Another entry for the “Patriarchy harms men too” files

Reported a few days ago: Flexible work a career killer for men.

Women who are offered flexible working arrangements are more likely to move into senior leadership roles, but men who decide to do the same thing are less likely to excel, an Australian report has found.

The report by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women found that the stigmas attached to men taking time off work to look after kids has meant there’s been a low uptake of flexible working arrangements in large businesses across Australia.

I’ve worked flexibly, very flexibly, for the last seventeen years or so (that number bears a curious resemblance to my eldest daughter’s age), and it has had quite an effect on my career series of jobs. But I’m just starting to feel that this coming decade will be one of real achievement for me, because I can finally charge ahead a bit, and having taken a fair chunk of time out to be a carer is seen as a reasonable thing to have done. I don’t think I’ll ever get quite as far as I might have done, had I made other choices about having children, and how to rear them.

But it’s interesting, and disheartening, to see that men who opt for flexible work do even worse than women. It must be regarded unmanly, and not showing enough determination, and not being committed to a career – all the sorts of things that might make it difficult for a man to be promoted.

So chalk this one up as another instance of patriarchy harming men too. It’s a rotten world.

There are more men named David running NZX-listed firms than there are women.

There are more men named David running NZX-listed firms than there are women, of any name. Also more Marks, Christophers and Michaels. When it comes to Chairmen of NZX-listed firms, then it’s Peters, Davids, Johns and Christophers at the top of the list, followed by women of any name.

I collated the data and wrote about it for my university’s annual “Future NZ” magazine, which is a joint publication with the NZ Herald. The full article is available here: Who’s running New Zealand’s companies?

New Zealand is of course very small, so the data could be distorted easily. It could be for example, that if I had counted things a little differently, or chosen a different time period, or looked at say the Deloitte Top 200, that I would have gotten a different result. Perhaps it might have been James, Josh and Ben at the top of the list. But I don’t think the overall pattern would have changed. When it comes to business in New Zealand, it’s men who are running the place, and it’s very hard for women to get a look in at all.

I think there are ways of changing this, starting with raising awareness of the problem, and then making positive steps to make a difference. The Ministry for Women runs a nominations service to facilitate the appointment of women to state sector boards and committees: perhaps it could be expanded to provide a register of board-ready women that private sector firms could use too.

And yes, lack of diversity in the top level management of New Zealand business is a problem. The research is very clear: people make better decisions in more diverse groups.

Talking about women in science

I was on Radio NZ Nights a couple of weeks ago, talking about women in science.

Radio NZ Nights: Feminist Pundit on women in science

The topic came to mind because I had just seen an article about the statistical likelihood of having an all-male panel at maths conferences (in a totally surprising finding, it’s statistically very unlikely) and by a tweet conversation with the wonderful Siouxsie Wiles about imposter syndrome, and by the Gendered Conference Campaign run by the Feminist Philosophers’ Blog. (I do know that Philosophy is not a science, but of all the humanities disciplines, Philosophy might be the one that most resembles the sciences in its academic practices.) A day or two after I had suggested the topic, in a very fortunate coincidence of timing, Nicola Gaston’s new book, Why Science is Sexist, came out.

The conversation with Bryan Crump was great fun, as usual. For more on Bryan’s general excellence as a broadcaster, skip to the bottom of this post.

We covered the leaky pipeline: lots of women taking science at school and at undergraduate levels, and even at higher levels, but very very few at the top levels of science. Nicola Gaston has a great story about this.

Dr Nicola Gaston tells a story about an encounter at an international conference dinner one night in 2012.

Sitting with a group of five, four of whom she knew well, a senior member of the quantum chemistry academy running the conference stopped by to talk to someone opposite her. The conversation was about one of the talks that morning.

The visitor said to Dr Gaston: “I’m sorry, we must be boring you.”

She assured him that wasn’t the case.

“Oh, but you aren’t one of us, are you?” he continued. “What I mean is, you aren’t a scientist, are you?”

The table now in silence, she replied: “Actually, yes I am.”

The man’s forehead wrinkled, he smiled, and asked: “Oh, what kind of science? What I mean is, you aren’t our kind of scientist, are you?”

She said something to the man, headed straight for the bar, and it was there that she noticed her environment. At the tables behind her, filled mostly with students and postdoctoral researchers, the gender split was 50/50, while the tables surrounding hers, hosting working scientists, were largely full of men. At the front, where VIPs and members of the academy were seated, the ratio was again half and half – but only because the men had brought their wives.

But why would there be such a drop off of women in science?

It could be due to stereotype threat:

When there’s a stereotype in the air and people are worried they might confirm the stereotype by performing poorly, their fears can inadvertently make the stereotype become self-fulfilling.

Steele and his colleagues found that when women were reminded — even subtly — of the stereotype that men were better than women at math, the performance of women in math tests measurably declined. Since the reduction in performance came about because women were threatened by the stereotype, the psychologists called the phenomenon “stereotype threat.”

There’s a classic xkcd comic that’s very much to the point here.

Then there’s women in science constantly being disparaged: witness Tim Hunt making cracks about “girls” in labs, and that shirt that Matt Taylor wore when he was talking to the world’s media about landing a spacecraft on a comet (to his credit, Taylor got the point straight away, apologised for his goof-up and moved on, unlike Hunt), and Larry Summers talking about how women just don’t have the innate ability for science.

NB: for those of you who are still attached to the view that Tim Hunt was very hard done by, check out this very thorough review of what actually happened: Saving Tim Hunt.

This is the sort of climate that women face in science: men who won’t take women seriously, and treat them as mere accessories and distractions. Is it any wonder that women don’t stay in science?

So what are the solutions? Consciousness raising: acknowledging that the problem actually exists. Mentoring women scientists. Recognising that this is a problem for everyone to solve, rather than expecting individual women to solve a systemic problem. This is particularly important because the negativity around women in science, and women in any non-traditional gender roles, is something that we all do. Women are part of our society just as much as men, and we absorb the same attitudes. So women need to recognise and work to solve this problem too. And it will be all to the good if we can solve the problem. At present, a good proportion of people who would be excellent scientists are being turned away from doing science, and that means that we are squandering their work and talents.

I recommend Nicola Gaston’s book: it’s well worth reading. She was on Q&A a couple of weeks ago talking about the issues for women in science: Q&A: Sexism and science.


I’ve been Radio NZ Night’s feminist pundit for three years now, and it has been great fun. They’re keen to have me back again next year, but there are reviews going on. A couple of straws of gossip in the wind that I’ve picked up on, and this comment on Dim-Post:

depressing news from RNZ source – ‘proposal’ to gut ‘nights’ of local content/interviews and have Brian Crump (only wears his heart in his pocket) as continuity between BBC/overseas content – Hirschfeld (head of content) must find monies for savior of public radio JC’s drivetime multi media (someone that good must be on as many platforms as is financially possible) – aucklanders don’t listen to nighttime radio – too many good restaurants – goodbye public RADIO

That would be a great loss. Obviously I would miss being able to talk feminism on air, but it’s more than that. Bryan Crump is an excellent broadcaster and interviewer. He’s very gentle, and he manages to have conversations with people that generate real insights and real connection. He has a tremendous ability to elicit emotion without being mawkish, or even sentimental. I often turn his show on when I’m driving in the evening, and I’ve been known to get home and stay sitting in the car to keep on listening to an interview, because I don’t want to miss it. I should be very sorry indeed if his local interviews and local content was taken off the air.

Pretty little things

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern MP is a smart, able, accomplished adult woman.  She’s been an MP since November 2008, and she’s very, very highly regarded, as shown by this poll rating her as a potential leader of the opposition and/or prime minister, along with parliamentary heavy weights such as Annette King, Grant Robertson and Winston Peters.

On national TV, she was described as a “pretty little thing”.

There are so very many things wrong with that. I discussed some of them on Radio NZ’s The Panel yesterday afternoon.

Discussion on The Panel about “pretty little thing” – 2’53”

The biggest problem to me is that it is such a dismissive phrase. It treats an adult woman as a mere decoration, and as a child.

Jacinda Ardern on the cover of Next magazine

Jacinda Ardern on the cover of Next magazine

But, some people say, surely Ms Ardern invites this type of comment. After all, she appears all frocked up in women’s magazines. She’s putting herself out there, so what does she expect?

No, she hasn’t invited comments like this. If you bother to read the articles behind the pictures, then you will see that Ardern uses the articles to make a series of points about what she values, what she wants to see happening in New Zealand society, women in the workforce, women in politics, what she hopes to achieve. And by appearing in women’s magazines, she connects with a whole group of people who may not read the Serious Journals That Men Read Which Are Therefore The Most Important Ways of Communicating.

Even that phrase, “women’s magazines” is dismissive. It says that women are a special interest group, and that the default public person is either male, or a best disembodied and genderless.

Those “women’s magazines” are in fact very important avenues for discussion and discourse. They are gossip in the best sense of the word, passing on information and ideas, exchanging views, connecting with a community. Women connect with each other through them, get and pass on information, in an environment of equals. By working with women’s magazines, Jacinda Ardern is making a big effort to connect with a much wider community than just the standard political circles.

But even if Jacinda invites comment on her appearance, the phrase used to describe Ardern is wrong. Not because it focuses on appearance, but because it treats her as a child. And that’s an age old strategy for making sure that women are treated as not important in public discourse.

One final point: I’m deeply uncomfortable with the phrase, “isn’t she inviting it?” The resonances should be very, very disturbing to anyone who is commenting on this issue.

Les Chuchoteuses

Les Chuchoteuses. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The world’s highest paid TV actors: take a wild guess about gender balance

Big Bang Theory cast. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Big Bang Theory cast.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

There’s a list out today of the world’s 15 highest paid tv actors.

Big Bang Theory actors are the world’s highest paid television stars in 2015

Before you take a look at the list, take a really wild, out there guess about the gender balance in that list. 50:50 male female?

Knowing what you do already about pay equity and gender pay gaps, perhaps you’ll go for something a little more skewed in favour of men. 75:25 male female? Maybe even 80:20?

Well, thank you for playing.  Those of you who guessed 100:0 are right.

1. Jim Parsons – $US29 million – male

2. Johnny Galecki – $US27 million – male

3. Mark Harmon – $US20 million – male

4. Simon Helberg – $US20 million – male

5. Kunal Nayyar – $US20 million – male

6. Ashton Kutcher – $US20 million – male

7. Jon Cryer – $US15 million – male

8. Ray Romano – $US15 million – male

9. Patrick Dempsey – $US12 million – male

10. Simon Baker – $US12 million – male

11. Ty Burrell – $US11.5 million – male

12. Jesse Tyler Ferguson – $US11 million – male

13. Ed O’Neill – $US10.5 million – male

14. Eric Stonestreet – $US10.5 million – male

15. Kevin Spacey – $US9.5 million – male

All four main male characters from Big Bang Theory are on the list, but not Kaley Cuoco.

I’m guessing that may be a problem with the way the list was constructed, because reports have said that Ms Cuoco is paid over $1million an episode, like her male co-stars.

But that’s the other problem with the list. If it’s inaccurate, then it’s helping to reinforce the idea that women are worth less than men.

Grump grump grump.

A couple of points about Rachel Smalley and diversity in prime time news

Rachel Smalley is copping a lot of flak for pointing out what should be obvious: our prime time news shows on both radio and tv are dominated by white men. They’re all perfectly good broadcasters, and some of them are even excellent broadcasters, and at least one of them has recently been annointed as St Broadcaster by the NZ public. Even so, they are overwhelmingly, white men.

Smalley has been roundly castigated for daring to point this out, and people have leapt in to say that there are plenty of women in broadcasting and that most of these men report to female bosses. See for example, Tim Watkins at Pundit: On Smalley: a bit of back and forth.

Of those that I know or have worked with, they’ve all had women bosses. And that’s a key point that’s worth noting in this debate that is very different from the newsrooms of a generation ago. There are probably other examples, but as much as I know: Guyon has been produced by Maryanne Ahern, John by Pip Keane, Larry by Melita Tull and Paul by Sarah Bristow. Duncan has worked for Linda Clark. It was Carol Hirschfeld who hired Campbell last week. As much as the marketing sometimes belies this, news and current affairs is not just about the host.

Watkins is right: current affairs is not just about the host. Nevertheless, the host is the front person for a show. And when you have white men as the front person for so many shows, it helps to create a mindset about who is worthy of presenting the news, who is entitled to comment on it, whose opinions matter, who are the serious people that we ought to listen to and trust. Overwhelmingly, it’s not women. And no matter how much work women are doing in the backroom, out the front it’s all about the men.

That’s a harmful message to about who is worth listening to. It’s no wonder that women are so under represented in our Parliament and around our board tables, when the people who are valorised and lauded and given frontline roles are men, and women in public and senior roles are exceptions.

Of course, where there’s a controversy, there’s an on-line poll. Here’s the ever-reliable NZ Herald’s poll.

On-line poll

On-line poll

Take a look at the possible answers on that poll.  Yes, it’s a good idea to have a discussion about representation during Prime Time vs no, broadcasters should be chosen on merit along vs I’m not sure.

So much to read into that second response!  First up, it’s not even worth having a discussion about representation.  Second, it’s all about merit and that’s all that matters.

But there’s the rub.  Is the way that we measure merit gendered?  (This is a trick question.)

Anyone who has ever read any feminist analysis knows the results of endless studies: yes, the way we measure merit is indeed gendered, and we tend to equate merit with being male, and being a white male at that.

Heaven knows how merit in broadcasting is measured. If it was by ratings alone, Paul Henry would be off the air already. But I’m guessing that the way we measure merit in broadcasting is as heavily gendered as other fields.

And the results of that on-line poll. Totally unsurprising. Most people (64%) don’t even want to have the discussion.

On-line poll results

On-line poll results

We’ve got a long way to go.

In the meantime, I’m willing to lay good odds that Rachel Smalley is getting some nasty e-mail over her daring to voice this opinion. Do send her a message of support, for having the courage to speak out on this.

Down Under Feminists Carnival #86

dufclogoKia ora! Welcome to the 86th Down Under Feminists Carnival. This carnival has been running for over seven years now, and I’ve hosted it three times before. This fourth time around, I’ve been delighted to find some of my old friends still blogging and still engaged in feminist writing, delighted to find some old friends in new incarnations, and delighted to find some voices that are new to me.

First up, a call out to Muslim women in Australia to participate in a research project.

Notable women

At Hoyden about Town, tigtog remembers Joan Kirner, the first female premier in Australia: Vale Joan Kirner

At Histories of Emotion, Julie writes about a performance of Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutem in Canberra, in ‘Arousing sluggish souls’: Hildegard of Bingen and the Ordo Virtutum.


Exactly who is Tony Abbott promising to keep safe? No Place For Sheep has an idea, and it doesn’t include women.

Women know this. We are never safe. And the biggest threat to our safety is not ISIS, or terrorism of any kind, but the other humans who share our lives. Will Abbott, our ministerial saviour, call on every fibre of his being to keep us safe from them?

More from No Place for Sheep, on Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Women, Sex Why?

Women cannot do that, for christ’s sake. Men can coup. Women can only be behind the man who coups.

At Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist, Celeste Liddle gives us her full speech to the Constitutional Recognition Debate.

I believe that a transformative approach when it comes to Indigenous Affairs is long overdue in this country. Australia has a lot to gain from a more educated and collaborative relationship with the First Peoples of this great landmass. The statistics highlighting our disadvantage as a people, year in and year out, prove that things cannot continue the way that they are. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the life expectancy gap, the incarceration rates, infant mortality rates. We cannot continue to deny land rights. We need to strive to achieve a more equitable future.

Later on, Celeste writes about the ways she has been represented and misrepresented in a complex discussion about representation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Sexual harassment

Jane Young writes at Pundit about the Canadian general and his wretched excuses for sexual harassment.

Ever wondered why sexual harassment is alive and well in the armed forces?

The Chief of the Canadian Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson seems to know, but once the full horror of his explanation was pointed out to him, he quickly apologized…sort of.

The man in charge says there is sexual harassment in the armed forces because people are “biologically wired in a certain way”.

Reproductive rights

Right to Life is attacking access to abortion again in New Zealand, trying to whittle away at our limited rights to have control over our own bodies yet again. Alison McCulloch describes what’s happening on the Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ blog: Abortion access goes back to court.

Violence against women

At The Hand Mirror, Julie writes about the pervasiveness of violence, even in places that ought to be full of tender, nurturing care.

On Feminist Frequency, Amy writes about the costs and ripples and far reaching impacts of domestic violence.

From the centre of a violent act is the ripple of physical, mental, social or economic strain, lives under duress and generations caught in the repercussions and cycles of violence. … I estimate a global wall of remembrance of those women dead by a violent male hand to stretch far beyond the lives of soldiers lost in conventional state run wars.

Parenting while feminist

I’m loving Boganette’s new blog, Emily Writes. I especially recommend it for parents of young children, and for everyone one else too. In Not even close to perfect she writes about not being a perfect parent all the time.

I managed to get both kids to sleep at the same time today. It’s difficult to describe just how great I felt at this momentous achievement. I am guessing (obviously, I mean look at me) that it feels exactly the same when you reach the summit of Mount Everest. Euphoric. Slightly out of breath. Sweaty.

I was so smug about it I felt like I deserved a glass of wine – but I didn’t have one since it was only 1pm and even though it has been a hard week I can’t quite justify 1pm wine. Maybe tomorrow.

Public spaces

Women still (still!) have to defend their having a space of their own. The University of Queensland’s Women’s Collective writes about why they need a space of their own.

We see the Women’s Room as a place to escape from unwanted cat calls and advances by men – a place to exist in peace and quiet that isn’t a toilet cubicle. It certainly isn’t a “a breeding ground of misandry” or whatever other bizarre misconceptions people might have about it (it might be hard to grasp, but not everything women do is centred on men…)

Friend of Marilyn writes about fat women in photographs.

It took a year of having a photograph of a naked fat body hanging on my wall before I learned to not be disgusted by the image; another couple of months to acknowledge the curves, and the softness. And another before I arrived at a place of appreciation for the beauty. Now I love fat bodies, including my own.

Gender, sex and sexuality

In the news recently, arguments that the easy availability of porn is shaping young people’s sexuality, especially young men’s sexuality, in worrying ways. No Place for Sheep responds that porn is a symptom, not a cause.

What struck me most forcibly about the role of pornography in this impoverished notion of sexuality is that it is a symptom, not a cause, and what it is a symptom of is the entitlement some human beings feel they have to use and abuse the bodies of other human beings for their own gratification.

At The Hand Mirror, LudditeJourno rejects Elinor Burkett’s analysis of Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance in Call me feminist, but not the Burkett kind

Ms Burkett’s version of who counts as a woman is little more than old school transmisogyny, with the smattering of race, class and sexuality privilege that feminism has always wrestled with.

Brocklesnitch writes about getting a letter of acceptance into Hogwarts. Oops. Homosexuality.

i knew that one of my main tasks ahead would be to learn how to promote sexuality, and how to turn as many people queer as possible. It would bring with it a deep and satisfying emotional satisfaction knowing that i had the power to lead people away from a life of heterosexuality.

The Fat Heffalump responds to a bloke who is really sorry, but he just doesn’t find fat women attractive.

There are plenty of men who value us and treat us as their equals, not living sex dolls. If you want to expand your options for a relationship, try improving yourself, not demanding others perform for you.

Women and work

Kate at Things we hold dear laments and rages as yet another woman is driven out of academic science.

She has been failed by those whose positions within her institution mean that they are responsible for the pastoral care of staff. … She is not leaving science, but she is leaving academia, and academia’s culture is fully culpable for this.

Stephanie writes about the sexism that is still rampant in our assumptions about paid work at Boots Theory.

It’s 2015, and we’re constantly told that sexism is over, feminism has had its day, and would you nagging witches please just simmer down already?
And then this happens:
An Auckland mother was told that having her kids in daycare could affect her job prospects because she would need too many sick days to care for them.


Jessica Hammond defies the patriarchy and (drum roll please…) stops shaving her armpits.

The thing that fascinates and baffles me is that – at least in my little corner of the world – a woman having the default state of armpit hair is seen as a political statement; it baffles me that it is even remotely noteworthy.

Personal dilemmas

The Scarlett Woman worries about crossing lines in blogging and memoirs in Writing about Taylor Swift ruined my friendship.

Popular culture

Chelle Walmsley review Mad Max: Fury Road at The Ruminator.

It’s always felt like an action movie couldn’t be made without at least a fair dollop of casual sexism. It wasn’t until the MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) started banging on about this latest installment of the Mad Max franchise that my interest was piqued enough to go out of curiosity and because it pleased me that the mere act of me seeing a movie and enjoying it might really piss those bastards off. Just to rub salt in the wound, I’ve been to see it twice now.

But… as No Award points out, there’s a hell of a lot of appropriation in Mad Max: Appropriation Road.

Quokka, forgive me if this is getting repetitive but this is an Australian movie that’s telling an Indigenous narrative without Indigenous actors or characters.

At Flaming Moth, Anna writes about Shakespeare’s Aptronymic Ingénues.

Instead of the insipid naïfs who usually inhabit this role [Miranda], I would dearly love to see a properly bookish Miranda on stage, the product of years of careful tutoring in logic, philosophy and alchemy.

The fabulous ladies of No Award deconstruct Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

The very best thing about Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is how there are so many ladies, and they all are awesome and they mostly support one another. Mac is awesome, and there’s so much time spent at the Women’s helping ladies. Dot catapults into a life of awesomeness by helping out some ladies, pretending to be up the duff. Jane is so great. Ladies, ladies, ladies.

For some light relief, Dimsie has gone back, back, back to the the 1970s, and she’s blogging the early episodes of Coronation Street. Check it out – Coronation Street of old: watching a decades old soap opera so you don’t have to.

Many thanks to the people who sent me links for the carnival, and to all the fabulous women writing feminism.

Ka kite ano.