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National – No Friend to Women

Written By: - Date published: 2:44 pm, November 9th, 2010 - 45 comments
Categories: equality, feminism, national, wages - Tags:

Pansy Wong provides stiff competition in the race for most incompetent National minister.  That’s not to say she’s as dangerous as a competent and wrong-headed Bill English, or the incompetent but determined Tolley.  But women’s rights risk demolition by neglect under her watch.

After years of progress, now the gender pay gap is increasing by about 1 percentage point each year under her watch (now 13%) – and incredibly it’s larger in the public (15.4%) than private sector, despite the government having control over civil servant wages.  And a new report out shows women’s level of participation in key leadership areas is static or falling.  Female unemployment had passed 7 percent for the first time in 12 years – and with a higher proportion of women in the public service, the continuing cuts there will make that unemployment figure worse.

This despite a large part of National’s success in 2008 being John Key’s appeal to women.

By portraying a soft-centre image, and talking nicely on education being a National Priority, putting women ministers into the “social” portfolios, and using compassionate, inclusive language to excuse their harsh policies they have moulded a pro-women image.  By slashing $400 million from early child education, canning community education, cutting beneficiary training allowances, undermining worker’s rights and growing the pay-equity gap, they have betrayed that image.

45 comments on “National – No Friend to Women ”

  1. Carol 1

    Pansy Wong is answering questions on this in the House, as I type. She appears to be following the Bill English school of statistics. She claimed that the gender pay gap has decreased from around 12% under Labour, to 10% under NACT. There was a dispute over the series of figures she’s using. She claims that she’s using the same series that Labour was using. She was asked why she didn’t use the series that John key favours.

    I’m not knowledgable about this, so would welcome some clarification. I think Wong was using some sort of median income.

    She also ruled out a Green Party call for a cross-party caucus on women’s issues. Wong did a number about how the Ministry of Women are doing fine in meeting their targets.

  2. Lanthanide 2

    Is Pansy Wong actually a minister? I thought she was just spokesperson for women’s affairs or something.

  3. Carol 3


    Catherine Delahunty challenges Wong’s statistics:


    I’ve been regularly challenging Women’s Affairs Minister Pansy Wong about the gender pay gap in Parliament, and last time, she pointed out that this survey is her preferred method for measuring the gender pay gap. Comparing the median hourly income of males and females in this survey, the gap between what men earn and what women earn is 10.6 percent, and yesterday the Minister issued a triumphant press release claiming that this meant the gender pay gap was the smallest since 1997.

    If only it were that simple! It is good news that the gap has narrowed on this measure, but as Labour’s Sue Moroney pointed out, in the context of an overall wage drop, it’s pretty weird to be celebrating. And sadly I’m just not convinced that this is the right way to measure the gender pay gap. I prefer to use the Quarterly Employment Survey, because it comes out more often, and that’s been showing a steady trend in the opposite direction.

    Delahunty prefers this:

  4. higherstandard 4

    What about ginga and fatty pay equity ?

    [are you going to be anything more than a dismal waste of comment space this time round HS? — r0b]
    [lprent: Well if he isn’t up to spec and starts trolling again this time then I’ll do what I like doing to the lower standards. (and the standards have generally lifted since he departed last time. ) ]

    • Bright Red 4.1

      show that there is institutional pay inequity for gingers and fatties and you might have a case. All humans deserve equal pay for equal work – don’t you agree?

      • higherstandard 4.1.1

        Certainly I agree with equal pay for equal work.

        However, this post appears to be arguing for some sort of quota system to ensure equal numbers of differing genders in positions, which is fatuous drivel. Give the best person for the job the job regardless of their gender, religion, sexual proclivity.

        I see the moderators are still attacking anyone who doesn’t take a jump to the left, let alone those of us who dare attempt a pelvic thrust. Ban away chaps.

        [lprent: Nope – we’re aware of how you wank in public (I presume that was the “pelvic thrust” you were referring to?). Your trademark is to disrupt debate with wildly off-topic comments. These days when I feeling charitable I move them to OpenMike where they belong. When I’m not – well you know what happens… ]

        • Colonial Viper

          However, this post appears to be arguing for some sort of quota system

          You just made this shit up in order to set up a line of false argumentative attack.

          If you didn’t, feel free to quote the passage that Bunji wrote that you are referring to.

        • Ed

          I don’t see any of that sort of argument, hs; but a system that almost always chooses a man over a women must be seen to have a bias. A system that regularly treats women as ‘tokens’, with real power being elsewhere, may be hypocritical. I believe that National does not care about gender balance or equity, except to the extent that affects votes. Their women ministers are chosen for compliance rather than competence, and real power lies with a small group of men. They appear to be spreading such attitudes through the public service.

          This is an economic issue – under-utilising a sector – any sector – of our population through prejudice does not give optimal results.

          • Bright Red

            that’s right. In a system free of bias you would expect that jobs would be held about 50-50 by the two sexes. The fact that they’re not indicates bias.

            Just like how National has no women in its top 6, only two in its top 10, and only 7 in its top 30, along with no-one who’s not Pakeha in the top 14 – all suggesting a Pakeha male bias.

            • Lanthanide

              Of course there is bias, because women’s role in society is often to raise children. It’s difficult to climb the corporate ladder if, when you read the age of ~25 or so, you leave the workforce for 5+ years to raise the kids as a stay-at-home mum.

              Now, for any woman doing exactly the same job as a man, with similar backgrounds, I would demand equal pay. But I am not going to demand equal representation of women in the work force, nor that women with lesser experience should get a job over a man applying for the same position.

              • clandestino

                Exactly. How can there be no natural discrepancy if a large percentage of women are taking that kind of time out?

                I much more readily buy the argument that women can be less aggressive in pay negotiations (though this must be at the top; I’ve never been more than a price taker) and that men are more likely to walk away (ie. stubborn).

                The worry is that many buy the whole inequality story (that it’s rife and/or growing), because they don’t want to be seen as sexist or capitalist, despite never having seen pay discrepancies between sexes at work for themselves.

                But please people, fire away with your anecdotes.
                By the way, I hope all these income surveys use a median; an average is largely useless for most of us.

                • Carol

                  So you’re saying that the system is set up to benefit more men than women, because women are more likely to take time out to look after children? And that’s not a problem? Especially as that child care is an economic benefit to the country as a whole. Also, the system already is a bit dysfunctional because we have too many people working way too long hours, and not enough work for everyone.

                  Wouldn’t it be better if work & child care was shared around more evenly?

                  • clandestino

                    Yes of course parents should share the load but why on Earth would the government have anything to do with that???? Unless you want to take money and give it the partner at home, which is just like taking it from the working partner and passing it over, which is what happens anyway – just more efficiently!

                    As for people working too long hours for minimum productivity gain, I agree that is a real problem.
                    And M below: I haven’t been in a position where I’ve been able to ask for more, or had the balls to do it, but I admire people who do and more power to them. I don’t think that’s a systemic fault, but a biological difference perhaps for many, and the blame game on this issue is distasteful I find. I’ve heard some very well reasoned arguments why women might not be on boards in the same proportions as men, and it makes them look a hell of a lot saner!

                    • Carol

                      I wasn’t specifically talking about parents sharing the load. Not all parents have a partner. I’m talking about the way the whole system is constructed to favour men. It would mean a big shift away from the way work is set up. We are still living with a watered down version of a system that was set up with men as breadwinners & women in the home. But the work that un-paid carers do in the home contributes towards the country’s economy.

                      I’m thinking of a system where a career doesn’t depend on spending such long hours at work, and where periods spent on child care are recognised as work that utilises valuable skills. And maybe where all workers get periods doing other stuff, away from their main careers, which would also be recognised a good way of learning new skills and perspectives.

                • M

                  Clandestino, I think you are right about women being less aggressive in pay negotiations and price takers because many are socialised this way. For many it’s considered mannish or unfeminine to go for the best deal you can get and economic conditions also play a part.

                  The first time you do some bargaining it’s scary but I managed it at 20 when going for a job saying to an employment agency that if the prospective employer offered 1k more I’d take the job. I’ve also phoned up companies when there have been two jobs I’ve been going for and put gentle pressure on the firm I’ve wanted to work for if I’ve already had an offer and have met with success.

                  All of this is moot of course if you work in fast food, cleaning or a supermarket where it’s a take it or leave it scenario – been there too – which is why high rates of union membership in these sectors is crucial for everyone particularly women.

                  • clandestino

                    See this is where I disagree. You say it’s social, I think that in the aggregate it’s more of a biological/genetic thing.
                    People will go for the best deal no matter their sex, surely. But negotiating with the illusion of confidence and skill is a more subtle craft, and the often heard ‘men are arrogant’ line springs to mind.
                    And how you redress that is full of problems.

              • Colonial Viper

                The ‘child bearing years’ argument may have some merit, but I note Labour managed 4 female MPs in their top 10, with 3 of those in the top 6. And of course, Annette King as Deputy Leader.

                Seems to me that NAT simply prefer white males in their top line up.

                • Lanthanide

                  Well look at the women they have as ministers:
                  Collins, Wong (apparently), Wilkinson, Bennett, Tolley and te HeuHeu, not exactly a bright or competent bunch. Then again most of the ministers leave a lot to be desired.

                  But yeah, politics is probably one job where female input should be very welcome, but also very prone to an ‘old boys club’ situation.

              • Vicky32

                I chose to take 5 years off, and ended up taking 15, thanks to the Act-in-Disguise and Nat governments. I have never had any desire to “climb the corporate ladder” but there are women who do have such a desire, and childcare ought to be available for them. But that child care should be *quality* care, and we all know that NACT hate that idea.

        • Bunji

          Wow, I really don’t know how you get that. As CV says: making shit up.

          also, you might as well have the full guide for your derailing, in case you’ve missed any…
          (ht: Marty Mars)

      • All humans deserve equal pay for equal work – don’t you agree?

        Indeed I do.

        show that there is institutional pay inequity for gingers and fatties and you might have a case.

        If we assume that, to most people, obesity and ginga-ness are unattractive, then HS actually has a point.

        The researchers found that physical attractiveness had a significant impact on how much people got paid, how educated they were, and how they evaluated themselves. Basically, people who were rated good-looking made more money, were better educated and were more confident.

        I’d simply suspected this was the case till I looked up the research just now, because I’ve seen plenty of studies that show attractive defendants are much less likely to be found guilty and to get shorter sentences if they are.

        There are real inequities in society that transcend sex and race. Pity they don’t receive a fraction of the attention.

        • Carol

          It’s true that there are many kinds of unfair inequities. On the looks front, there’s a long history of women being judged more on their looks than men – though I think men’s looks have become increasingly important. Looks-ism tends to intersect with gender inequalities: eg I believe there’s reserch that shows that taller people are more likely to get selceted for positions of authority, and of course, men generally tend to be taller than women.

          Also, what counts as an attractive appearance in males and females, especially in formal situations, is traditionally based in gender stereotypes – though, i hope that is changing.

          • Vicky32

            I remember reading a bizarre study in 2008, that showed that in *every* US Presidential contest since the mass media started taking a hand, the *taller* candidate always won. (I think Millard Fillmore is the guy , who weighed 800 kg, and would never have elected if there had been any means of mass communication at the time, but there wasn’t – mid-19th century I think.)

        • Vicky32

          Oi, what’s wrong with ginges? My father, my sister, two of my sons, my ta-da! grandson… 🙂
          However, sadly, you’re right about the rest… When I was doing Ed Psych 201, we learned of studies that showed that teachers gave higher marks and greater encouragement to the attractive children in their classes (quite unconsciously of course!) I’d always been aware of that – with two very attractive younger sisters, how could I not be? Sadly for them, they were incredibly lazy – I still got better marks than they did, even with the premium their good looks got them!


  5. grumpy 5

    Don’t know what you guys are complaining about. May Wang is doing pretty well for herself.


    • Lanthanide 6.1

      I agree with him, except that his example of the ‘sexist pig’ doesn’t really mesh with reality. Some employer might pay $5k extra to a man just because he’s a man, but doesn’t actually have any problem doing that whatsoever. It may not benefit the company in any way, but they feel better about it and so do it anyway. Equal pay for equal work gets rid of that sort of situation, to the benefit of women.

  6. Gotham 7

    “Women will bear the brunt of budget cuts” from The Guardian.

    • Jum 7.1

      I stated that was the agenda against women in New Zealand two years ago, when the women of NZ were simpering over Key.

      I was laughed at. Women seemed to think the battle was won. What a joke.

      Both UK and New Zealand conservatives have the same advisers and backers from UK and US. They will be attacking any rights that enable women to choose what happens to their own bodies and will seek to change the public health system to that of private ownership so that women will have no access to safe abortions or modern contraception if those owners (US have many Catholic private hospital and pharmacy owners) don’t want to provide it. The agenda of these conservatives do not just entail making a lot of money out of New Zealanders.

      There will be backlashes against women every time they gain a few steps towards being treated like equal human beings. Those attacks are always greatest from conservative quarters. When will women finally realise this?

  7. Far more men than women end up in prison. The educational performance of boys lags behind girls.

    It’s time to address the reason why men are found guilty of crimes more than women, it can’t be because of their own choices – that would go against neo-Marxist structural power based ideologies that would argue we are all equal. People don’t make choices about what employment they pursue, what education they pursue, whether they decide to commit crimes, whether they breed, whether they set up a business, look for jobs or wait for jobs to come to them.

    That’s why the state needs to save them from themselves, poor stupid ignorant fools. It is so wonderful that the new-left exists to raise their consciousness about their situation, the reasons why and to channel their energies into anger to change politics, rather than do something about their own lives. What would specific chosen minority groups (forget blondes, adopted people, asthmatics, gingers, fat people, shy people and short people – people can discriminate against them because they haven’t been adopted into the structuralist mindset that has warmly embraced race, sex, sexuality, disability and even religion (well one) as of late) do if they couldn’t be patronised by people who know what’s best for them, and campaign for them by proxy?

    • M 8.1

      ‘The research focused on males because the MAOA gene is carried on the X chromosome, so males, with only one X chromosome, get only one version of the gene, making its effects easier to see. It is estimated that one-third of all males carry the low-activity version of the gene. The fact that the low-activity variant is so common suggests that it may confer some benefit. What that benefit might be is not known, but perhaps it is associated with a predisposition to taking risks, which could be an advantage in athletes or stock traders.

      Females receive two X chromosomes, which means they have a much greater chance of getting at least one high-activity version of the MAOA gene. This may partially explain why women are less prone to violent and criminal behavior. For example, only 15 percent of people arrested in the United States for violent crimes are women.’


      • clandestino 8.1.1

        Which all backs up the argument that when it comes to certain genetic dispositions, some inequities can’t be helped.
        I’m sorry Carol I really can’t see what the solution would be to your problem. So the system is set up so that important work is unpaid, which benefits men (in the aggregate) because men are less likely to stay at home. Do we pay the houseparent a nominal amount? Thus distributing wealth from the working partner (single parents receive payment currently). This is nonsensical to me. How would you change ‘the system’?
        Remember that careers now and in the future are likely to change much more often than previously, as technology changes and the goods/services change. So perhaps child-rearing will have less of an impact on earning ability over time.
        I think Libertyscott has a point. I’ve been reading this site for a while, and for all the important economic issues, there is a lot of blame but very few real ideas. And often a suffocating constructionist narrative.

        • Carol

          Clandestino, try to look a little more outside the box, rather than just trying to consider minor tickering with the current system. Yes the wages for housework solution is problematic. I believe this is the kind of area that Marilyn Waring has been working on in-depth, and probably has some well-considered solutions.

          Allowances/benefits for parents caring for children, single or partnered, is maybe part of a solution. But I’m also talking about re-structuring the whole work-career system. You are assuming a very individualistic, competitive, obssessively career-oriented system. I am thinking more of a system where people are seen as contributing to society in a range of ways, in various parts of their lives and life-cycles, and where the tradtional organised work-places are just one of those parts.

          A start would be to give less status to people at the top of the career scale and more status to people contributing usefully to society in a range of ways. Another step would be a re-working of the income structure, to start winding back the increases in income inequality. Another step would be to start recognising the value (in learning and social contributions), for people taking time out from their primary careers to do something different – study, a different possibly lower paid job, child care, voluntary work, NGO work, overseas experience maybe in aid work…..

          • clandestino

            Sorry Carol, I don’t see how people working hard to support themselves and their families are going to be happy dispensing parts of their productivity surplus/wage to support people working in NGOs, volunteering, expensive overseas aid programs.
            Otherwise sure pay should be restructured to reduce inequality, but as you say, this is tinkering too! Allowances/the dole you say are part, they exist, but tinkering.

            I can’t stand this waffly “system where people are seen as contributing.” What do you mean by ‘status’?!? Like getting paid for it? It’s like Actors Equity: “We just want to have a cup of tea at the table” No, you want better pay, say it.

            There is simply a limit to the amount of debt a country can incur. Other people shouldn’t have to subsidise what are either lifestyle choices or poor decisions by some. Where it is structural, and can be proven, then provide redress (uni allowances for lower incomes, scholarships for being Maori, pasifika, etc, WFF). A line has to be drawn somewhere, and prescribing wages/careers for women is not one of them – and in the tradition of structuralist thinking, provides an entitlement culture hard to shake off.

            • NickS

              Other people shouldn’t have to subsidise what are either lifestyle choices or poor decisions by some.

              There’s this wonderful thing called “cost benefit analyses”. When they take into account external costs, i.e. the costs to society at large, intervention and help become rather cheaper than picking up the pieces or imprisonment. That and generally when the shit hits the fan, or you’re in a bad spot, getting out on your own is often seemingly impossible.

      • NickS 8.1.2

        Memo to self, cluebat this crap after work.

        Or, there’s some very interesting results out of the Dunedin study which shows that MAOA plays less of an influence than environment.

        I also find the “but whats about teh mEn?!!11?” most amusing, since the patriarchal culture we live in effectively pigeon holes men to play roles, some of which are rather detrimental to their educational achievement, life and liberty. Along with perpetuating the overall present kyriarchical structures of society that in turn help drive inequality…

        …And I’m now running late for work. Yay.

      • NickS 8.1.3


        Reason is ultimately nothing more than the little L libertarian and randbot propaganda piece, which ironically seems to ignore their much vaunted idea of “personal responsibility”, but more amusingly in the 8 years since that article was published, there has been a massive amount of research. Of which a scan through suggest strongly that for gene x environment interactions, MAO-A only plays a role in aggression when mild to moderate trauma occurs to a child, where as it doesn’t matter when a child is exposed to highly traumatic events. It’s effects are also moderated by what other genes are present, instead of being a single causative factor.

        All on top of the fact that early interventions and behavioural therapy, along with stopping abuse can play a significant role in allowing those with violence issues to not end up in trouble.

        And if you want the details, go use google scholar + your brain…

        Also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoamine_oxidase

        Oh, and just to be snarky: given MAO-A has interactions with other genes, calling it a “warrior gene” is the hight of genetics fail. For it’s pretty fucking clear from 2nd year genetics courses onwards that interactions with other genes (+ environment) determine what phenotype(s) will be apparent.

    • Bunji 8.2

      Nice me too. Discrimination against women is fine because men don’t have perfect lives. Fab.

      Yes LibertyScott, because we can all choose to be discriminated against or not. Black people in the US chose to not to be allowed into the same schools/cafes/toilets. Women chose to be paid only pin-money rather than the same wages for the same amount of work.

      Equality does not mean we are all the same. We all make our own life choices. It should mean we get the same opportunities, and the same amount of reward for the same amount of effort/skill. But no, women are paid less for the same amount of work still – 13% less and, sadly, rising under National.

      This is through no fault of their own, but because employers think (often sub-consciously): here’s a woman, she’ll be happy with a bit less pay than a bloke, I don’t need to offer her as much. Or they’re in skilled professions that have been female-dominated, and never valued as much monetarily. Teachers are doing just about the most vital job in society – do we pay them like that? We couldn’t get by without cleaners – but most are on minimum wage, working their fingers to the bone.

      It’s all very nice thinking “why don’t they choose a better life for themselves” for these “poor stupid ignorant fools” who live in your world and end up poor and in prison, but there’s generally a reason things have gone wrong, and it’s not that their great dastardly master-plan was foiled. Or, if you’ve grown up without opportunity, because your parents lacked money to get you to a good school or extra tuition etc, they lacked the education to know how much your life could be improved by it, or they lacked the life skills that you’re now failing to learn; you’re never going to make the right decisions, or be in a place to take the opportunities you no doubt enjoy. That’s why people need a hand-up, the system needs to bend slightly in their favour, so they don’t continue a vicious cycle of poverty.

      There’s a lot of research (not to mention common sense) showing structural discrimination against people of colour, women, non-straight people, the disabled… so they are inevitably going to be focussed on more than the ginger & blonde people – when its shown that they are really being discriminated against, they can join the club. But hey, let’s just work for a world where people are judged on their own merits and flaws, rather than stereotypes.

  8. Colonial Viper 9

    liberty (for the wealthy) scott said

    whether they decide to commit crimes, whether they breed, whether they set up a business, look for jobs or wait for jobs to come to them. (1)

    That’s why the state needs to save them from themselves, poor stupid ignorant fools (2). It is so wonderful that the new-left exists to raise their consciousness about their situation, the reasons why and to channel their energies into anger to change politics, rather than do something about their own lives (3).

    Well where shall we start with your CRAP.

    (1) Please get over it. Everyone does not lead their lives with the same values that you do. And they certainly don’t need your raising of, commentary or judgement over how they “breed”. And youc all yourself a libertarian? Pffft.

    (2) So, to ask again, what are you, a libertarian or example of the new feudal class sneering at his serfs? I’m forming an opinion on this.

    (3) Now, wouldn’t you call fighting against the erosion of our social democracy by an unending toxic mix of opportunistic capitalism and Right wing politics doing exactly that?: doing something directly about their own lives, and more importantly, about the society that we live in – how its wealth is generated and how it is distributed. It is about acting on the collective level mate, far more powerful than just the individual level (and by the way, people on the Left are doing that too, hard).

    Now, I believe that people aren’t buying the shite capitalistic ponzi scheme any more. This is the decades old Right wing story of “sell enough AMWAY for us as a self absorbed serf, and we will one day give you a seat at the top of the banquet table with us. Meanwhile you can have these drippings”. Its seems fairly obvious to all now that National loves the fact that there is a weak employment market. This enables big business to continue to surpress worker wages and conditions while taking the additional value created to PAY THEMSELVES. At 1.25% unemployment we would have quite happily, running the counterfactual, told Warner Bros and their NZ agent Peter Jackson to “go if you want to, see ya, don’t let the door slam you in the ass on the way out”.

    do if they couldn’t be patronised by people who know what’s best for them, and campaign for them by proxy?

    Have you noticed that you are the only patronising one here mate? Since you assume that people cannot understand how the system is quietly undermining the respect, value and worth of every hour of labour that they provide to the economic system. But they get it mate, because not being highly educated != not being very smart, and as amass movement builds, National are going to get it hard in the neck next year.

    And then we will have a step towards building liberties and options for all, not just for the 10% of asset wealthy NZ’ers who own almost 60% of NZ’s wealth, or the top 10% of NZ income earners who got 42% of National’s grossly unequal tax cuts.

    Yeah mate, the burn is on.

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