Hey, at least we didn’t fuck things up last time

While I think they’re making things go disastrously wrong in terms of pay equity, I have a small amount of sympathy for National on Women’s Affairs. Not because they’re any good on women’s rights, (oh, they realise that they’re important, hence the $2 million funding increase for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs) but because Pansy Wong is at least correct when she says that National presided over a large catchup in the pay gap for women when they were last in Government.

But I don’t thing they can claim all the credit for that- their women’s policy at the time was essentially: “Okay, let’s outlaw blatant discrimination, then hope it gets better without looking at any of the tricky stuff.” And it did, because women were still moving towards becoming more professional, more educated, and businesses were moving towards taking advantage of that fact, and to their credit, the Equal Pay Act facilitated this process. But the transition towards a dual-gendered workface is now largely over; there is still improvement to be made stamping out pockets of gormless misogyny in say, the I.T. sector. But that doesn’t mean National can expect to cancel everything that’s going on in the MoW’sA, start doing things their way, and expect that to save them money and get better outcomes for women. Sometimes it’s actually more productive to maintain operational continuity.

Especially seeing the biggest thing on the horizon was that the government was going to try and lead the way by doing better about its own pay problems. Pansy Wong is going to look very embarrassed if one of the opposition MPs works out that they can just attack her on why the government doesn’t just pay women an equal amount itself if it’s so committed to pay equity.

I can tell National realise this is going to be important, I just don’t get how they think that sitting back and “not fucking things up” like they did after passing the EPA will be enough. That last twelve percent is full of tricky little problems, like unequal promotion and bonuses, relative over-qualification of women in any given position when compared with men’s qualifications, and business practices unfriendly to flexible work hours and parental leave. None of these have “fire and forget” fixes that National can use, and I get the impression they’re way over the heads in this.

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15 Responses

  1. Why is it always the (right-wing) government at fault? Even where they make a positive move you focus on criticism. Any govt can only do so much (at least in the short period of time with which they are in power). It would be better to focus more on society as a whole (on this issue, in my view), including female employers, rather than taking the easy option and blaming National for your grievances. The govt (any govt) may have an influence but it doesn’t set pay rates at the end of the day, which, believe it or not, are based on a variety of factors. And you would also be wise to think of the bigger picture on natural preferences for certain industries for males and females, physical aspects, societal aspects. This may bring you closer to your ideal, rather than just blaming National. Government is not the answer (L or R leaning) , our culture needs to address its own issues/inequalities.

  2. They’re at fault because I want MORE from them. I want a free and just country. I want them to treat women with all the dignity and respect that men currently get, and hey, I’d like more dignity and respect for everyone on top of that, too. (Although I won’t put small gains for everyone ahead of large gains for women. That’s not fair)

    The government assumes responsibility for society as a whole on its election, I would say. They get a honeymoon if they’re new, because we allow them some time to grab the reign and do their own thing. That’s fair.

    I’m not saying that National are responsible every time someone is a misogynist jerk. But they are responsible for not doing more. I refuse to believe that a recession makes it impossible to treat people equally. It just means that if it involves money, those of us who are rewarded more than we deserve should be willing to take a pay cut so that we can all be rewarded on merit, or we need to at the very least figure out how to rectify things when there’s a bit more cash in everyone’s pockets for paying people equally. Instead they cancelled the attempt to do that, even as they said they want women to be paid equally. (And the cancelling of that is exactly why I’m more annoyed than usual with National right now)

    In my books, you don’t get to say that sort of thing in politics if you won’t even go looking for a good plan to do it.

    If you like I can talk about how Labour fail women sometime, despite being the academic elite and having a decent feminist faction at that, but as the opposition that isn’t campaigning yet, they’re responsible more for their criticism of the government and their engagement with the government than their own policies.

    Government is not the answer (L or R leaning) , our culture needs to address its own issues/inequalities.

    I both agree and disagree. Government is not the only and ultimate answer- any meaningful and permanent change involves the grass roots of society. But government doesn’t get to say they support social change without engaging in it! That isn’t active support, it’s cheering from the sidelines. Government’s job is to make what it thinks is positive social change as easy as possible- because social change is bloody hard. Most people can dedicate their life to one cause and make a difference there. The government gets to have a go at a lot at once for three whole years, and if it misses the opportunity, it is responsible for choosing to do something else. This means that social liberals like myself will want at least a public service that works better on social principles than the private sector, a philosophy of physical, mental, and social wellness, engagement with the community and voluntary sectors, social advertising, public service broadcasting, being examples to the rest of us, (which I hope you’ll admit that recent antics from Worth and Garrett have not helped) and so on for about two more paragraphs of fine detail.

    I had issues with the last government going too slow, but at least getting some initiatives in. National has realised it needs to do as good if it wants to form a government now, as women are a constituency no party can ignore. I think anyone would find it oddly inconsistent of me not to criticise a government that not only is just as slow to act on what it sees as in women’s interest, but whose “it’ll be alright if we keep our noses out” philosophy and policy of government is actively harmful to anti-discrimination politics.

    In short, I think they just don’t get it.

  3. Bloomin’ heck (an euphemism) but I had a point by point reply only to hit something on my keyboard to lose it all before hitting submit!

    Anyway, let me get straight to the point in my quicker 2nd attempt. The government , Nat or Lab, can only do so much to foster pay equity between men and women and I think that you agree such well-intentioned initiatives have been put in place. We, as a society agree that gender and racial differences should not make any difference w.r.t. pay. At the end of the day the market (also part of society) has to agree to this and I don’t see any reason why it it shouldn’t – ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL. Of course not all things are equal in reality which is why we see generalist statistics which see some people still whinging. Like I said in my first comment, you need to consider ‘natural preferences for certain industries for males and females, physical aspects, societal aspects.’

    At the end of the day, the market has the choice (this is a natural phenomenon, and one that promotes real growth) and it is up to the the individual to push their case. Govt interference on a micro level will only skew to negative affects. I prefer to see real people benefit from their own efforts, regardless of their background. They don’t want the govt pandering to them, it probably embarrassing.

  4. Anyway, let me get straight to the point in my quicker 2nd attempt. The government , Nat or Lab, can only do so much to foster pay equity between men and women and I think that you agree such well-intentioned initiatives have been put in place.

    The government is only able to do so much in general. I think this should have been a greater priority for both this government and the previous one.

    At the end of the day the market (also part of society) has to agree to this and I don’t see any reason why it it shouldn’t – ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL.

    We have no reason to accept market disfunctions if we don’t want to. If someone can propose a good solution to minimise them, we should go for it. The free market doesn’t do everything perfectly itself, and proper treatment of employees is one of the areas it is very inefficient in regulating. Employers often cost themselves profits by refusing to look after the health of their employees, for instance, because they don’t want to pay the up-front costs.

    Like I said in my first comment, you need to consider ‘natural preferences for certain industries for males and females, physical aspects, societal aspects.’

    Come up with a good way to demonstrate something is a natural preference and not an arbitrary social construct and I might agree with you. Assuming you can show that the natural preference actually makes women or men in said job less desirable rather than just less likely to be desirable.

    Govt interference on a micro level will only skew to negative affects. I prefer to see real people benefit from their own efforts, regardless of their background. They don’t want the govt pandering to them, it probably embarrassing.

    Firstly, Government interference in issues doesn’t always involve direct regulation. Secondly, I think crafting legislation that won’t create perverse incentives or unintended effects is a pre-requisite to acting legislatively on this matter, and believe me I’ll be with you if I think they try to solve this problem in a stupid way. That said, I do not accept the idea that any interference in the market is always worse than the problem you’re trying to solve- otherwise we’d never need government bailouts. The market is often quite dysfunctional in certain areas.

    The next step to pay equity could be as simple as the government self-imposing measures to move towards pay equity in the civil service, both to set an example and to compete for female employees.

  5. I guess you let your ideological view out with: “Employers often cost themselves profits by refusing to look after the health of their employees”
    …in the real world, most employers have to bend over backwards to get employees to adhere to OSH rules. Been there, done that.

    You asked “Come up with a good way to demonstrate something is a natural preference and not an arbitrary social construct and I might agree with you.”. What I was referring to was that females tend towards certain areas more (e.g. teaching, nursing) and males also (e.g. IT, engineering). This is not a result of some perverse social or government injustice, but reflects part of who we are as men and women. Men and women are different, and these differences must not be confused with inequality.

    At any given time the (free) market can indeed be dysfunctional. But over time it is self-correcting. Fair point? Some regulation is needed to reign in high-impact short-term imbalances (e.g. Commerce Commission), but it should be light, and more importantly, up-to-date (the market moves quickly, so too should govt regulation). I actually find that for the pay equity issue, they market is no the target area here, society and culture is.

  6. Is is possible to add a “preview” feature for comments to your blog?

  7. …in the real world, most employers have to bend over backwards to get employees to adhere to OSH rules. Been there, done that.

    OSH rules certainly help this out. But that’s not all I’m referring to. Stress-related health concerns, mental health, harassment policies, etc… are all also part of the picture.

    What I was referring to was that females tend towards certain areas more (e.g. teaching, nursing) and males also (e.g. IT, engineering). This is not a result of some perverse social or government injustice, but reflects part of who we are as men and women. Men and women are different, and these differences must not be confused with inequality.

    I’m highly amused that you listed IT, given that I’m training for IT at the moment. It’s gradually attracting more women as the industry becomes less of a sexist boys’ club.

    Men and women are different, this is true, and any attempt at equality must embrace the differences that don’t change, must accept the deviations from the ones that are statistical, and must see as irrelevant the ones that are merely socialised in. I’m usually talking about the latter two, and I’m very careful about claiming something is a difference that doesn’t change- because this category is claimed to be much broader than it could justifiably be proven to be.

    Is is possible to add a “preview” feature for comments to your blog?

    I’ll look into it.

  8. “But that’s not all I’m referring to. Stress-related health concerns, mental health, harassment policies, etc…”
    – So? As I understand it, they too are covered in OSH and employment legislation as well. Stress is a newly added one. If you say “Employers often cost themselves profits by refusing to look after the health of their employees”, them maybe you can demonstrate a pattern of employers causing stress, mental issues etc. I think you may struggle to find too many cases. Certainly not enough to make such a broad generalisation I would imagine.

    You maybe training for IT but I work in IT and I can assure that as at 2009 it is male dominated. Maybe you should save you smarmy amusements for another day.

    If IT is currently a “sexist boys’ club”, does that mean that say, nursing, is a sexist girls’ club? As for IT, while it may be harder for me to see it as a male – I actually don’t see any rampant or obvious sexism. This may differ in regions, workplaces, but blatant sexism, like blatant racism, is a thing of yesteryear. Time the left let go and found something new to whine about 😉

    “any attempt at equality must embrace the differences that don’t change, must accept the deviations from the ones that are statistical, and must see as irrelevant the ones that are merely socialised in.” – PLEASE speak in layman’s terms!! Or at least give some examples to illustrate what the hell you mean!

  9. – So? As I understand it, they too are covered in OSH and employment legislation as well. Stress is a newly added one. If you say “Employers often cost themselves profits by refusing to look after the health of their employees”, them maybe you can demonstrate a pattern of employers causing stress, mental issues etc. I think you may struggle to find too many cases. Certainly not enough to make such a broad generalisation I would imagine.

    I wasn’t caught up with those changes, thanks. There’s certainly examples of situations where employers skirt the rules of course, but that will probably always happen.

    You maybe training for IT but I work in IT and I can assure that as at 2009 it is male dominated. Maybe you should save you smarmy amusements for another day.

    “Smarm” or otherwise aside, I agree that it’s male-dominated. My point is that this is a result of social factors as well as different tendencies between the sexes, and that IT is often a very toxic mental environment for people who care about equality because people in IT rarely talk from anything but a white straight male perspective. There are far more women in training than there are in the actual business, and part of that is that the training courses are a much less pathological environment that make them feel confident that they’re in the right place.

    The sexism in the IT sector isn’t a necessary factor of the gender ratio- (the boys’ club is a mentality, not a statistic) and I think men will probably continue to outnumber women in IT, as will women for men in fields like nursing or translation. The difference is that in the latter situation the group is defined in positive terms- you become a member of the group because you care about something. The problematic areas of the IT industry define themselves in negative terms- it’s not about being interested in technology, it’s about having lived a certain type of life, going through the teenage boy geek difficulties, etc… instead of just being about a love of technology, which is something anyone could learn to participate in.

    PLEASE speak in layman’s terms!! Or at least give some examples to illustrate what the hell you mean!

    I was trying to keep it short! 😉 Speaking in layman’s terms while still conveying an exact point can be difficult, especially seeing some of these things are concepts I don’t usually express that way.

    Also, if I’m gonna give examples, we have to not get so caught up in irrelevant side-issues of the examples I give. 😉

    What I’m saying here is that there are essentially three types of differences between the genders. (this works for some other groups, too.)

    1) Intrinsic differences, that are unchangeable parts of what it is to be male or female. Very few of the differences between men and women belong to this category, and pseudoscience often seeks to make it larger with poorly designed “experiments”. Our body shapes, hormonal balances, reproductive systems, certain parts of our brain, etc… are intrinsic differences. Most of these tend to be physical.

    2) Differences in the tendencies of our behaviour, thought, or body functions. That is, men tend to be taller than women, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be taller than any given woman, especially if you’re quite short for a man. While these differences can tell us a little bit about the actions of a mob, they don’t define us. A woman can be an amazing mathematician even though women trend against it. A man can be an excellent translator even though they are much less likely to try.

    3) Socialised differences which are arbitrary conventions applied to a gender by society- for instance girls are socialised to be better disposed to pink than boys are. These differences can’t be used to infer anything meaningful about either gender because they’re constructs that have been superimposed, and are actually unrelated, even though there’s a strong correlation.

    Trends towards certain careers are probably a mixture of 2 & 3, especially given that we often see careers switch dominant genders. I’d say any case where a tendency switches genders probably indicates there’s a bit of socialisation going on- hence the example of pink and blue- they actually switched too. Pink used to be considered virile and masculine, while blue was thought of as passive and feminine.

  10. “There’s certainly examples of situations where employers skirt the rules of course, but that will probably always happen.” – no doubt, but is enough to make a broad generalisation? Probably not. Lets be fair in our assessments, eh?

    “My point is that this is a result of social factors as well as different tendencies between the sexes” – I agree, one of my earlier points.

    “and that IT is often a very toxic mental environment for people who care about equality because people in IT rarely talk from anything but a white straight male perspective. “ – really? Demonstrate it. Or are you making another extreme generalisation based on very little?

    “The difference is that in the latter situation the group is defined in positive terms” – maybe nursing is, but what do you have to go on that IT isn’t? I suspect bias again here.

    “going through the teenage boy geek difficulties, etc” now you’re just being silly if this is how you define the iT industry. It seems your views are shaped on stereotypes derived form Hollywood. To be honest, I expect better from you Ari.

    Don’t disagree with the 1,2,3 differences, This explains why women and men gravitate towards different career areas. But this comes back to my original point. There is little the govt can do directly with 1,2,3. I refer you back to my very first comment on this post.

  11. Sorry about not replying earlier, I’ve been rationing my time and the blog has (again) been the loser.

    no doubt, but is enough to make a broad generalisation? Probably not. Lets be fair in our assessments, eh?

    Right, I don’t think employers breaking the rules is something you factor into a policy unless there’s no way to enforce the rules.

    maybe nursing is, but what do you have to go on that IT isn’t? I suspect bias again here.

    Extensive personal experience. I’m not sure how else you’d expect me to gather evidence on this subject given that studies on this sort of thing are incredibly thin in New Zealand, and a boys’ club mentality is something you experience rather than prove.

    now you’re just being silly if this is how you define the iT industry. It seems your views are shaped on stereotypes derived form Hollywood. To be honest, I expect better from you Ari.

    OK, let’s try to be clearer here: I don’t define the whole industry that way. I think it is a significant part of the industry’s attitude. Like any other attitude among a group, there are outliers. There are some incredibly pluralistic people in IT as well, but yes, there does seem to be a lot of culture that is based off certain experiences. I could easily have fallen into it too, having been that kind of teenage boy. 😉

    There is little the govt can do directly with 1,2,3.

    I actually only agree with you about type 1- that’s why I went to the trouble of spelling them out. There is nothing the government can or should do about intrinsic differences. (1) This is why “we’re different and we need to embrace it” is one of the principles of equality.

    There is a good argument for programs that counter statistical differences (2) so that fields like mathematics or education benefit from a broader perspective and so that men or women who are interested find it a little easier to get involved. This encourages people who defy the tendencies of their gender to practice and become skilled in a field that (wo)men aren’t well represented in.

    Socialised differences (3) don’t have any relation to gender and can be treated like any other policy change. If we decide that a stigma against cooking isn’t useful for men, we can easily encourage more men to value it as a skill, for instance. A social difference is completely up for debate and should be weighed on its merits, rather than respected as something we can’t change- because they change even if we don’t try to change them.

    This sort of classification of differences applies to race too- (hence why nobody assumes it’s discrimination that rugby teams tend to have lots of representation from Maori and Pacific Islanders, who have a tendency to be a bigger build than other ethnicities) but I’d be careful about applying it to sexuality or other types of non-physical identities.

  12. “and a boys’ club mentality is something you experience rather than prove.” – i.e. then you and I must cancel each other out! To be honest the attitude is a bit archaic in this day and age, You may have had a leg to stand on in the 80’s and earlier….but today?

    “don’t define the whole industry that way. I think it is a…” – But you do tend to make sweeping statements… maybe symptomatic of being a blogger? A bit of controversy always elicits more comments…? Nothing woring with that, as long as one is upfront about it.

    Re point 2 you said “Differences in the tendencies of our behaviour, thought, or body functions. That is, men tend to be taller than women…” – Yeah good luck on the government changing that. I’ll let you in on a ittle secret…out govt is made of humans, not gods nor magicians….

    Re point 2, yeah, okay, I tend to agree these types of aspects can alter, though strongly doubt this is something the govt can change directly (let alone it being their role/responsibility). You know the govt is not the be-all and end-all, and certainaly not the answer to everything. You have to admit it is hardly the most efficient and effective of institutions (esp. given its inheresnt size), so it’s not one I would naturally gravitate to for answers to life’s issues. I think “cause an effect” has a stronger influence on any of these types of gender behaviours.

    Re your last paragraph – I agree indeed.

  13. I don’t have much time before I sit down to dinner, but I’ll quickly try to address this one comment for now.

    i.e. then you and I must cancel each other out! To be honest the attitude is a bit archaic in this day and age, You may have had a leg to stand on in the 80’s and earlier….but today?

    Nope, experiences don’t cancel each other out, they add together. If you’ve not experienced it that either means you’re not as sensitive to the issue, or that you move in very progressive circles among the industry. My experiences don’t invalidate that. 😉

    But you do tend to make sweeping statements… maybe symptomatic of being a blogger? A bit of controversy always elicits more comments…? Nothing woring with that, as long as one is upfront about it.

    Symptomatic of being long-winded I think. 🙂 Makes it difficult to gloss over something without generalising.

    I think this sort of thing was far more atrocious in the 80s, and that while it’s improved, boys’ clubs still exist in isolated pockets, or in more subtle and perhaps unconscious discrimination. (often that people find annoying but also aren’t in a social or professional position to rectify themselves)

    Yeah good luck on the government changing that. I’ll let you in on a ittle secret…out govt is made of humans, not gods nor magicians….

    Statistical differences don’t apply merely to physical quantities. These also apply to the fact that men have more outliers in say, mathematical skill. (that is, more men are both very good and very bad at mathematics) The government and charities can and should encourage young women to keep their options open with regard to mathematics and science so that very talented women don’t automatically dismiss that sort of field as something they wouldn’t be good at because of their gender. See what I’m getting at?

    Likewise, while we can’t change people’s height, we can perhaps mentally prepare people for the fact that there are tall women and short men, and that neither are somehow freakish accidents of nature- just a rarer type of person. 🙂 There’s adjustments to be had here without necessarily trying to actively change differences, but rather reach an equilibrium that allows people to be who they want to be without pigeon-holing them.

    Re point 2, yeah, okay, I tend to agree these types of aspects can alter, though strongly doubt this is something the govt can change directly (let alone it being their role/responsibility). You know the govt is not the be-all and end-all, and certainaly not the answer to everything.

    I don’t think the government can or should be wholly responsible. I do think they should be doing their share and supporting the good work that people on the ground are doing. Change comes from the grass roots, but it moves fastest when the government joins in the movement and supports it through education, policy change, and funding. It’s the policy change and engagement that is missing on pay equity- and that’s not entirely National’s fault, but they can’t exactly pretend they’ve been better than Labour, either.

    I don’t see government as any worse than the private sector in terms of size or inefficiency, although there’s room for improvement of course. (in fact, I think it’s better in some cases, because with MMP there is less of a sense of duopoly in the public sector now.)

  14. “Nope, experiences don’t cancel each other out, they add together.” – spoken like a true wet liberal!! I think it was clear we had had opposing experiences, meaning they cancelled each other out in the sense that we were not much the wiser in forwarding each others’ points. Consider my comment an indirect acknowledgement of yours 😉

    “, and that while it’s improved, boys’ clubs still exist in isolated pockets” – hence why I suggest you steer clear of sweeping statements….

    “See what I’m getting at?” – hmm, pro-woman and biased methinks. How about a fair assessment?

    “Statistical differences don’t apply merely to physical quantities” – never said they did. We were both looking at three different aspects if I recall. Actually I think you even defined them!

    You’ve done your own fair share of pigeon-holing with the broad statements and generalisations you make in so many of your posts.

    “I don’t think the government can or should be wholly responsible.” – your posts often indicate otherwise, or else I wouldn’t be commenting here. So again you moderate your comments when challenged, I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s called debate (I like to think I ease back as well ;-). But more reasoned, honest opinion upfront would go a long way. I shouldn’t have to drag your real beliefs out of you kicking and screaming!! 😉 (and sorry for being a patronising prick!)

    “I don’t see government as any worse than the private sector in terms of size or inefficiency” – oh dear….really?…

    “because with MMP there is less of a sense of duopoly in the public sector now.” – sorry are you talking about parliament or the public sector?

  15. spoken like a true wet liberal!! I think it was clear we had had opposing experiences, meaning they cancelled each other out in the sense that we were not much the wiser in forwarding each others’ points. Consider my comment an indirect acknowledgement of yours 😉

    Haha. Well, I meant in the sense that, your experiences are probably true within the social context that you live, and mine likewise. This is indeed the difficulty with argument from personal experience.

    your posts often indicate otherwise, or else I wouldn’t be commenting here. So again you moderate your comments when challenged, I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s called debate (I like to think I ease back as well 😉 . But more reasoned, honest opinion upfront would go a long way. I shouldn’t have to drag your real beliefs out of you kicking and screaming!! 😉 (and sorry for being a patronising prick!)

    I don’t particularly agree. I say the government should do more and you say that means I think government is the only solution. We get into some of these disagreements because we read the same statement in different ways. 😉

    oh dear….really?…

    Have you worked in both private and public sector jobs, or is this just based on ideology? I’ve collected many MORE experiences of outrageous conduct in the private sector, most of them from people who worked in both sectors, but I’m willing to concede that’s probably because the private sector tends to make more, smaller mistakes.

    sorry are you talking about parliament or the public sector?

    The public sector is largely responsible to Parliament, and thus has been affected by the switch to coalition-style government instead of partisan government.

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