mau has set up a “triage” system.

“We will be able to help people that come to us to find legal help, if they need it, to lay a police complaint, if they want to, and to access counselling.

“There’s a level of care, specifically in place for this project. Even if people don’t want to talk on the record… at least we will be able to point them in the right direction to find the help they need.”

Stuff has partnered with Mau on the project.

It’s a widespread problem that needs to be addressed, properly and with care for both victims and due process, and withouit being bogged down with relatively trivial issues.

Spotlight on gender pay gap

More attention is being given to the gender pay gap in New Zealand since the change of Government.

Stuff: Broadcasters silent on pay equity, as Stats NZ plan to measure gender gap

The Government has ordered Statistics NZ to begin measuring the country’s gender pay gap.

Levelling out salaries in the public sector is something the new Government has committed to.

Recently media companies across the world have female co-hosts quitting due to the gender pay gap – citing that doing the same job and not getting the same pay was not right.

Quitting doesn’t fix the problem.

On November 14 last year TVNZ’s Hilary Barry tweeted “Dear Women of NZ, I’ve got some bad news for you. From today until the end of the year you’re working for free.”

Barry is rumoured to be fronting Seven Sharp, which has always had a formula of one male and one female presenter. TVNZ would not comment if there would be any discrepancy in wages for the incoming hosts.

MediaWorks also refused to say whether The Project hosts Jesse Mulligan, Kanoa Lloyd and Josh Thomson, were paid equally. The show returns to screens on Monday.

The article did not say whether Fairfax was asked whether there is a gender pay gap in their media operations.

Mark Greer, owns Hawke’s Bay business services company Bizdom​.

Greer questioned if the Government would even be able to tackle the topic, because it was one that was a lot more convoluted than a simple tweak to legislation.

“I would be concerned if the Government started saying I had to have certain percentage of females and males. I just don’t know if the Government can do anything about [decreasing the gender wage gap].”

The Government can ensure that there is pay equity in the public service. They can also encourage and pressure private companies in to doing likewise – having good statistics will help with this.

The Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement includes:

12. . Eliminate the gender pay gap within the core public sector with substantial progress within this Parliamentary term, and work to ensure the wider public sector and private sector is on a similar pathway.

“Substantial progress within this Parliamentary term” and “ensure the wider public sector and private sector is on a similar pathway” is vague and indicates no confidence in rapid change.


But new Statistics Minister James Shaw believed there was an onus on his department to gather the data, so the Government could fix it.

It was too early to know exactly how it was going to be measured, Shaw said in a written statement.

That statement from Shaw appears to have been to the Sunday Star Times, I can’t find it anywhere online.

Utopia – you are standing in it! has posted:

Not sure to what to make of this because extensive data is already collected.

From this link:

Summary and recommendation

We consider that median hourly earnings from the New Zealand Income Survey (NZIS) is the best measure for calculating the gender pay gap.

We recommend this measure for three reasons.

  • Hourly earnings measure pay for a fixed quantity of work.
  • The median is a better measure of ‘typical’ pay than the average (mean).
  • NZIS collects individuals’ income from paid jobs, which allows us to build a picture of how pay is distributed across the population.

Using the NZIS measure, we find that in the June 2015 quarter the gender pay gap was 11.8 percent. This means that a typical male earned about 12 percent more for an hour’s work than a typical female.

The gender pay gap has generally been decreasing since 1998, and has fluctuated in the last few years.

What does the gender pay gap look like in New Zealand?

In the June 2015 quarter, median hourly pay for males was $24.07 and for females it was $21.23. The gender pay gap was 11.8 percent. This means that a typical female earned about 12 percent less for an hour’s work than a typical male.

Graph, Gender pay gap, calculated using median hourly earnings, June quarter 1998 to 2015.

It was trending down at the end of last century but didn’t change much during the Clark government years.

Was it the Global Financial Crisis that closed the pay gap slightly from 2008? That looks likely because it is trending up again.

Does this reflect an entrenched pay disparity, or is it because females are still far more likely to interrupt their careers to raise families? Or females don’t put such a priority on high earning jobs? It’s probably a complex mix of all of this.

Sometimes it can be pure business economics. All Blacks earn substantially more than their female counterparts the Black Ferns, so male players will be able to be paid substantially more.

In other fields it can be more complicated. Do male TV presenters attract better ratings and more advertising revenue than female presenters? Is this because they are given better opportunities, better shows, better time slots? It will be difficult to determine these things simply through statistics.

Aged care workers have recently had large pay increases to address a court ruling that there was real disparity. This should also apply to mental health workers and others, but comparing different types of jobs can be difficult, and there’s a risk if creating a snowball effect – if one industry succeeds in proving greater worth then others will want to catch up or keep ahead. It can be complicated and continually evolving.

Better statistics help understand the situation and trends (or lack of trends), but I think it is also important to look at more than this to get a real picture of the size and scope of the problem.

See also Alison Mau: It’s time to come clean on how big the pay gap really is

The Government’s push to collect data on the gender pay gap might just be the first meaningful step to solve an intractable problem.

Like the five stages of grief, the worldwide discussion on the issue looks to be moving past denial and into anger; although academics and the more savvy business leaders have known for some time that the gap is there and should be nixed (because that makes good business sense) it has taken a series of resignations by high profile media women to bring it sharply into focus for everyone. This is unfortunate and unfair – why should it be the injustices done in ivory towers that get all the ink – but true.

Starting with big businesses makes sense as they’re the ones who employ the bulk of New Zealanders, and can carry out the work without too much cost or disruption. Maybe now’s the time, then. Coupled with whatever Statistics New Zealand comes up with after Minister James Shaw’s directive, we could start seeing a real difference.

Information is power, and right now, what we don’t know is most certainly hurting us.

Better statistics will help, but a comprehensive understanding will need more than that.


Drug summit in July

A drug summit pushing for cannabis law reform is being organised to be held at parliament in July.There will be international and New Zealand speakers with Helen Clark a possibility.

Stuff: Stories of hardship and frustration inspire big-name drug summit

Arguments for cannabis law reform, and calls for politicians to stop “running scared”, are expected at a drug summit in Wellington to be chaired by broadcaster Ali Mau.

The suffering people endured while waiting to get medicinal cannabis approved was one reason Mau said she was interested in drug law reform.

Media has been pushing cannabis legal absurdities more, in particular highlighting Helen Kelly openly saying she was flouting the law to use cannabis to alleviate pain and suffering as she died of cancer.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell has long expressed frustration at the slow pace of drug law reform. In particular, he said the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act was antiquated and unfit for purpose.

It had not tackled high rates of drug use and abuse, but instead had “burdened tens of thousands of young people and Maori with criminal convictions”.

Mau said this week: “I share Ross’ chagrin, or pain if you like, that the pace of change in New Zealand is way too slow.”

She had noticed a shift in public attitudes in recent years, with people increasingly voicing support for decriminalisation.

There has been a shift in attitude internationally, with a number of countries making changes to cannabis laws in particular.

There has also been a change in attitude in New Zealand, particularly on medicinal cannabis products, but parties and Parliament remain reluctant to do anything.

Speakers could include Helen Clark which would ensure a high profile:

Helen Clark could return to Parliament to discuss decriminalisation at the summit in July, and others are expected to voice frustration at drug law inertia, and what they see as an overemphasis on punishment.

Mau will not speak at the Parliamentary Drug Policy Symposium, but a dozen women with backgrounds in drug and alcohol research, politics, law and public health have confirmed their attendance.

“I’ve never seen a lineup as impressive,” Mau said.

Maori Party founder Tariana Turia was expected to discuss issues affecting Maori and wider criminal justice sector reforms on July 6.

Former Canadian deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, who headed that country’s task force on marijuana legalization and regulation, will speak on July 5.

Alison Holcomb, who drove efforts to legalise marijuana for recreational use in the state of Washington, will also address the two-day conference.

Bell hoped politicians would agree that drug law reforms were needed, and might realise they could make drug reform campaign promises instead of “running scared”.

This is good timing to push all parties to be clear about their drug policies and what priority they will put on them.