Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Issues effecting women

The soon to be MP for Mt Albert answered the Hand Mirror's election survey. He was asked what were the issues facing the women of Mt Albert:

Women come from many different groups – with different issues: For many professional women the gender pay gap is a constant problem which the National Government has made worse by backtracking on all of the previous Labour Government’s initiatives to fix – such as canning the Pay & Employment Equity Unit that was undertaking reviews in the public service.
Professional women? The deep ignorance of politicians and the stereotypes they propagate can be staggering.* It's also a neat trick, a way of minimising women's concerns - those professional women and their desire to be paid the same as men, that's only one group of women's problem.

The gender pay gap is not some obscure concern of professional women, but a systematic differentiation which effects almost all women in some way or another. Women as a earn on average 85% of what men earn - but the gap gets bigger for non-white women, and working class women.

Pay equity is the demand for equal pay for work of equal value and one of the reasons for that gap.** The difference in pay between female dominated industries and male dominated industries doesn't just involve nurses and teachers and the limited number of women dominated professional jobs, but also caregivers, teacher aides, cleaners, and retail workers.

I've seen it before, the tendency to assume that the fight for equal pay, and the end of the gender pay gap is mainly a middle class women's concern. This does a great disservice to the history for the fight for equal pay in New Zealand, which was fought and won over decades.

As a unionist I couldn't finish this post without pointing out that the gender pay gap is not just a women's concern. I was working late tonight, and was still there when the cleaners came round - they were all men, but they were paid women's wages.

* Further on David Shearer also states that 'stay at home mothers' might worry about not being able to afford things for their children. Ignoring that mothers do the vast majority of the shopping and childcare, whatever other work they do. The ideology of the public sphere and the private sphere appears to be alive and well as a way of dividing women.

** Other reasons why women earn less include straight out discrimination in pay and promotion, and the effects of men doing considerably less unpaid work than women.


  1. THIS. Hence why minimum wages are a women's issue: way more women are on low pay than men.

  2. Anonymous4:07 pm

    I read on the ctu's website that if you combine the wage gap with the fact that women spend less hours in paid employment because of children and housework then woman actually only earn 50% of what men do. This explains a large part of female poverty. We take all responsibility, often providing a hotel lifestyle for our partners and are left to rot in poverty and overwork.
    What a nice life it would be to be able to afford a servant for her keep. If you cheat on her she might leave and then she'll pay most of your share of the bills and provide her labour free for your children for the next 10-20 years. Marriage is a great deal usually (not always) for men only. Unfortunately I will never provide free children for a society that tells women they are bludgers if they ask for anything in return. Its worse than slavery. What slave pays his masters debts when they want to escape cruelty infidelity etc. Slaves are also housed and fed so there is not much difference unless their are assets to divide when couples split. That may become a rarety in the future.