Women of Influence winners

November 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Some great winners in the Women of Influence Awards. They include:

Businesswoman Joan Withers has been named the supreme winner at this year’s Women of Influence awards.

Judges said her work championing board diversity and striving to close the gender gap resulted in a unanimous decision.

Withers left school at 16 years old and worked as a junior bank teller before moving up the ranks of the advertising world. …

She is currently the chairwoman of Mighty River Power and TVNZ, a director of ANZ and a member of the Treasury Advisory Board.

She also spent two years as The Radio Network chief executive, fours years as Fairfax Media chief executive and about 15 years as an Auckland International Airport director and chairwoman.

The Women of Influence Awards – a partnership between Fairfax Media and Westpac – celebrate the leading women shaping the future of New Zealand.

I find it amusing that Westpac is a partner in the awards, and an ANZ Director wins :-)

Withers is a great choice – highly respected.

Linda Jenkinson won for her entrepreneurial success in the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand. 

From Palmerston North, but now based in San Francisco, Jenkinson is a serial entrepreneur and was the first New Zealand woman to take a company public on the NASDAQ exchange.

She is currently the chairwoman and owner of LesConcierges, the largest luxury corporate concierge company in the world, catering to more than 65 million members. 

Getting a company onto the NASDAQ is no mean feat.

Vicky Robertson won for her continued focus on results and ability to work effectively across a wide range of stakeholder groups.

Whether it was speaking about the competition policy at the 1995 APEC summit in Osaka, reviewing the Climate Change Policy and KiwiSaver scheme or leading Treasury to explore new approaches to policy design, judges said she makes a huge impact for a prosperous New Zealand.

Robertson has just been appointed the CE of the Ministry for the Environment.

Community and not-for-profit

This award was won by Stacey Shortall for the depth and breadth of her contribution and influence in her work with children.

This includes developing a weekly homework club at a decile one school, initiatives in the battle against domestic violence, advocating against violence toward children and developing a prison programme to help jailed mothers maintain meaningful connections with their children.

A partner at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, Shortall has been recognised as a leading lawyer in New Zealand by Chambers, The Legal 500, Legal Media Group and NZ Lawyer.

Amazing she has time to do all that and be a partner in a major law firm.

NZ one of few countries with no legal restrictions against women

September 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The World Bank reports:

Women, Business and the Law measures legal restrictions on women’s employment and entrepreneurship by identifying gender-based legal differences. The dataset has captured 21 differences in policies for unmarried women and 26 for married women that affect women’s economic opportunities, for a total of 47 differences across five indicators (box 1.1). Of the 173 economies covered by Women, Business and the Law, 155 maintain at least one barrier for women seeking opportunities that does not exist for men; on this simple measure (figure 1.1), the majority of economies have at least one legal gender difference.

The 30 economies with ten or more legal differences are in the Middle East and North Africa (18), Sub-Saharan Africa (8), East Asia and the Pacific (2) and South Asia (2).

The 18 economies with no legal differences between women and men in the areas measured are Armenia; Canada; the Dominican Republic; Estonia; Hungary; Kosovo; Malta; Mexico; Namibia; the Netherlands; New Zealand; Peru; Puerto Rico, territory of the United States; Serbia; the Slovak Republic; South Africa; Spain and Taiwan, China

So we’re one of only 18 countries with no legal barriers for women in employment.

Some of the restrictions are:

  • Need permission to get a passport – 32 countries
  • Can not be head of a household – 30 countries
  • Can not choose where to live – 30 countries
  • Need permission to get a job – 18 countries

Others include the French law that women may not carry loads of greater than 25 kgs!


ISIL publishes rules for women

December 21st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

You can’t make this up. ISIL have published a pamphlet which is an FAQ on the rules for women. They are:

  • You can take non-Muslim women and children captive
  • You can have sex with prepubescent girls
  • You can sell them as gifts to others
  • If she was a virgin, he (the owner) can have intercourse with her immediately after the ownership is fulfilled
  • If she was not a virgin, her uterus must be purified
  • Two men who co-own a captive can’t both have sex with her
  • A man can’t have intercourse with his wife’s slave
  • It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse
  • It is permissible to buy, sell or give as a gift female captives and slaves, for they are merely property
  • An impregnated captive cannot be sold
  • Beating a female slave for discipline is OK


29 words used only or mainly about women

September 4th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff has an article from Daily Life which lists 29 words only (or mainly) used about women. They are:

  1. Airhead, noun
  2. Ambitious, adj
  3. Abrasive, noun
  4. Bossy, adj
  5. Bitchy, adj
  6. Bubbly, adj
  7. Ditsy, adj
  8. Emotional, adj
  9. Frigid, adj
  10. Frumpy, adj
  11. High-maintenance, adj
  12. Pushy, adj
  13. Sassy, adj
  14. Bombshell, adj
  15. Bolshy, adj
  16. Breathless, adj
  17. Bridezilla, noun
  18. Curvy, adj
  19. Ethereal, adj
  20. Fawn-like, adj
  21. Headstrong, adj
  22. Hormonal, adj
  23. Hysterical, adj
  24. Illogical, adj and Irrational, adj
  25. Mother of… , noun
  26. Shrill, adj
  27. Voluptuous, adj
  28. Whinging, verb
  29. Working mum, noun

It is a good point that most of the words mainly used to describe women are negative ones. Even ones that appear neutral like “working mum” have a suggestion that this is unusual, as you never hear “working dad”.

Even swear words are not equal. Being called a bastard is less damning than being called a bitch. In fact being called a bastard is also a term of admiration for some. And being called a prick is far less damning than being called a c**t.

Can readers think of any words that are mainly used to describe men, and are negative? Thug is one I guess. You don’t hear many women called thugs. I have no doubt that common terms about women are far more negative than common terms about men, but interested to see what there is on the male side.

Female participation in the labour force

June 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar



This graph from ANZ Bank shows the participation rate in the labour force for women in NZ and te US. We’ve gone from 4% lower to almost 8% higher.

Women now head every level of the NZ judicary

June 20th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Chris Finlayson announced:

The Honourable Sir Mark O’Regan has been appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court and the Honourable Justice Ellen France will replace him as President of the Court of Appeal, Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson announced today.

This means New Zealand now has women as head of benches for all four principal courts:

  • Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue
  • Chief High Court Judge Justice Helen Winkelmann
  • Court of Appeal President Justice Ellen France
  • Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias

I suspect we may be the only country in the world to have women head up every level of the judiciary. Pretty significant when you consider that it was only a few decades ago that women became lawyers in significant numbers, let alone judges. Our first female judge was in 1975 (Dame Augusta Wallace). The first female high court judge was Dame Silvia Cartwright in 1993.

Iran appointed to UN Commission on the Status of Women

April 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Times reports:

Iran won seats on five subcommittees of the U.N. Economic and Social Council earlier this week, including one to the Commission on the Status of Women — a body tasked with pressing for women’s rights around the world.

The Government of Iran has an appalling record when it comes to women’s rights. A few of their achievements:

  • female government workers forced to observe Islamic dress code
  • women barred from becoming judges until recently
  • beaches and sports are sex-segregated
  • legal age of marriage for girls was reduced to 9 (later raised to 13)
  • exposure of any part of the body other than hands and face – is subject to punishment of up to 70 lashes or 60 days imprisonment
  •  a law proposed by the last government would ban unmarried women under the age of 40 leave the country without the permission of their fathers or brothers

Labour’s problem with the Ladies

March 19th, 2014 at 3:05 pm by Jadis

* a Jadis post – DPF has made his way out of the bush but is still analysing his data for his travel blog extravaganza

Cunliffe’s Labour has a problem with women.  This week’s Herald-Digipoll highlighted that Labour is losing support from women.  The reasons for loss of support aren’t simple.  And while much of the support is crossing the aisle to National, it is also redistributing itself to the Greens.

But why is Labour losing the female vote?

  • Is it the way that Cunliffe appears smarmy and a little creepy when he talks to camera or uses rehearsed lines?
  • Is it because Cunliffe pretends he is ‘middle New Zealand’ while living in a multi-million dollar house with a combined family income over $500K?
  • Is it because Cunliffe patronises women with his suggestion that he bought the multi-million dollar house so that his wife could pop home to breastfeed?*

Sure, all those perception issues matter but I think we need to unpack a little more.  Some of Cunliffe’s policy is also turning women off.

The ‘baby bonus’ has backfired dramatically.  Women who I’ve previously known to be Labour voters are  surprised that Labour thinks a family with a $150K income needs as much help as their $50-$70K earning family.

Labour’s paid parental leave policy has also backfired.  Women aren’t idiots.  They too recognise that while it might be wonderful to have more paid parental leave it also needs to occur within the available budget.  Many of the women I know run their home finances.  They know how to live within their means and how to scrape together a bit more when the washing machine breaks down.  They know that they are coming out of a tough time and they are still being careful with their own and household spending.  So when Bill English suggests that yes at some point a modest extension to PPL could occur dependent on the budget then these women are much more likely to believe that than Cunliffe and Moroney’s “all and everything” approach.

Labour are also losing votes on Education. It is amazing this is even possible when National were doing such a good job of shooting themselves in the foot on Education and then the whole Novopay saga.  Hekia’s recent announcements to fund quality teaching and leadership is pulling parents back to supporting National on Education.  More importantly, Labour spent a whole lot of time on attack and have filled that opportunity for their alternative Education policy with… well, nothing.

I cheekily asked a few of my left-leaning friends why they thought Labour had a problem with attracting female voters. One response struck me: “I personally think Labour men are just as smarmy as National men, but the reason I am turned off by Labour is their women are, by and large, much more ineffectual than National women.  For all their baggage, Collins, Parata, Kaye and Tolley on the front bench kicks Labour’s offering of Ardern, Mahuta and Moroney.”

So it seems it is not all about Cunliffe but that the women in Labour’s caucus need to either ‘step up’ or be replaced with some ‘new blood’.  Oh, that’s right… Labour don’t believe in new blood.   And a ‘man ban’ is unlikely to help this wee problem.

Most of all, Mr Cunliffe, stop patronising us womenfolk.

* this is not an attack on breastfeeding.  It is an attack on a silly politician thinking women get won over by that sort of rubbish AKA patronising and just a little paternalistic.


Parliament should embrace equality for women

January 4th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Parliament’s Speaker, David Carter, has sought a review of Maori protocols at Parliament after two senior women MPs were asked to move from the front row for a welcome ceremony to visitors.

He said he wanted to “modernise” the protocols. “Parliament needs a protocol that is modern and acceptable to a diversified Parliament.”

Parliament’s longest serving woman MP Annette King and her Labour colleague Maryan Street were asked to move from the front bench during a powhiri at the start of the Youth Parliament several months ago.

That prompted the Speaker to begin a process to review protocols that were put in place 15 years ago with the oversight of the Wellington iwi, Te Atiawa.

On a marae, the protocol is set by the host Iwi. They can set whatever rules they want (and of course bear any criticism of those rules). But in Parliament, the rules should be set by Parliament, and they should and must embrace equality. It is offensive to women MPs to be told during Youth Parliament they can not sit on the front bench during the powhiri.

Ms King and Ms Street came in late and when they sat on the front row alongside the Speaker, they were asked to shift by Kura Moeahu, who assists Parliament’s kaumatua, Rose White-Tahuparae.

“They were asked to move and I thought that was embarrassing to them,” Mr Carter told the Herald.

He had had feedback from other MPs.

“I have initiated the discussions with Te Atiawa and I haven’t had feedback from those discussions. But the matter won’t rest. I intend to follow it up in the New Year. I want Te Atiawa to talk to other iwi so that we can modernise protocol but do it in a way that respects Maori tradition,” Mr Carter said.

It sounds like the Speaker is determined to get change, which is excellent.

More women than men don’t want a female boss!

November 16th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Some fascinating US research from Gallup.

Asked if they would prefer a male boss or a female boss or have no preference, 41% said no preference, 35% said a male boss and 23% a female boss.  back in  1963 66% said they would prefer a male boss and just 5% a female boss.

I’m one of those who would of course say no preference. I would note that generally I would say my female bosses have been better than my male bosses – but not in all cases. Of course I’m now self-employed so have a bastard as a boss :-)

What is fascinating in the US research is the data broken down by gender.

40% of women said they would prefer a male boss (ie not a female boss) compared to just 29% of men.

Would be interesting to see if the same result occurred in NZ. Not sure it would.

I would hope that most people would say they have no preference, as it is silly to generalise. But only 32% of women said they had no preference compared to 51% of men.

NZ in top ten for women

October 28th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand is among the top 10 best places to be a woman, according to a worldwide report on gender equality.

It ranked seventh out of 136 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2013, with narrow gaps between the sexes in the health, education, economic and political sectors.

New Zealand was at number one – equal with several European countries – for educational attainment, which included literacy rates and enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education.

In terms of educational achievement, women are not just at a par with men, but streaks ahead.

It would be interesting to see a large table of countries for men also. I don’t mean to suggest that in most areas men do not have advantages – they do. But in some areas such as education, health, life expectancy men constantly do worse and it would be interesting to see what the gaps are in different countries.

Blaming the victim

September 18th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Indian lawyer for two of the four Delhi gang rapists sentenced to hang last week has criticised the victim’s parents for allowing her to go out at night with a boy, and claimed he would have “burnt her alive” if she had been his daughter.

The victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, was attacked by five men and a juvenile on a bus she boarded with her boyfriend. The couple were on their way home from a popular Delhi shopping mall on December 16 last year.

She was gang-raped and attacked with an iron rod. She died two weeks later in hospital.

AP Singh, a defence lawyer who represented two of the convicts, claimed she had had premarital sex and said: “If my daughter was having premarital sex and moving around at night with her boyfriend, I would have burnt her alive. All parents should adopt such an attitude.”

All women should burn the defence lawyer alive for being an arsehole and see how he likes it.

More female Ministers in Afghanistan

September 17th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

That is the headlines in Australia, after Tony Abbott announced a 19 person Cabinet with just one female Minister in it. Afghanistan has three! NZ by comparison has six.

This to me shows the importance of making sure you have some diversity with your candidates, and this needs to start in opposition. It is too late once you are in Government as generally new MPs won’t become Ministers immediately.

120 years of women’s suffrage

September 16th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar



Produced by Stats NZ and the MWA. The 120th anniversary is on the 19th. Proud NZ was the first full country to given women the vote. Sad that some countries still treat women as second class citizens.

In the last 60 years, the stats changes have been:

  • Women in Parliament from 5% to 34%
  • Working-age women in employment from 25% to 58%
  • Percentage of tertiary students that are female from 24% to 56%
  • Average age at first birth from 23 to 28
  • Average number of children from 4 to 2


Getting women to stand

June 10th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Julie at The Hand Mirror writes:

 I put together a presentation for the women themed session of the Social & Community Development Forum about the topic.  My conclusions were that women’s representation seems to be plateauing at around 35%, and the problem is not with the voters but with the selections.
Now I have to eat my words, at least in part.
Thirteen.  That’s the number of women me or one of my running mates asked to run on our ticket for the Puketapapa Local Board.   Each one turned us down; immediately (a few), after a bit of a think (most), after being a strong maybe (a few), after saying yes please (one).  I believe every single one of them would have made a great Local Board member.  Maybe, hopefully, some will in future elections.
The under-representation of women in politics is an interest of mine. It would be good to have around the same proportion of women as politicians as there are voters. But of course I am absolutely against quotas.
When you look at why we have fewer women in Parliament, I believe there are three (not mutually exclusive) possibilities.
  1. Fewer women get elected than men
  2. Fewer women get selected than men
  3. Fewer women seek selection than men

I haven’t seen any data suggesting that female candidates in general elections do worse than male candidates. In fact, I suspect they may even do a bit better.

Of our 70 electorate MPs, 50 are male and 19 female and it is likely the new Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP will be female so say 50 to 20.

Seven (eight) of the female electorate MPs are Labour, one Maori Party and 11 National.

Like Julie, I think women do find it harder to get selected to be candidates in winnable seats, and to a degree in winnable list places. Certainly that is my observation in National. Ironically those who often are most against good female candidates, are other women.

But the biggest factor in my opinion is that which Julie has found. That actually getting women to stand can be the hardest challenge. For a number of reasons (combative environment, hours, children etc) significantly fewer women wish to be MPs.

So why did these wonderful capable intelligent women turn down this great opportunity to make positive change in their neighbourhoods and surrounds?  Mostly because of time. The Remuneration Authority recently calculated that Local Board members spend on average 24 hours a week on that job.  My observation is that that would vary wildly amongst those currently elected, but then we are the first to experience a brand new super-city structure.  Many genuinely didn’t realise the time commitment when they stood and haven’t been able to rearrange their lives to allow for that.   Others seem to think they can do the job justice by limiting their time to a few hours a week.  It will be interesting to see how the latter fare if they stand for re-election.
There aren’t a lot of part time jobs out there which allow the flexibility required for local body politicians to cover everything.  The pay for being a local board member isn’t enough to ditch other income options entirely, for most.  I get $36,000 a year (before tax) and I have so much respect for those who get by on that alone;  I work two days a week in another job as well.   I gave up an $80K+ pa job to do this (and I don’t regret it except when I go shopping).
So the time issue is considerable; wondering if you could keep doing your other job, whether your boss would let you go part time, potentially giving up a role you love or a project you wanted to see through, and then there’s working in with other obligations like family, being on a Board of Trustees, perhaps a health condition, or wanting to be able to travel.  
There were a lot of other practical considerations too; what if I have a baby?  Does it get nasty?  How autonomous is the role or does the chair order everyone around?  Would it create a conflict of interest with this other thing I’m involved in?  How much does it cost?  While the overriding factor given was time, all of these and more were in the mix for some.  
What I noticed from this was how almost every woman was carefully thinking myriad factors through.  Less focused on “do I want to do this, would I be good at this” but instead on “can I actually do this?”
In contrast there was no issue finding men to run.  There almost never is, from my political experience of the last fifteen plus years.  The men I’ve observed have largely been more likely to say yes, to put themselves forward, and worry about how it will all work out if they get elected after polling day, not before.  
To a degree, I think that is right. Men do tend to be more, yeah I’ll do it, and it will all work out okay.

When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men

April 3rd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A fascinating article on Alter Net by Alyssa Goldstein:

In the 1600s, a man named James Mattock was expelled from the First Church of Boston. His crime? It wasn’t using lewd language or smiling on the sabbath or anything else that we might think the Puritans had disapproved of. Rather, James Mattock had refused to have sex with his wife for two years. Though Mattock’s community clearly saw his self-deprivation as improper, it is quite possible that they had his wife’s suffering in mind when they decided to shun him. The Puritans believed that sexual desire was a normal and natural part of human life for both men and women (as long as it was heterosexual and confined to marriage), but that women wanted and needed sex more than men. A man could choose to give up sex with relatively little trouble, but for a woman to be so deprived would be much more difficult for her. …
The idea that men are naturally more interested in sex than women is ubiquitous that it’s difficult to imagine that people ever believed differently. And yet for most of Western history, from ancient Greece to beginning of the nineteenth century, women were assumed to be the sex-crazed porn fiends of their day. In one ancient Greek myth, Zeus and Hera argue about whether men or women enjoy sex more. They ask the prophet Tiresias, whom Hera had once transformed into a woman, to settle the debate. He answers, “if sexual pleasure were divided into ten parts, only one part would go to the man, and and nine parts to the woman.”
I recall growing up, an old joke about sex being the price women must pay for marriage, and marriage being the price men must pay for sex. Certainly it was the norm that women were expected to not be as keen on sex as men, and this article suggests that this is in fact a comparatively modern belief.
I’d note it a belief, that is less prevalent today, compared to even 20 years ago.

The story of how this stereotype became reversed is not a simple one to trace, nor did it happen evenly and all at once. Historian Nancy Cott points to the rise of evangelical Protestantism as the catalyst of this change, at least in New England. Protestant ministers whose congregations were increasingly made up mainly of middle-class white women probably saw the wisdom in portraying their congregants as moral beings who were especially suited to answering the call of religion, rather than as besmirched seductresses whose fate was sealed in Eden. Women both welcomed this portrayal and helped to construct it. It was their avenue to a certain level of equality with men, and even superiority. Through the gospel, Christian women were “exalted above human nature, raised to that of angels,” as the 1809 book The Female Friend, or The Duties of Christian Virgins put it. The emphasis on sexual purity in the book’s title is telling. If women were to be the new symbols of Protestant religious devotion, they would have to sacrifice the acknowledgement of their sexual desires. Though even the Puritans had believed that it was perfectly acceptable for both men and women to desire sexual pleasure within the confines of marriage, women could now admit to desiring sex in order to bond with their husbands or fulfill their “maternal urges.” As Cott put it, “Passionlessness was on the other side of the coin which paid, so to speak, for women’s admission to moral equality.”

By positioning themselves as naturally chaste and virtuous, Protestant women could make the case for themselves as worthy moral and intellectual equals.

I sometimes wonder how people in 100 years time will look back on our society today?

NZ best for working women

March 9th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Economist reports:

IF YOU are a working woman, you would do well to move to New Zealand—or if that is a little out of the way, you could try one of the Nordic countries. To mark International Women’s Day, The Economist has compiled its own “glass-ceiling index” to show where women have the best chance of equal treatment at work. Based on data mainly from the OECD, it compares five indicators across 26 countries: the number of men and women respectively with tertiary education; female labour-force participation; the male-female wage gap; the proportion of women in senior jobs; and net child-care costs relative to the average wage. The first four are given equal weighting, the fifth a lower one, since not all working women have children. New Zealand scores high on all the indicators.

The index weighting is 23% each for the first four factors and 8% for child-care costs.

NZ has a far higher proportion of women than men in tertiary education which will be part of the reason NZ is ranked the best place in the world to be a working woman.

The scale of the women problem in India

January 4th, 2013 at 1:02 pm by David Farrar

Nevil Gibson writes in NBR:

New research by economists Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray estimates that in India, more than 2m women are missing in a given year.

The economists found that roughly 12% of the missing women disappear at birth, 25% die in childhood, 18% at the reproductive ages, and 45% at older ages.

They found that women died more from “injuries” in a given year than while giving birth – injuries, they say, “appear to be indicator of violence against women.”

Deaths from fire-related incidents, they say, is a major cause – each year more than 100,000 women are killed by fires in India. The researchers say many cases could be linked to demands over a dowry leading to women being set on fire. Research also found a large number of women died of heart diseases.

These findings point to life-long neglect of women in India.

The scale of the abuse is simply staggering. If you adjusted for the respective population sizes, that would be like 20,000 women a year just going missing in NZ. it would be 500 women a year being killed by fires.

It sounds like this gang rape murder may be the catalyst that leads to actual significant change. Let’s hope so.


Men only clubs

December 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Tracey Chatterton at Stuff reports:

A partner in a Napier legal firm is boycotting the annual Law Society Christmas party because it is being held in a club that will not allow women as members.

Alison McEwan, of Langley Twigg Law, recently tweeted: “The Law Society is having their annual Xmas do at Hawke’s Bay Club which does not allow female members – so I won’t go.”

Ms McEwan was reluctant to talk to The Dominion Post because two of her senior partners were “stalwarts” of the club, but she did say: “Women had to fight to get the vote. I’m not prepared to let that part of our history go, I’m not prepared to take that for granted.”

President Alan Cooper confirmed that the Hawke’s Bay Club, established in 1863, had never had a female member.

“It’s been this way for 150 years,” he said. “Why would a woman want to be a member?”

He said it was not deliberate discrimination. “There’s areas of the club where you can entertain women.”

What the bedrooms?

Now don’t get me wrong. I support the right of the club to be exclusionary in its membership. They are a private club.

But what I don’t get is why would anyone want to belong to a club that bans women?

I couldn’t think of anything worse to belong to (well maybe Grey Power).


The barbarity of Saudi Arabia towards women

November 30th, 2012 at 3:04 pm by David Farrar

Luke Harding at the Guardian reports:

Saudi Arabia has been accused of behaving like Big Brother after introducing technology that alerts male “guardians” by text whenever women under their guardianship leave the country.

The kingdom already bans women from driving and excludes them from most workplaces. It also disapproves of women’s sport. Since last week it has been operating a new electronic system that tracks all cross-border movements.

The system functions even if a woman is travelling with her husband or male “guardian”, with a text sent immediately to the man. Saudi women must get formal approval from their guardians to travel abroad, and have to hand in an infamous “yellow slip”, signed by a male, at the airport or border.

Women in Saudi Arabia are like chattels. Their culture is deeply flawed, to put it mildly.

Women need the permission of their guardian to marry, divorce, travel, study, get a job, open a bank account, have non-vital surgery etc. I suspect slaves only had a few more rights than some women in Saudia Arabia.

If a Saudi woman’s husband dies, and she wishes to remarry – she needs the permission of her son!

And don’t even start me on honor killings or sentencing rape victims to punishments because they were alone with a man.

Boardroom Gender Diversity Summit

October 4th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I was on a panel at the recent Miro Summit on gender diversity in the boardroom. My speaking notes are here.

As I said, I am not a fan of any sort of quota system, but I do think that companies do better with diversity (in all its forms) on their board.

Anyway for those interested in this area, Women on Boards have a Gender Diversity Summit on the 1st of November. Their keynote speaker is Dr Sharon Lord, who in her 30s was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Ronald Reagan. Lord lives in NZ for five years.

Should gender diversity be mandated for women on boards?

September 20th, 2012 at 3:12 pm by David Farrar

I just took part in a panel and debate/discussion on gender diversity on NZX listed boards. This was at the NZ Initiative’s Miro Summit. Was a very interesting discussion with contributions from some very experienced board directors – both male and female.

It is Chatham House rules, so can’t quote people directly but I can quote my own remarks, which are below:

New Zealand has a reasonably good track record of achievement for women.

Yesterday was the 119th anniversary of the day women in NZ got the vote, after Governor Lord Glasgow signed the new Electoral Act into law – making NZ the first independent country to do so.

 Some of the arguments against suffrage included “Would the home-loving New Zealand wife be ‘unsexed’ by participation in politics, her grace and softness lost? Would her husband be less than a man to allow her to participate? Would the reform lead to unthinkable role reversals where wives made the speeches and husbands fried the chops?”

Personally I quite like frying chops, and thinks we can agree we have come a long way in 119 years.

 As many of us know we recently had a female Prime Minister (as was her predecessor) a female Governor-General, Speaker, Chief Justice, and CEO of the then largest private sector company.

However that does not mean all is rosy for women of course. We have research showing women get paid less than men on average. I won’t fall into the trap of Alasdair Thompson and repeat his suggestion as to the cause. There are in fact a number of factors behind the average pay difference. One of the most interesting is that there is a pay differential even very early on in a professional career – long before factors should as time off for children comes into play. It seems the reason might be that young men are more aggressive pay negotiators – they will push for more pay, while young women tend to accept whatever the employer offers.

 But to put things in context, the gender pay gap in NZ is the 2nd lowest in the OECD.

 NZX has just 9% of directors who are women on their top 100 board. The ASX is up to 13% or their top 200. The NZX numbers may improve with their new disclosure rule, but frankly both 9% and 13% are embarrassingly low numbers. To be fair to Australia I understand 25% of new appointments are women following a voluntary gender disclosure rule. NZX of course is implementing a mandatory one. In the US the Fortune 500 companies have 16% female directors.

Now one can take a view, so what. Does it matter if boards are all men, as 57% of NZX100 boards are? Should we be gender-blind when it comes to board members? Personally I think diversity is important on boards – not just gender diversity, but skills diversity and personality diversity also. A board of seven insurance actuaries would be as unbalanced as a board comprised of seven entrepreneurs such as Rod Drury.

But does gender matter? Well there is an old book called men are from Mars and women are from Venus and while that is about relationships, I think it reflects that men and women do often think differently. There are some advertisements that men love and women loathe, and vice-versa.

There is also some empirical research. A study of Fortune 500 companies in the US from the 25% of companies that had the most female board members had 53% higher return on equity than those companies in the bottom 25% in terms of female board members. This is a correlation, not necessarily causative, but still powerful research. It would be very interesting to see someone apply the same research methodology to NZ, and see if the results are the same. Maybe Oliver can add it to his work list!

Some say there are not enough women who have the commercial experience to be directors of NZX companies. Putting aside the fact this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, I don’t accept this.

For many years now more women than men graduate from university. In 2010 55% of commerce and business graduates were women. 59% of law graduates are women. And overall 64% of all graduates are women. On a separate issue, we need to do something about male education in this country.

I’ve been on a couple of company boards as a non-executive director. All four of my boards chairs have been women, and while these were small organisations, I certainly rate their ability to serve on boards of larger companies if they had the opportunity. One of them in fact has served on almost a dozen central and local government owned company boards with distinction, including major SOEs. She’s a fellow of the Institute of Directors yet until last year I believe she had never been on the board of a NZX listed company. 

 23% of IOD members are women, which means there are roughly 1,300 female directors in New Zealand of whom only 45 are on an NZX100 board. In the state sector 41% of directors are women. So again I don’t accept that the 9% figure is simply because there are not enough suitable women. I note two of our largest law firms are now chaired by women – Russel McVeagh and Minters.

But despite the fact we do have a clear problem, I do not favour mandated quotas for board members, for six reasons. 

  1. Philosophical – not the role of the state to tell shareholders who to put on their boards. Companies are entitled to make bad decisions. We already see too much effort from the Government in trying to tell both people and businesses what to do.
  2. Slippery Slope – why stop at mandated gender diversity. Race and age could well have arguments made for them as we have few Maori and few young directors. I think age is arguably just as important in terms of having diversity of thought around the board table.
  3. If we single out gender as a proxy for diversity, then we may give a false confidence and weaken efforts to improve diversity in other areas.
  4. One size doesn’t fit all. While it is unwise for most companies to have all male boards, companies which specialise in, for example, men’s clothing might be fine. Mind you, in my experience most men have women choose their clothes for them, so maybe not the best example.
  5. A quota may not lead to more women on boards – just lead to Roseanne Meo being on 20 boards instead of 10!
  6. With a quota system, there will be a suspicion that some appointments will be tokenistic, and some female directors will be judged as having succeeded in getting board appointments only because of their gender. That’s unfair to them.

So having identified the problem, and also rejected quotas as a solution, what would I do.

Well I think the problem is the method of recruitment for Directors amongst large NZX100 companies. Most recruitment seems to be done informally amongst those who are known to current Directors, which makes it hard for new Directors to break through.

NGOs and smaller companies often formally advertise for directors, as does the Crown and Local bodies. It is rare you see an NZX company advertise.

Why on earth do large companies still hand pick directors? Imagine if your CEO told you that they are not going to advertise for a COO, but instead appoint someone he or she knows to be well qualified. You’d tell the CEO to pull their head in, and advertise the role. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

I think the solution, or a partial solution, is not quotas, but instead just persuading NZX companies to operate open recruitment processes for directors. The new disclosure policy should identify the companies that have all male boards, and it will be very interesting to compare how many of them do open recruitment of directors, compared to those who use the shoulder tapping method.

So in summary I do believe that companies should be allowed to make mistakes, and they should be allowed to have all male boards, but believe the combination of the initiatives by NZX, the IOD, the Govt and more generally the business community will see NZX boards become move diverse over the next five to ten years. But even if they do not, then the Government has no more of a role mandating gender quotas on private company boards, than they do regulating the maximum pressure of shower nozzles.

I should point out that one Director pointed out most NZX companies do do searches for new Directors, rather than just approach someone they know – however they tend not to advertise – rather use specialist recruitment agencies.

A superb idea

July 13th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The mayor of a German town has sparked controversy by introducing special “easy” parking spots for women.

Mayor Gallus Strobel, from the Black Forest town of Triberg, told Germany’s Spiegel magazine he introduced the spots because men were better at parking than women.

The women’s spaces, which are marked by female symbols, are reportedly better lit and wider, while the men-only spots have concrete pillars to negotiate and can only be reversed into.  

Strobel told the magazine that women were welcome to attempt parking in the men-only spots, but that “men are, as a rule, a little better at such challenges”. He denied accusations of sexism, pointing out that there were 10 women-only spots in the carpark compared to only two men-only spots.

This is an excellent idea. I think the Wellington City Council should copy this initiative.  Just as we have special parks for disabled drivers, I think special parks for women is an excellent initiative.

When did the increase happen?

May 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

Save the Children has released its annual State of the World’s Mothers report [PDF], showing that New Zealand is the 4th best country in the world to be a mother. This is an improvement from last year, when we ranked 6th. Its a legacy of the Clark government, and its policies around paid parental leave and early childhood education that we do so well on these sorts of indices. But as the Scandinavian countries above us show, we can do better; sadly, the present government just doesn’t seem to regard it as a priority.

So we improve in 2011 over 2010, and this is nothing to do with the present Government, and all to do with the Government that got chucked out in 2008. Sure.

As it happens, if you actually read about the report, most of the factors have little to do with Government. They are:

  • Lifetime risk of maternal death (NZ is 32nd)
  • % of women using modern contraception (NZ 9th)
  • Female life expectancy at birth (NZ 10th)
  • Expected years of formal female schooling (NZ 1st)
  • Maternity leave length (NZ 38th)
  • Maternity leave wages (NZ 1st)
  • Ratio of female to male earnings (NZ 8th)
  • Participation of women in govt (NZ 9th)
  • Under 5 mortality rate (NZ 23rd)
  • Pre-primary enrolment ratio (NZ 18th)
  • Secondary enrolment ratio (NZ 3rd)

It seems why we are 4th overall is because we are not very low down in any factor.

The worst place to be a mother incidentally is the Niger. Among more developed countries is it Alaania.

Women’s workforce particpation

April 15th, 2012 at 10:18 am by David Farrar

The SST report:

A generation of young, educated New Zealand women is being lost to the workforce because they can’t afford childcare.

Many tertiary educated and trained mothers are deciding to retrain as teachers or nurses, professions that offer more flexible work options. …

New Zealand has one of the lowest workforce participation rates for women in the 25-34 age group compared to the rest of the OECD.

Labour’s early childhood education spokeswoman Sue Moroney said the government’s reluctance to look at the issue was causing skills and talent to be lost to the workforce.

Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden had the highest participation rates, and also spent the most on childcare, and had generous paid parental leave provisions.

I went looking for research on this, and found this paper. It’s 40 pages long and has every stat you can think of on workforce participation by women, written by a (then) Treasury boffin.  One thing he noted was:

The previous section has shown that differences between countries can be attributed in part to differences in the participation of, and prevalence of, different types of families. At least some of the difference between countries, however, might simply be due to the definition of “participation”. We illustrate this by comparing participation rates in New Zealand to those in the highest-participating countries in the OECD, the Nordic countries.

In official statistics, women on paid parental leave should be counted as employed, even though they are not working.21 Nordic countries have amongst the most generous paid parental leave provisions in the OECD

That is worth remembering. In these statistics, you are counted as still being in the workforce if on paid parental leave, so there is no surprise there is a correlation. They modeled for this impact:

The maximum effect of these differences in paid parental leave can be modelled by assuming that women take the maximum leave available for all their children and adjusting the reported participation figures to reflect this. Figure 24 shows that after this adjustment there is a marked ‘dipping’ in participation rates in the Nordic countries. When adjusted, the profile of women’s employment rates in these countries loses its n-shape, and becomes much more like the profile in New Zealand. The difference in participation rates of women aged 25 to 39 years is also markedly reduced after adjustment.

So extending paid parental leave makes the stats looks better, because women on paid parental leave are counted as being in the workforce. But whether it actually makes a significant difference to the number of women actually being in paid work, is far less clear. Some other interesting stats:

Among New Zealand women, the presence and age of children, being a sole or partnered mother, and level of qualifications have a strong effect, and each factor has an effect which is independent of the other two. Mothers with different combinations of these characteristics have widely varying participation rates. At one extreme, for example, sole parents with a pre-school child and no school qualification have a participation rate of only 32%. At the other extreme, partnered mothers with a child aged 10-17 and with a post-school qualification have a participation rate of 91%.

And for the 25 – 34 year old age group:

Compared to other OECD countries, New Zealand has a relatively high overall female participation rate. Yet, participation rates for women between the ages of 25 and 39 are conspicuously low by international standards. Few other countries show a dip in participation rates in the peak childbearing ages. This point of difference seems to be driven by a combination, in New Zealand, of relatively low participation rates among mothers with young children and sole mothers, together with high fertility rates and high proportions of sole parent families.

So arguably the welfare reforms which will discourage sole parent families to have further children, will increase the participation rates, as well as the increased work-testing requirements.

The research also notes (and this was done in 2005 when Labour was Government):

Differences in participation between countries may also reflect differences in government policies (such as tax and benefit policies) or social norms (such as the attitudes towards, and expectations of, women working compared to looking after their children). OECD countries can be grouped according to their pattern of women’s participation across ages, and these groupings to a considerable extent reflect similarities in the countries’ values, social conventions, institutions and recent histories. Not surprisingly, New Zealand’s profile is most similar to Australia and the United Kingdom: countries with whom we share a common heritage. The participation profile of New Zealand men, relative to the OECD, is also similar in many ways to that of New Zealand women, with relatively high participation rates for younger and older people, but relatively low rates for people aged around 25-39. These similarities support the case for the existence of particular “country effects”, which affect both women and men.

I think cultural issues are always significant.

The paper concludes:

How does all this inform the public policy question of whether, and how, to encourage the greater participation of women in New Zealand? Some initial thoughts are be hazarded here. Firstly, since different groups of women, and mothers, have widely differing participation rates, any policies which aim to increase the participation of women would need to be carefully focused. One type of policy is unlikely to work for all women. Also, since some groups of women already have high participation rates, policies which aim to increase this participation even further may incur high deadweight costs.

A very interesting paper. The issues are far more complex than paid parental leave.