Have today’s women got the jump on men?
Women fill the roles of Governor-General, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker and the heads of our biggest listed company and our second-biggest bank.
Labour MP John Tamihere told Investigate magazine last month that the most powerful network in the ruling party was “the Labour Party wimmin’s division … it’s about an anti-men’s agenda”.
Men, it seems, are reeling from the shock of it. Former Lifeline director Bruce Mackie told a men’s summit at Waitakere this month that more men than women were dying of cancer, heart disease, accidents and suicide because of “a crisis of the spirit”.
When women are throwing themselves off the Sky Tower and into the paid workforce, taking the risks that men used to take, men are left wondering what their role is.
“They are not nurturers any more, and we are not protectors. Everything has changed,” says Father and Child Society president Philip Chapman.
Well, poor old men, you might say. At first sight their complaints look laughable alongside the figures on the next page, showing that, below the very top level of business and politics, men are mostly still in control.
Technology, economic and demographic forces and official policies are all transforming the roles of men and women faster than men, at least, have kept up with.
Former Women’s Affairs Minister Margaret Shields, who is convening a national women’s convention in Wellington next weekend, says the organisers initially planned a joint conference of men and women to celebrate 30 years of social change since a big United Women’s Convention in 1975.
“But men really weren’t ready,” she says. “On the whole, men haven’t had to be half as reflective as women, because they were kind of in charge.
“I would really welcome similar meetings for men to look at what they see as their vision for society, so we can get further ahead.”
Thirty years of feminism have transformed New Zealand, but below the very top level, men remain in charge.
Figures collected for the Weekend Herald by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs show that women have moved into paid work in massive numbers since a United Women’s Convention in Wellington in 1975. Back then, women accounted for 32 per cent of total employment; now it’s almost half (46 per cent).
But when 500 women meet for a new national convention in Wellington next weekend to review 30 years of progress, the score will be mixed.
Equal Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor, a former editor of the Sunday News, said when she looks at her former profession 20 years on, she doesn’t see many more senior women than in her day.