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Happy International (Working) Women’s Day!

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, March 8th, 2014 - 28 comments
Categories: feminism, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , , , ,

The official theme of International Women’s Day this year is “Inspiring Change”. It’s a little vague, a little aspirational, not too confrontational – fairly typical for this kind of awareness-raising exercise.

But it is 2014, and it’s an election year, and the way we talk about women, and women’s work, does have the potential to inspire change in New Zealand.

Right now Kristine Bartlett, with the support of the Service and Food Workers’ Union, is breaking new ground. She’s worked in elder care for years, doing incredibly important, physically and emotionally demanding work, for $14.32 an hour. I think everyone can agree those kind of wages are pitiful. But the argument is bigger than that.  It asks not ‘should a woman be paid the same as a man for the same work?’ – a question which, I’m sorry to say, is still not settled for some employers – but this:

Should a traditional ‘woman’s job’ be paid the same as a traditional ‘man’s job’ which involves the same skills and experience?

There are difficulties and complexities and all kinds of side issues which get raised – Kristine’s employer Terranova just wants to make the whole issue about how much funding they get, and a lot of armchair experts will opine that it’s comparing apples and oranges and this lets us ignore the fact that a lot of traditional ‘men’s work’ gets paid a lot better than ‘women’s work’.

But the fact remains that we’re talking about ‘women’s work’. We’re talking about the terrible wages a woman-dominated workforce is paid to do a vital job in our society. Take the gender issue out of the picture, and we’re talking about how capitalism exploits people who have such compassion and caring in their hearts that they’ll look after others for $14.32 an hour – and that’s not right.

And as Jan Logie has noted in her blog, our current government has a terrible track record on ‘women’s issues’ – along with everything else. On this International Women’s Day, let’s inspire a change – of government!

(I do note that the concept of a “women’s day” isn’t perfect.  There are still a lot of women who are marginalised or erased in discussions of “women’s issues”, and a lot of people who reject the man/woman gender divide.  Their lives deserve recognition too.)

28 comments on “Happy International (Working) Women’s Day! ”

  1. karol 1

    Well said.

    And let’s not forget, the most undervalued and under-rated “traditional” woman’s job – child rearing, domestic labour, raising the next generation of citizens – ensuring human society survives and prospers.

    And the ones doing it hardest are those largely paid via WINZ.

  2. Bill 2

    Just been reading a piece on Italy, where only 46.2% of women are in the workforce. There is a, somewhat flawed, call for the estimated 5 million home workers to be paid a monthly allowance. Brought to mind UBI.

    (Not sure how the 5 million is arrived at…surely Italy has a population way beyond 20 odd million) Anyway…

    One of the drivers for the argument…

    “We have [in Italy] many women who die inside household walls because they do not have economic independence,” said Bongiorno.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/07/italian-campaigners-housewives-paid-salary

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Thanks to corruption and graft facilitated by the banksters and the bankster monetary system, Italy’s unemployment rate is now over 12%. Its youth unemployment rate is over 40%. By all means fight for employment rate equality in Italy, but all it will mean in reality is gender equality in high unemployment.

      • Stephanie Rodgers 2.1.1

        I get a little concerned at comments like this, I have to say. It seems to suggest that, even though you acknowledge women are disadvantaged, you’d rather they stay disadvantaged because trying to raise women’s workforce participation is just going to push men out of the workforce.

        Similar arguments have been raised in the past about women entering the workforce pushing down wages, because of the larger pool of (paid) labour that’s been created.

        The irony to me is that this weakens our entire struggle. We end up fighting amongst ourselves over scraps from the table – saying ‘oh no, if we demand pay equality our share of the scraps will be smaller’ instead of standing together and saying ‘we’re not content with your scraps’.

        • karol 2.1.1.1

          And it ignores how much unpaid and underpaid work is done by women – work which contributes to the economy and to social well being.

        • felix 2.1.1.2

          Well said, Stephanie. It makes us so easy to rule when we do the dividing for them.

  3. Colt 45 3

    “…..Should a traditional ‘woman’s job’ be paid the same as a traditional ‘man’s job’ which involves the same skills and experience?….”

    Why pick on males?

    So female childcare workers, who work so that better educated women can ‘actually’ go to work – in say education and health[and at far higher pay rates] – are to be paid less ? – all these women do ‘caring’ jobs remember!

    Or are female child care workers to be paid the same as a male in a traditional male occupation – who actually gets less money than those women in education and health?

    Your whole idea appears to be nothing more than creating a gender war – to hide the fact that you don’t know what to do with the feminist dilema; the ‘white liberal women’s slave class’ – female childcare workers!

    • Stephanie Rodgers 3.1

      That seems to be a fairly extreme reaction, Colt. Nobody’s ‘picking on males’. Nobody’s saying men should be paid less (though there’s a bitter old joke about another way to achieve gender equality). And nobody’s starting a ‘gender war’.

      But there’s a lot of serious discussion out there about whether some professions, which are predominantly worked by women, are paid less than is fair. As karol’s alluded, they’re often professions which are considered ‘naturally’ women’s work, like caring and domestic labour.

      I’m interested in your assertion that men are paid less than women in the health and education sectors. Do you have any more information on that?

      • Colt 45 3.1.1

        “……But there’s a lot of serious discussion out there about whether some professions, which are predominantly worked by women, are paid less than is fair. As karol’s alluded, they’re often professions which are considered ‘naturally’ women’s work, like caring and domestic labour….”

        That’s exactly what I’m replying to, maybe you misunderstood me.

        What I’m saying is why don’t you compare apples with apples, well different brands, but at least they’re apples; child careers vs education and health workers, it’s not that they’re mostly women but that the job is more ‘similar’ – it’s a fair comaprison – and probably VERY fair for childcare workers as:

        why should a childcare worker get the same money as a male mechanic or builders labourer, simply because they’re ‘mans jobs’ when they could probably get more money by being compared to education or health workers – who happen to be mostly female – but the work is ‘similar’?

        I just don’t really see any sense in comparing ‘his’ with ‘her’ type jobs when better and more fairer comparisons are available for those who have low pay rates.

        • Stephanie Rodgers 3.1.1.1

          The point of comparing predominantly-women’s jobs to predominantly-men’s jobs is to establish a case of gender discrimination. And there’s already a well-established process for comparing work in these cases – it’s not up to a random person saying ‘oh, I think elder care is just like nursing so they should be paid the same’.

  4. captain hook 4

    IN the immortal words of JFK think not about what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. Ladies of New Zealand unite.
    Get down to those Auckland City Council meetings and tell the greedies that you do not want them to selltthe CCo’s. Hector and harry them till they slink off.

    • Stephanie Rodgers 4.1

      Thanks for the suggestion, captain hook, but I’d suggest that the issues of CCOs isn’t really a gendered one, and on International Women’s Day it might be appropriate to think about issues which disproportionately affect women, such as the post discussed.

  5. ianmac 5

    Bill’s remark “Brought to mind UBI” is a solution but can you imagine the war that would erupt at the raising of this in NZ by a politition? Imagine if everyone including all adult women were paid the basic income. And if they wished and were able they could still earn that extra money. Of course most of the State institutions would become surplus and most benefits would cease to exist.
    Meanwhile back in the real world so many pay rates disadvantage women but not in teaching or nursing. Funny that the World did not end.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      The Right Wing have no problem talking about and introducing radical and revolutionary policy initiatives which are pro-1% and pro-corporate big business.

      Why is the Left Wing so weak willed about doing the same for its constituency of the bottom 50%.

  6. greywarbler 6

    Perhaps the slogan should be Back to the Future. That is to go back to the radical strivings for all women to get ahead .

    This would mean the most emphasis on the lives of poorer women, with better wages, better conditions, set working hours, getting employers to join schemes where women can be permanent casuals with rights to take time off without losing their place in the permanent casual list. There needs to be more help for women who are parents, with consultation as to their needs and wants.

    Then another is stopping simple half splits of matrimonial assets in divorce agreements so that the mother has a house to bring the children up in, rather than all the assets being realised and cashed up into halves.

    Keep concentrating on improving the lives of women at the bottom end who haven’t managed to hoist themselves up to the good jobs and middle class comforts and opportunities.

    I don’t know if the Ministry of Womens Affairs is still viable. But often this sort of department gets captured by the middle class woman who can get near the glass ceiling. The lives of ordinary woman just getting on but rarely up can be eclipsed by response to need from the disabled and the ordinary poor without obvious stigmata of disability or membership of the current area of concern, are overlooked.

    • Stephanie Rodgers 6.1

      As far as I can tell, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (much like the National Council of Women) thinks the top priority for gender equality in NZ is getting more women on boards. There are certainly advantages to having more diverse voices at the top of an organisation, but yes, I rather think the pay gap, sexual violence, and ‘women’s work’ might affect a few more people’s lives.

      • Colt 45 6.1.1

        Grey warbler is right in what he says Stephanie:

        “……But often this sort of department gets captured by the middle class woman who can get near the glass ceiling……”

        So women want it all?

        Since all women then want that pro-life choice of when to have babies, then it is up to them to make that choice – which can then be while they are either young; about 20 – or very near too old to concieve just one ‘single alone child’ – at the ripe old age of just 40 – the new 30 as they say.

        For those women who choose to have babies during that ‘opportunistic’ time, which is nearly every women, and who also want a ‘career’ – or simply ‘better’ income during that time – then baseing their daily routine around work and/or education between 9-3 seems rather an ideal place to build policy up from – well to me anyway.

        Women in the long ago past simply spent too much time in the home[for those who wanted to be educated/working] and males it can probably be said, spent too much time away from home. However it’s not just babies who need the wisdom, grace, love and law of a mother, but children and teenagers too. Before and after school.

        Women’s abilities as mothers, educators, wisdom providers ect should be respected for what it is – rather than have it compete with the demands of the market place – as mothers build far better societies than the market place ever can; Ceo’s, doctors, police officers, judges are one thing – but prostitutes of all ‘income persuasions’ are another thing altogether to turn working ‘mothers’ into. The workplace is cut throat at all levels today – that’s reality between women on women business as it is with man on man business – and it’s not a nice thing to install into children after work. The workplace can only get worse as disgruntled females will install that view onto their children, and thereby making their children disgruntled within the reality of the business enviroment – a ‘grinding’ career.

        Good societies need good mums – as that is what leads to having good ‘villages’. It shouldn’t take a village to raise a child – unless you think that women are not capable of being good mothers and careerists at the same time. Surely they can do both.

        Village ‘raisers’ such as childcare workers are nothing but the creation of those in places like the Ministry of Women’s Affairs – who don’t want to see mothers and workplaces come to a satisfactory arrangement, which in turn will make the Ministry of Women’s Batteries redundant – just look at their arguements:

        Women do an extra ’45minutes’ of house work a day than the male. WOW!

        And then they publicly denegrate male employers who reply using exactly the same logical arguement – over a week, a year, or God forbid – ‘a lifetime career’!!

        The Women’s Ministry: trouble makers who create a ‘patriarchal’ image for their benefit alone.

        Village idiots and spinsters as we used to say about those types..

        • karol 6.1.1.1

          Colt45, are you on Colin Craig’s prosecution (sue Russel Norman) committee?

        • Stephanie Rodgers 6.1.1.2

          The idea of ‘women wanting it all’ is a very old-school line. It implies that women are being demanding or selfish or unrealistic by wanting to have a career and bring up children – when men have traditionally been able to do exactly that! And we know the benefits of ensuring people can earn enough to live with dignity, spend more time with their children, and work in careers which satisfy them.

          I think the rest of your comment just stands to prove why we need International Women’s Day (and feminism, and brave women like Kristine Bartlett) – you’ve made a lot of assumptions about gender roles which paint women (and men) into particular corners and limit their choices in life.

          • Colt 45 6.1.1.2.1

            “……..you’ve made a lot of assumptions about gender roles which paint women (and men) into particular corners and limit their choices in life…..”

            Sorry my mistake Stephanie, I did forget to add that ‘all women who have children should have the right to work from 9-3pm. Tax free. If they choose to.’

            That doesn’t limit the vast majority of women in work, other than maybe a female pilot ect, but then those roles are mostly highly paid and allow a women to leave the workforce for a number of years to care for their children if they choose to do so.

            ‘Tax free’ is also an incentive to the employers, as it gives female employees more money which is not at the expense of business. Most employers would probably then be accepting of a 9-3 roster. WFF is nothing more than wealth re-distribution and does not alleviate the problems that mothers have in trying to balance work and home.

            Most dysfunctional families need the male to be ‘out’ of the house, and bringing home a reasonable, regular, and increasing income. Longer hours do that. And more experiance from those longer hours does eventually increase income further in today’s range of jobs. They are then good examples to their sons and daughters.

            Yes I have painted the picture that men can’t have babies in corners or elsewhere – and that the role of the male is to SUPPORT the one who can – the MOTHER. Doing the mothers job is not support – it’s aid. Women can have it all Stephanie – they can do both work and mother – but only by being supported!

            • Stephanie Rodgers 6.1.1.2.1.1

              There are a lot of assumptions in all of your comments on this post, Colt, and I have to say they all seem to be incorrect. You’re creating a lot of strawman arguments which no one is making. I don’t really get the sense you’re interested in seriously discussing these topics.

  7. Aww 7

    I think the fastest way of changing inequality is to get more women in their own business and NZ already has great benefits in terms of taxes for business start ups.

    We could use more funding for those disadvantaged in the employment market. Work and Income budgets for business start ups were cut in 2008 and have remained reduced since then. This funding used to be known as the Enterprise Grant/Allowance but is now under the Flexi Wage scheme.

    One of the entry criteria for this funding is if you are a woman trained in what is traditionally men’s work. I’d love to see more people (not just women) benefiting from this. The scheme is well mentored and has a very high success rate so it doesn’t make any sense to cut the funding, especially when the criteria ensures that only the most disadvantaged in the employment market can apply.

    This is also IMHO a much, much better use of government money than paying an Australian company to get these people work.

    • Stephanie Rodgers 7.1

      I’m afraid I just don’t see it. The vast majority of the workforce, men or women, don’t have the luck to run their own businesses. Campaigns such as the living wage, or reviews of how our criminal justice system deals with sexual violence, have benefits for far more people, and could effect massive change in our society.

      Saying that getting more women to run businesses is the ‘fastest way’ to address inequality really just sounds like a cousin of the old bootstraps myth – it ignores the structural issues and the scope of gender inequality.

  8. Foreign Waka 8

    The depth and breath of the comments plus the unbridled anticipation shows exactly where NZ is and where the future lies for women in this country – nowhere. It does not surprise me a bit as in reality nothing really has changed since we crawled out of the cave. O yes, we don’t have to rub sticks anymore to get the stove going but the majority of the cooking is still done by women . Men drum their chests that they have provided all the gadgets to make life “easier” but yet insisted that women have to use their “spare” time to work in jobs that pay less because this is where women belong. No idle hands and a facade to say that no exploitation takes place. Attitudes within societies have and still show the standing of women in society the world over. Lets remember all the tortured, burned and murdered women in those countries where the contempt and disadvantage is taken to heights unthinkable. And please don’t ask a western women to say thank you that it is not happening here.

  9. Murray Olsen 9

    Happy International Women’s Day.

    I remember hearing about equal pay for equal skills in the mid 80s. The idea that a nurse should be paid the same as a policeman made a lot of sense to me, and still does. It’s shameful how much workers in aged care receive, which shows that we don’t really value old people or age care workers. Half the working class is female. If we don’t want equal rights and equal pay for all workers, we’re on the side of the bosses. I know I’m not.

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