Special correspondent – It’s been a big week for misogyny in New Zealand. But it’s also been a big week for women to raise all those issues they have raised so many times before – family v. career, gender imbalance, workplace conditions and the rest.
At a time when gender issues within the law are under increased attention from firms – with vastly different degrees of success – the Ardern (“will you have babies”) issue has brought all the old issues back into sharp relief.
They’re issues that have been highlighted in this publication before.
Putting aside the misogynist Mark Williamson from Mediaworks’ sparring with new Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern, there has been at least a renewed focus on the fact that whether a woman is going to have a baby or not is irrelevant to her career path.
And despite efforts to achieve gender equality, open the doors to lifestyle changes and embrace an enlightened view of the fact that women who work can also have babies, things are really not changing much.
Why? Because of the sort of misogyny that lead to Mark Williams’ questioning in the first place. (At least Jesse Mulligan’s night before lifestyle query on The Project was projected as something that sought a personal response, rather than dressed as a reprimanding attitude.
The Williamson query prompted her stern response – “…It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace… It is a woman’s decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.”
Asking the question as an employer is quite probably illegal.
And it is also quite possibly illegal, as Mai Chen, a woman who knows more about career paths than anyone.
She told Radio NZ –
“Employers who are asking questions which are not focussed on the person’s skills and ability to do the job are likely to be found in breach on the ground of non-discrimination on the basis of sex, but also the ground of non-discrimination on the basis of family status. It might also be age, it might also be marital status, it depends on what sorts of questions you are asking.
“The critical thing is that we shouldn’t be stereotyping people.”
The woman who has been down this well-trod path is, of course, Helen Clark, who had no time for the “gender biased questioning”.
But it was also a week when Anderson Lloyd won their award for being the first firm in New Zealand to win a ‘breastfeeding friendly place’ award, this being international breast feeding week.
Is it time we simply put aside issues of women-and-babies when it comes to their work?
Westpac boss and former lawyer David McLean issued a firm edict that asking the question was not something his bank would tolerate in their “bring all of yourselves to work” ethos –
Many men and women lawyers have seen red, the gender gap in the profession being what it is.
The Wellington Womens’ Lawyer Association posted to their Facebook page –
While she tweeted the historic move, a fellow Tweeter echoed the thoughts of some – “You may think its clever but believe me Waters will be remembered in politics as the dumb b**** with the big tits with an ego that was five feet in front of her brains.”
So there. You can make history, ask illegal questions on television and at the end of the day you’re still going to be the woman who is characterised as right/wrong for having/not having children and putting your career/life ahead of your child/children