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.