Too many white guys?

Yesterday Hekia Parata announced she won’t be standing again in next year’s election.

Patrick Gower opined in Hekia Parata gives John Key a ‘white guy’ problem:

Hekia Parata quitting might give John Key a space in Cabinet – but the problem is a massive queue of white guys lining up to join a line-up of white guys.

Parata’s resignation and Nikki Kaye’s health issues means there are now just five women in Key’s 20-person Cabinet. In contrast, there are 12 white guys – hardly representative of New Zealand in 2016.

As both a woman and a Māori, Parata gave the ministry a real point of difference. More importantly, she was there on merit too.

The inconvenient truth for Key is there is a dearth of females and ethnicities in his Caucus.

There are only 17 women out of the 59 MPs (by contrast, 12 out of 31 Labour MPs are female). And only six of the male National MPs aren’t Pakeha.

National’s gender balance improved slightly when Mike Sabin resigned from Northland and they lost the by-election (with a white male candidate).

When Tim Groser resigned he was replaced with Maureen Pugh as next on the National list.

If Parmjeet Parmar wins the Mt Roskill by-election National will get another woman off the list, Misa Fia Turner. That would only bring them up to 18/59, about a third female, but it will improve their ethnic balance.

If Labour’s Michael Wood wins Mt Roskill they won’t improve their gender imbalance of 12/31, nor their ethnic imbalance. If he loses it will improve both slightly.

Also yesterday Phil Goff announced that Bill Cashmore would be his deputy mayor. Penny Hulse was regarded as too closely associated with the Len Brown era, and it is claimed she didn’t get on well with some councillors. Cashmore is described at The Spinoff as “constructive and dependable, he is a kind of centre-right National-aligned twin to Goff, which should help the mayor secure majorities in council”.

A reaction from Twitter:

Goff won the Auckland mayoralty easily, with his closest rival being an inexperienced (in politics) woman, Vic Crone.

So is there a problem with white male politicians?

There are more white male candidates so it’s nor surprising there will be more white male politicians, especially when, like Goff, they are leading candidates.

Goff stood as an independent, sort of.

But parties choose their electorate candidates and their lists. Are they biased in favour of white men?

Often the successful candidate is determined by party selections prior to the election but ultimately it is the voters who choose electorate candidates, and via the party vote they give the only 50/50 gender party the Greens about a tenth of the vote. Other things seem to be more important to voters than gender balance.

Are white men inferior as politicians?

Or is there a lack of non-white, non-male candidates willing to put themselves forward?

It can’t be ruled out that a majority of females and non-whites prefer white male candidates.

Diversity in political representation is important, but competence, and choice of the voters, should still be given some weight.

The Missy report

Today Missy reports that the political news in the UK has been overshadowed by the carnage in Nice, but it’s refreshing to get some sane and sensible coverage of something that is still of interest.


No major update today, as with most places the news today has been dominated by the attack in Nice, so domestic politics has been sidelined, so the only thing to report is the meeting today between Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May.

It has been reported that Theresa May has told Nicola Sturgeon that there will be no second independence referendum – they had their chance and they lost. However, Theresa May has also made it clear that she will ensure the Brexit deal is good for all of the UK, not just England.

Here is an article that was in the Telegraph today – it is an opinion piece. I think it is a good article, it discusses Theresa May’s cabinet in terms of gender equality, and looks at those that consciously strive for a 50/50 split don’t actually achieve gender equality no matter how it looks.

As the writer points out 2 out of 4 of the top positions in the Government are women, but more than the front facing cabinet members, many of the more powerful positions behind the scenes (advisors, media managers etc) in No. 10 are now women. Compared to previous PM’s, and the opposition leaders that talk about Gender equality, who only had men as advisers and media managers.

I think in here is something that the Labour Party (and Greens) should look at to see that sometimes it is not just about what is presented to the public, but what the intent is, and sometimes what is happening behind the scenes that is more important.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/politics/theresa-mays-cabinet-is-more-gender-balanced-than-you-think/

Gender and feminism in politics

In his latest Political Roundup Bryce Edwards has a detailed look at gender issues and feminism in politics.

Political roundup: The Rise of gender politics and feminism

Feminism is on the rise. This year has seen a greater focus on gender issues than perhaps ever before. In this extended column Bryce Edwards looks back on one of the most important trends in New Zealand politics in 2015.

A variety of different gender issues have been part of the political conversation in New Zealand this year. Some have been focused at the elite level – such as how to get more women into the ranks of the political or financial establishment. Other debates have been about attitudes, ideas and behaviours – especially “casual sexism” – but also about domestic violence. And another focus has been on the women at the bottom of the heap – those struggling on low pay. 

The variety of gender politics stories show how feminist politics has now moved from the margins into the mainstream. Now it seems almost everyone wants to call themselves a feminist – from Judith Collins through to Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

He then looks at a number of issues.

Who is a feminist?

Are you a feminist? It’s becoming increasing popular to identify as feminist, even if you’re a man, and especially if you’re a politician. This year has seen a surge of concern about gender inequality, discrimination and the degraded position of women in many aspects of New Zealand life.

A number of high profile advocates for women’s rights have spoken out recently. And many of these are men: a campaign was launched on Friday to get men on board the feminist struggle – see Simon Collins’ Men sign up to feminist cause.

Collins’ column referes to a HeforShe campaign

A journalist, comedian and the national police chief are among 21 Kiwi men who are championing a campaign to end inequality between men and women by 2030.

Journalist Jack Tame says men should be proud to call themselves feminists when they sign up to the “HeforShe” campaign launched at the United Nations last year by actress Emma Watson and kicking off in New Zealand in Wellington today.

I don’t know if I’d sign up for something like that. I’m more for equal and opportunties rights for everyone – more MeforUs.

I grew up strongly influenced by my mother, who was someone who just bloody well did what she wanted to do without considering she was disadvantaged as a woman. In many respects she acted like a staunch feminist but without labelling herself or using a label as a tool.

She was just very independent and determined to achieve what she wanted to achieve. She just was rather than claiming to be.

Back to Edwards.

National’s progress with women

Feminism used to be associated with the political left, but today’s feminist agendas are often pushed from the political right, including within the National Party. Probably the most prominent MP speaking out this year on gender issues has been National’s Judith Collins. In May she talked about her feminism and what it means to her, stating “I’ve been a feminist a lot longer than most people. I’ve been a feminist all my life” – see the NBR’s Lifelong feminist Judith Collins wants cabinet job back.

That could as well be Women’s progress with National. Political parties should allow equal gender opportunity but quality women have to step and promote themselves and compete and prove their worth – just like men should.

National’s problem with women

John Key’s “rapist” allegations in the debate about the Australian detention centres has clearly made the Prime Minister vulnerable to counter-allegations that he’s insensitive to rape victims and gender issues. His refusal to apologise for any offence caused has been criticised by the Herald – see it’s editorial, Why John Key should say sorry.

columnist Paul Little paints Key as an old-fashioned male chauvinist for how he has handled his opponents: “he is about old-fashioned values, like putting women in their place, teaching them to be seen and not heard, and never backing down or apologising, especially when you’re in the wrong” – see: John Key put those women in their place.

There could be an element of truth in that but Key has put a number of women in places of significant importance and power, not just in his Cabinet.

Sexism in parliamentary politics

Debate continues about whether the National Government will be harmed by John Key’s controversial “rapist” comments, with Patrick Gower reporting last week National still ahead in polls despite ‘rapist’ remarks. 

TVNZ’s Q+A put together a 12-minute panel discussion on Sexism and politics, featuring Judith Collins, Annette King, Julie Anne Genter and Claire Robinson. And RNZ’s Amelia Langford asked: How sexist is New Zealand politics?. For more on the topic you can also listen to her 18-minute Focus on Politics for 30 October 2015.

Regarding apparent sexist comments and behaviour by political leaders and their popularity it should be noted that some women, and possibly many, are bothered by what some see as sexist behaviour. There will be some women who by choice look up to men as leaders.

Women at the top

It’s a sign of how mainstream feminism has become, that today much of the gender politics agenda is about the women at the top – the broadcasters, CEOs, politicians and others in positions of power. There is currently a particular focus on women in business – see, for example, Fran O’Sullivan’s article from Saturday:Women’s arrival at top taking too long. In this, O’Sullivan celebrates “that women are finally taking their place at the top tables of New Zealand business”, but laments that the changes are happening too slowly.

Significant societal changes will almost always happen slowly. Some people will be impatient with that but it’s a natural reality – most people resist drastic change – and lurches can create as many problems as they solve.

Equal rights and opportunities will always be a work in progress.

And society will never be perfectly balanced in everyone’s eyes.

Casual (and serious) sexism

Much of the renewed feminist focus in politics is about highlighting some of the behaviours, stereotypes and beliefs that are said to be rampant in a sexist New Zealand. The problem of so-called “casual sexism” was outlined well by Alison Mau back in March with her column, The curse of #casual sexism. This referred not just to the everyday gender discrimination experienced by many women, but also to TVNZ’s Facebook post of “Vote For Our Sexiest Female Presenter”. Similarly, see Aimie Cronin’s I’m not sexist but….and Shelley Bridgeman’s Sexism is alive and well.

Some women (and men) may abhor “Our Sexiest Female” anything, but what if some women don’t mind it or even like it? Should things be PC’d out of existence because some oppose?

Domestic and gender violence

Possibly the single most controversial item published on the topic of gender and domestic violence this year was Rachel Stewart’s New Zealand has reached the pinnacle of world number one in domestic violence. In this she laid the blame and the solution for domestic violence “firmly at the feet of men” and called for some tough physical responses to the offending men.

Violence is a huge and insidious problem in New Zealand. Certainly some men are the main and worse culprits with violence of all types, but this is a far more complex issue than some acknowledge.

Some women are violent, especially versus children but also in relationships albeit on a smaller scale than male violence. They are real problems that shouldn’t be ignored.

And when psychological ‘violence’ is taken into account the responsibility will be more evenly spread. There’s no excuse for violent reactions but frustration and provocation are significant factors.

Individual responsibility is important – but so are joint responsibilities in relationships.

Women at the bottom

Although much of the attention of gender politics is focused on helping women “at the top” of society, or dealing with sexist stereotypes and behaviour, some is focused more on economic structures and how they impact on women at the bottom. 

For Deborah Hill Cone, much of the focus on “casual sexism” is banal when more serious gender discrimination is going on, and so she responded to Alison Mau’s column on “The curse of casual sexism” by saying: “What I do care about is the reality of the economic power of women, especially older women and minority women. This matters more to me than the objectification of television presenters. Like most things in life, it all comes down to money” – see: Let’s turn focus to women’s pay. 

It’s low pay that is probably the biggest problem for women at the bottom of the socio-economic heap

Income inequality is a real problem but also with no easy or quick solutions.

Gender inequality and sexism in general remain issues deserving of more attention and action.

But I think we have to be careful and avoid making this a them versus us issue.

We, men and women, need to do more to strive for more equal rights and opportunity.

But we also have to recognise there is no perfect equality, and equality means more to some peoeple than others, and equality looks different to different people and grouops of people.

I’ve only posted small excerpts from Edwards’ column. All the detail is here: Political roundup: The Rise of gender politics and feminism

Greens on gender balance in Cabinet

The Greens have launched a campaign for gender balance in Parliament and in any future Cabinet that they will be a part of.

Co-leader James Shaw put out this media release this morning:

Greens will ensure gender balance in Cabinet

James Shaw MP on Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Green Party is today announcing that, in Government, it will ensure half of all Green Cabinet Ministers are women, and will call on other members of any coalition Government it is involved in to do the same.

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw announced to the CTU conference in Wellington today that the Green Party would put gender equality at the heart of any Government it is involved in, starting with equal representation in Cabinet.

“Our hope is that by leading by example, and ensuring gender equality at the Cabinet table, the Green Party can stimulate and support a wave of gender equity reforms for women who work,” Mr Shaw said.

“Just 30 percent of Cabinet positions are currently held by women, and only 32 per cent of MPs in Parliament are women. If political parties are serious about ensuring women across all workplaces are paid more and given the opportunity to take on senior roles, then political parties should start by getting their own houses in order.

“A Government with 70 percent of its Ministers men isn’t good for women and it isn’t good for New Zealand.

Ideally it would be good to generally see an approximate balance, but it’s more complicated than just insisting on equal numbers. Putting people onto party lists and putting MPs into Cabinet because of their gender alone is a bad approach.

Sure about 30% female MPs and female Ministers looks lower than it should be.

But I’d be interested in knowing what women overall think about this? Many women may be happy that men take more than 50% of the roles in Parliament and Cabinet. If not then more women should make sure that a better quality of female candidate and female MP is promoted.

“The idea that people are paid on merit, or appointed to senior roles like Government Ministers based on their abilities, doesn’t stack up. Women are paid less largely because they’re working in professions that are dominated by women, and they’re often not appointed to senior positions because of barriers that have nothing to do with ability.  It’s time to drop the idea that women are worth less once and for all.“Around the world countries are realising that gender inequality is holding them back and they’re committing to greater representation by women in many positions of power in business and politics.

“There are at least 28 countries which have a greater proportion of women in cabinet than New Zealand, including France, Canada, Germany, Israel and South Africa.

“By committing to a gender balance in Cabinet, the Green Party won’t immediately fix the inequalities women are forced to deal with at work every day, but it will show that we are committed to gender equality everywhere, starting with where we work ourselves,” Mr Shaw said.

Gender balance is a good ideal to aspire to but it isn’t a good rule to try and enforce.

And a Radio NZ report shows that not all women agree with the Green quota approach  – ‘You can’t enforce equality’ – executives

…head of Chartered Accountants New Zealand, Kirsten Patterson, said forcing the hand of employers would not fix anything.

“You can’t say you’ve reached equality if you’ve had to enforce a system for equality to occur,” she said.

“We’ll only truly get to equality if the systems are changed to the extent that people are appointed on merit across a wide range of characteristics.”

Ms Patterson said the problem went beyond the cliche of the old, sexist white man.

“All of us have unconscious bias and in some circumstances, female senior executives show a stronger predetermination towards male candidates,” she said. “Areas where organisations make a hard approach and commit to doing work in this space and backing it up with actions are where we think we can make the difference.”

And even Jacinda Ardern is cautious:

“Our starting point has always been making sure we’ve got the women who are in the position to move up the ranks. That goes right down to the women who are office holders, and then coming through the ranks into Parliament,” she said.

“Once you’re in Parliament, then obviously you’re reliant on your caucus and your leader enforcing a meritocracy.”

This is another case of a Green ideal that has some merit but not necessarily being practical, especially immediately.

I haven’t seen evidence that women in general want this.

Green gender imbalance

When Russel Norman leaves Parliament at the end of October he will be replaced by next on the Green list, Marama Davidson. This means that the current 7/7 gender split will change to 8 female MPs versus 6 male MPs .

This shouldn’t be an issue but the Greens usually try hard to maintain gender balance.

To an extent it’s a quirk of a male MP resignig when the next on the list is female. But it could have been avoided by getting Davidson to stand aside to let a male replace Norman. There’s a precedent for this sort of list manipulation as two people on the Green list stood aside to enable Norman to replace Nandor Tanczos in 2008.

But Davidson is ambitious and is very keen to become an MP. She is rated highly in Green circles and they would have been expecting her to get into Parliament last year from number fifteen on their list, except that the Greens failed to improve their vote enough.

Davidson was understandable excikted by yesterday’s news.

was just stand up mighty for my ! I’m honoured up the wahzoo to be the 14th MP. Hugely thankful to so many of you ❤

There has been a lot of excitement and congratulations.

Formidable wahine toa female MPs

Embedded image permalink

ae 🙂 we 3 are the wahine Maori MP’s xx

So Davdson is highlighting her and their wahineness and Maoriness – I’m not sure that Delahunty would be thrilled with being separated like that.

And Marama Fox of the Maori Party might like to point out that Greens don’t have the only wahine Maori MPs.

Same for Nanaia Mahuta, Louisa Wall, Poto Williams and Meka Whatiri (Labour). And Paula Bennett, Hekia Parata and Jo Hayes (National). And Ria Bond (NZ First).

I don’t have a problem with this. Any party can have any mix of MPs they like. But for a party that makes an issue of promoting gender and race balance this seems to be a lapse of discipline.

Three wahine Maori MPs out of fourteen is 21.4% is about three times the population proportion.

There’s a total of twelve wahine Maori MPs (that are obvious to me) which is about 10% – about 15% of the New Zealand population is Maori so about 7.5% will be female.

Metiria Turei added her take on it:

Metiria Turei retweeted Alan

Or or or There will be 8 women in our caucus of 14 soon. All wahine toa.

So Turei is promoting them as representing strong, female, Maori, and seems to be applauding the female imbalance. This seems contrary to the Green ideal of equal female/male representation.

There are valid arguments for increased female and Maori representation to make up for past under-representation and to overcome entrenched non-Maori male domination.

But a party can’t be both gender and ethnically balanced and also promote and applaud imbalance without looking like their ideals can be bent when it suits some of them.

Green’s gender and ethnic imbalance is not a problem – unless balance is an ideal that mustn’t be compromised.

Gender pay equity

Pay equity for women is being promoted through the courts with two new cases coming up recently.

Women have struggled for a long time to achieve pay parity with men. It’s easier in occupations that have a split of male and female employees, although women in general are still disadvantaged in career paths if the take time out to have children.

The latest cases are in occupations dominated by women – midwives and education support workers. While there may be valid arguments that these occupations are underpaid it gets tricky when trying to compare them to other male dominated occupations.

It’s worth nothing that both midwives and education support workers are relatively new occupations. The work of midwives used to be done by GPs and support workers are recent additions to the workforce too.

An ODT editorial Mind the pay gap looks at the comparisons being made. They illustrate the overall problem:

Figures from Statistics NZ, the State Services Commission and others show on average women are paid $4 an hour less than men – which equates to a gap of about 14% of the average wage.

There are variious reasons for that pay gap.

Midwives’ take home annual pay ($100,000) is high but after expenses (including travel and equipment) amounts to less than $54,000. They are on call 24/7.

They argue they have taken over the role once done by GPs and their claim likens midwives to mechanical engineers. (The Government’s careers website states trainee GPs usually earn $70,000-$175,000 and experienced GPs $113,000-$212,000, while graduate mechanical engineers earn $55,000-$65,000 and experienced ones up to $115,000 a year.)

A major difference between midwives and mechanical engineers is that midwives are state funded and are on a flat pay scale – probably at their insistence. Mechanical engineers will be able to shop around for better paying jobs in the private sector.

It seems odd to choose a single occupation comparison, especially when there are significant differences between them.

The NZEI argues its education support workers are on a par with prison officers in terms of skills, responsibilities and demands, but pay rates are an average of $10 an hour less.

This is a comparison I have major doubts about. Education support workers deal with kids – sure some of them can be problem kids and I’m sure it can be challenging work at times. But to equate teaching kids with being a prison officer seems an odd comparison to me.

Teachers may be more on a par with prison officers. Are there prison support workers who supplement the work of prison officers?

Not only is it difficult to come up with fair comparisons, if they succeed in making a case for substantially higher pay it will have major flow on implications.

If the education support workers manage to convince the Government ot pay then another $10 per hour will teachers be happy to have subordinate workers now getting similar levels of pay to them? I doubt it.

Gender pay equity in theory is something that should be aspired towards. Achieving it in practice without triggering snowballing rate rise claims will be quite a challenge.

If Russel Norman resigned from Parliament

This is a hypothetical because Russel Norman has only resigned as Green co-leader.

But if Norman resigned from Parliament the next off the party list would be Marama Davidson. If she replaced Norman that would upset their gender balance.

Unless Davidson chose to stand aside that may simply end up with more female MPs forn the rest of the term, 8 female to 6 male. I can’t find anything in their candiate selection rules or theirn constitution that stipulates anything different.

The closest related rule is in Candidate Selection Processes document:

5.5 General Provision regarding Withdrawal

5.5.1 If a person withdraws from the list at any stage, each candidate ranked below that person shall move up one ranking place.

So that would break their normal male/female alternating sequence if someone wirthdrew from the list prior to the election.

A further hypothetical – if there were an equal number of male and female MPs, but due to a male candidate withdrawal the next two on the list were female, and two male MPs resigned, that would result in, on current numbers, five male MPs to nine female MPs.

That would be only 37% male MPs and 63% female, outside their list selection  rule of 60% maximum of any gender::

5.2 Application of Balance Criteria

5.2.1 The balance criteria for the list ranking process are as follows:

(i) Maori – a minimum of 10% of candidates shall be of Maori descent;

(ii) Gender – a maximum of 60% of candidates shall be male; a maximum of 60% of candidates shall be female;

(iii) Region – a minimum of 40% of candidates shall be from the North Island; a minimum of 20% of candidates shall be from the South Island;

(iv) Age – a minimum of 10% of candidates shall be under 35;

But rules can’t be expected to cover every unexpected circumstance.

Balancing gender versus balancing the budget

Do voters (including women voters) care much abour gender balance?

Quite possibly perceived competence of parties, leaders and candidates are more important to many voters.

Here’s some percentages.

  • National got 47% party vote and have 27% female MPs.
  • Labour got 28% party vote and have 40% female MPs.
  • Greens got 11% party vote and have 50% female MPs.

The voter turnout at the last election was 74.21% – at least 25% of those voters (and probably around 50%) were women.

The voter gender balance will vary across parties but presumably there’s a lot of female voters who choose to vote for parties with proportionally less women candidates.

Perhaps voters, including female voters, put more priority on balancing the budget than balancing the genders.

Labour ‘s genders and agendas

Labour’s council have proposed enforced minimum numbers of female MPs, and want to allow electorates to exclude male candidates – this has been termed a man ban.

Should Parliament reflect what the voters want or a complex balance that parties try to force us to vote for?

What do voters want in their elected representatives. Would people prefer a Parliament that “represents Maori, ethnic groups, the disabled, sexual orientation and age groups” – or would they prefer people they think can best run the country while representing all minority interests? It might be that voters don’t think the token senile dementia candidate is as good as the Rastafarian transsexual (or vice versa).

Looking at the Labour list from 2011 I think they would be better trying to lift the quality more than the quantity of females. Instead they dropped one of their more respected and electable MPs, Lianne Dalziel, to 22 on the list and she would now prefer to be mayor rather than MP.

If Labour had followed the clear preference of their members when they replaced Phil Goff as leader they may not be losing Dalziel – and they would have a female deputy leader, Nanaia Mahuta (ticking the female and Maori boxes).

And perhaps Labour should demand that rankings aren’t skewed by criteria they haven’t included – factions. And leadership preferences overriding members wishes.

Labour have much more pressing issues than forced balance of gender and selected other minority demographics.

But if they want to improve gender balance they need to look at where they recruit most of their candidates from – staffers and unions. Oh, aren’t those two groups overrepresented?