Overreaction to silly Genter ‘old white men’ comments

Green MP and Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter said something a bit silly last week about old white men, and she wasn’t helped by a misleading headline.

Stuff (Thursday 22 March): Minister for Women says old white men should ‘move on’ from company boards

Women’s Minister Julie Anne Genter says old white men need to “move on” from company boards to help close the gender pay gap.

Speaking to students at Christchurch’s Cobham Intermediate School on Thursday, Genter said the private sector needed to address the low level of female representation on New Zealand company boards if more businesses were to be led by women.

About 85 per cent of board members were male, and many were “old white men in their 60s”.

“Some of them need to move on and allow for diversity and new talent,” she said, later clarifying she had “no problem with old white men” on company boards generally.

Targeting people on the basis of their age, gender and race is not a good look for someone whose Ministry is supposed to promote equality.

If someone said that female immigrants in their thirties weren’t experienced enough to be a Minister and should stand down there would probably have been an uproar.

It doesn’t give a lot of credence to campaigning on equality when you single out very specific groups.

As it turns out, Genter’s comments did stir things up in social media, and it is still in the news this morning (on Newshub). Duncan Garner has just said that she is a Minister and not a protester, so should start acting like one.  It will be interesting to see if there’s a reaction to that.

She would have been better to promote and encourage diversity on boards positively rather than dumping on some directors and one narrow demographic.

Genter is free to say what she likes, but has to bear the consequences if others take her to task. She has been both defiant and defensive of her comments, but I suspect she will have learnt a lesson from this. She should have.

But some of the criticism is going too far:

That’s ironic, given that petitions have been a tactic often used by the Green Party and associated groups when in Opposition.

This pitiful & severely uneducated attack is not to be tolerated in New Zealand, Aotearoa: a country founded on a partnership between many peoples. We are better than that. We all know we are.

Julie Anne Genter no longer deserves to represent NZ or to even be a NZer.

She does not represent us. Our children do not need to read or hear such things. Times up. You are the minority.

In signing this petition we urge you, our Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern to remove her from Parliament and deport her from NZ.. It is in your power. Set a precedent for the country and a message that this will not be tolerated and hate speech of this type is not welcome here.

That’s a pathetic and ridiculous over-reaction.

If  all MPs who said something silly were forced to resign, or were sacked, there would be on one running the country.

Online petitions are a modern form of free speech but they are open to abuse, as is the case here.


Who are the unelected people making a decision on the future of New Zealand?

Winston Peters insists that he won’t be making a decision on what form the incoming government will take, and what policy priorities will have.

Last night he said that the NZ First party and board will be making the decision:

“Winston Peters is not going to make a decision. A party called NZ First, 24 years around the block, is going to make a decision, and its board. Not Winston Peters. I can’t speak for the party because I haven’t had a chance to talk to them all.”

Who is on the NZ First board?


Two of those are easily known:

  • The Leader: Winston Peters
  • The Deputy Leader: Ron Mark

Like Espiner I can’t find anything on who the others are, apart from in general terms.

National Officers (5):


Director General (1):


So the Director-General is appointed by the Board, and is on the Board.

Directors (6):


So there are 14 people on the NZ First board, and 12 of them are not MPs so aren’t elected by the public.

Espiner is trying to find out who these people are.

How relevant is this? It depends a bit on how much say the board have in what is being negotiated and what is decided. Peters claims he doesn’t make the decisions, but it would be surprising if he doesn’t have a large amount of influence in anything that happens.