It's a man's world, mind the gaps...
James Brown's song It's a Man's Man's Man's World simply describes a global reality. Our economic systems and the tools and machines we use on a daily basis have been largely generated by men. The values that dominate most of the world are also male ones. This is especially true of our current Government that is very male heavy, out of the current 59 National MPs only 16 are female and only 6 in the top 20.
There is a clear difference between the previous Labour Government and this one when you look at the the influence of women. Under Helen Clark more women were able to attain leadership roles and in 2004 we were ranked 4th in the world for female representation in business management. Under National the reverse has happened we are now in the bottom twelve in the world. Over the past year alone we plummeted 13 places and now only 19% of businesses have women in senior roles.
The lack of women in management is nothing to do with ability but a combination of being in a male dominated culture where women have to work much harder to be regarded as equal and self perception that is shaped by being continually disregarded. This Forbes article on why US women struggle to achieve management roles also reflects the New Zealand situation where twice as many women now achieve bachelor degrees each year compared to men. Despite the fact that we are churning out twice as many female graduates, the work environment still values men above women and men can earn far more for similar jobs.
The National Party ridiculed Labour's attempt to have greater gender balance and described it as the 'man ban'. This simplistic attack should have shifted media attention to National's own culture where few women were represented. The Party claimed that ability, not gender, determines their list and this would naturally lead to only two conclusions: few women of ability are members of the National Party or the criteria applied to choosing candidates and list ranking are weighted towards men. I believe that both are true and the values that permeate the National Party are largely male ones.
Obviously I realise that not all men and women can be defined by narrow traits, but when one examines the record and behaviour of the National Government, traditional male values and behaviour become apparent. James Brown sings about men making the roads and National's enthusiasm for spending $13 billion on their Roads of National Significance (from a limited purse) must surely indicate a high level of testosterone in determining priorities. Many men have a fascination and love of cars that transcends their practical application and economic justification. National's financial supporters (largely rich men as there are few rich women) would be demanding good roads for their growing numbers of luxury cars and their fossil fueled status symbols.
Under this male dominated National Government roles traditionally held by women are undervalued and there is little empathy for what women and children experience on a daily or regular basis. This has resulted in yawning gaps in our support systems and protections for our most vulnerable:
- Hungry children
- Disabled children
- Victims of domestic violence
- Children with high educational needs
- Homeless people
- Migrant workers
- Sexual abuse victims
- Sole parents
- Care givers
- Struggling Youth
This National Government's thinking and culture has been noticeably apparent during the Northland bye-election. In an electorate with unemployment at almost 20% and the highest level of child poverty in New Zealand (almost 50%), National decided that what this struggling region really needs is $60 million of new spending on wider bridges. Obviously cars are more important than kids. To support their campaign National MPs were regularly driving into Northland in a fleet of Government BMWs...it's a man's world indeed.