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Pay equality next challenge

Opinion Piece

A milestone lies behind New Zealand’s women with yesterday’s nationwide celebration of 125 years of suffrage but a look at some of the stats shows there are still plenty of challenges to face.

On the plus side the three top jobs in the country — Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Governor General — are all held by women, Jacinda Ardern, Sian Elias and Patsy Reddy. This is the second time that has happened.

New Zealand have had three women prime ministers with the third of them, Jacinda Ardern creating a first by giving birth while in office, something that the majority of people would not have expected even a few years ago.

The 38 women members of Parliament is the highest total ever although many people feel it is still too low.

On the negative side women continue to remain below men for their annual income, even if they are in the same occupation in many cases. Traditional women-dominated jobs continue to be lower paid.

The figures in the world of business executives remain disappointing. Only 20 percent of the directors of companies in the New Zealand stock exchange are female. For the top 50 companies the figure is just 21 percent and there are only two women chief executives.

But as the #MeToo movement that swept the world last year showed there are other areas of concern apart from income and status.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says that domestic violence is really dragging women down and holding them back. If you are afraid in your home and in your community you cannot reach your full potential.

The three women prime ministers, Clark, Ardern and Jenny Shipley are very different personalities but they seem to have reached the same conclusion, women are almost there but there is still work to do.

That might well be the view of Kate Sheppard and the 32,000 people who signed the petition which led to Parliament somewhat reluctantly enacting the universal suffrage legislation which New Zealand was the first country to do.

While there were nationwide celebrations yesterday, there is still much to do.