Judith Collins
Judith Collins

The Ministry of Wimmin's Affairs - Time To Go?

Of all the politically correct organisations littering our Capital, the big Mother of them all is the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoW). This is one so powerful under the Labour/PC coalition government that no man (or 49% of the population) is qualified to comment on it or its work.

Any man who makes any comment whatsoever about MoW is either sexist (if a negative comment) or patronizing (if he tries to be positive). Who are these powerful women?

Well, for a start, they aren't women – not in the ordinary, every day usage of the term. They're wimin. These wimin are not attached to men and they don't have history, they have herstory. For them, gender equity quotas exist – but men need not apply. The men's quota is zero. Men are not wanted by MoW. It's not that all men are rapists – but they have the potential don't they?

Should you ever wish to read a MoW document, then you can be assured of two things: it will commence with a list of the inequalities faced by wimin and then will reach a conclusion that men are paid more money than wimin and therefore we taxpayers need to fund more research by MoW into how to redress these inequalities.

This Ministry has 35 full time, highly paid staff. It spends over $3 million annually, achieving what? It writes reports. It writes reports about how more taxpayer dollars need to be spent on women as opposed to men, and in particular it dedicates large chunks of text and thought to the position of Maori Women. All of which sounds very worthy.

The problem is that it doesn't do one thing for the woman who has to: get up early, get ready for work, get the children's breakfast, get them washed, dressed and their bags packed for school, drive them to school, get to work, work in her paid employment, rush home (having already arranged for the children to be collected), wash clothes, get sports clothes ready for children, oversee homework, cook dinner, do dishes, get children to bed and then spend quality time with her husband ...

For the Wimin in MoW, this litany would be most strange. It would be proof positive that women work harder and longer than men and are at the bottom of the social heap. For other women, it's life. It's also a life that we happen to like very much. It's not a chore; it's not a bore. Most women get a huge amount of enjoyment out of looking after their family and we don't want to be paid by some Government agency to do that. We are quite capable of paying our own way and choosing to be the best mother and wife that we can. We don't need saving and we don't need protecting by a bunch of really ugly socialists.

Now that women have been the last two Prime Ministers of New Zealand, that the Governor-General is a woman, the Chief Justice is a woman, the head of Business New Zealand is a woman, arguably our most respected interviewers, financial commentators and company directors are women, the President of the NZ Law Society is a woman, the Human Rights Commissioner is a woman, perhaps it is time for the Ministry to fade away into memory as a relic of our oppressed past.

Many would agree. The Ministry, sensing the time is near for it to fade away has now sought to increase its profile by producing a document called "Mahi Orite, Utu Tokeke," or "Pay Equity for Women."

Pay Equity for Women" sounds quite good to me. It probably sounds quite good to most women. After all, it's all about paying women (and men) fairly isn't it? Well, no it's not. It's about deciding that some jobs should be paid more than they are. And those jobs are jobs where the women are in the majority – jobs like nursing, jobs like cleaning.

Part of pay equity under the MoW formula is "closing the gender pay gap - including the large pay gap experienced by Maori women." Sounds good, but here is the catch. Here's a quote: " Maori women also use cultural skills in jobs such as social work, nursing, teaching and government or community work... and advice on Maori issues can all be of value to their employer, which should be reflected in their pay." This means, paying Maori women more than non-Maori women because non-Maori don't have cultural skills – because of course only Maori have culture.

The Ministry states that a third of Maori women work in just ten occupations, mostly low paid. These are sales assistant, cleaner, general clerk, caregiver, primary teacher, information clerk/receptionist, social worker, packer, secretary, or catering counter assistant. That means that two thirds don't work in these ten occupations. What about non-Maori women? What about Maori men? And frankly – so what? Some jobs are more highly paid than others. The work of a lawyer is likely to be more highly paid than the secretary (but only after the first 3-4 years). There is a reason. The lawyer spends four years studying full time, comes from a small group with very high school grades, is always liable to be sued for her advice, is totally responsible if her work or her staff's work isn't completed on time and works under immense pressure. And here is the truly remarkable point – not many people actually can do the job. That is the difference. Where any Ministry proposal on Pay Equity goes off the rails is when we look at women who, despite being women, not only achieve in what is supposedly a man's world, but super-achieve. These women pay a high price for that achievement and they justly reap rewards, as do those few men who super-achieve.

So what of these women? What do the Ministry's proposals hold for them? Well, unless they can bring an added cultural dimension, probably not a lot. The fact is that these women aren't victims, they aren't people that the Ministry's wimin can patronise, they are better educated, paid more and happier than most men. Perhaps I'm just looking at this from an elitist position. Let's look at the women who aren't in paid employment, the homemakers. Some receive the Domestic Purposes Benefit, most simply receive the love and affection of their families. Which group is happier? I'll go out on a limb here and say those who aren't paid to be at home. Those who feel valued because of their own sense of worth, not by some Government deciding how much they are worth.

The pay equity example most commonly used is the difference between what nurses are paid and what police officers are paid. Again there are huge differences in the work environments. Nurses are less likely than police officers to face violence or threats of violence, are less likely to have to work alone. Nursing is a career which is structured so that nurses can and do take extended time away from their careers and then are able to slot back in after some updating training. Nurses have a choice of employment. They have skills easily transportable to other countries, and to other employers. They have the ability to refuse dangerous work. Nurses work in public hospitals, private hospitals, retirement homes, doctors' surgeries, schools, factories, offices, and can work full or part time. They get paid overtime. Nurses can choose their employer and the sort of work that they have to do. Police officers cannot.

Police officers have no choice of employer. They have no ability to say "No" to working in a dangerous situation. Their work is by nature dangerous. They do not have the option to work full or part time and their work is not easily transportable. There is little natural career path for police officers outside of the police and any day, any time is likely to result in a violent confrontation. Some women are police officers just as some men are nurses.

Let's look at it this way. If half the population is languishing at the bottom of the social structure – and they must be, because they are:

... shouldn't this group be given their own ministry?

Of course, let's give them a Ministry of Men's Affairs.

All we have to do now is to find a politically correct bloke to run it. That shouldn't be too difficult.

Editor's note: the above is a personal view, not National Party policy.

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