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.

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.

Thank you for playing, but you’re wrong!

My university has an on-going series of quirky ads, presenting young people as innovative and fresh-thinking and deeply interested in ideas and technology and science and study. Some of the creative material puzzles me a little, but I figure I’m not really the target demographic.

The latest ad features a young woman walking on water.


I love it. The young woman in the ad is Catherine Cater, a Massey university student. She looks like so many of the young women I see around campus. Happy, confident, focused on their own work, doing some extraordinary things. In the ad, Catherine is very much absorbed in what she is doing. She looks reflective, and deeply engaged. She is not there as decoration to sell something: she is there as an active part of the narrative about the university.

But of course, there’s someone who thinks that the ad is a travesty.

She came to me as if in a dream. She was beckoning and calling to me like a pixie vixen, tempting me to move away from the House of Waikato. She wanted me to surrender and be with her kind. But where was she from? Was she real? A fantasy? A sorcerer’s trick? What game was she on and how could mere mortals play?

She was tempting and titillating. She was feminine and full of grace. She appeared to be from the House of Massey and she was perfect.

My fairy queen appeared as a deity, an academic goddess, the perfect maiden of Massey. She is the temptress. And I was caught by her charms.

Without saying so in as many words, it’s clear that the writer thinks that this ad is sexist, and that it’s all about using sex to sell Massey. He carries on to worry about the way that universities advertise themselves, but it’s curious that he’s only chosen to engage with this advertising campaign now, when it has been running since sometime last year (as far as I can recall).

So, thank you for playing, sir! But YOU”RE OUT!

The writer has totally eliminated the young woman in the ad from his analysis, and dreamed up a fantasy woman instead. Where I see a young woman who is doing exactly what we hope young women will do, that is, focus on their own hopes and dreams, focus on the extraordinary things that they can achieve, focus on achievement, the writer turns her into some kind of sexual object. The objectification going on here is done entirely by the writer. From the writing, it seems that the only way he can react to the young woman is by casting her in a sexual way. He focuses entirely on her as a sexual object, in a way that I think is well beyond the image in the advertisement.

The only problem here is the writer.

Catherine Cater herself puts it so well.

University is evolving, students are changing, and perhaps if you were to step away from the games you seem to enjoy – judging by your use of language – you yourself would see that too. But what would I know? I’m just a stereotypical ‘hot chick’ with no real intelligence and use besides marketing ploys, why would my opinion matter?,” she wrote.

Your aim was to call Massey out on a sexist ad, but in doing so have shown your views to be outdated and sexist all on their own.

For the record, I’ve written this post entirely on my own, my employer has nothing to do with it, and I was only alerted to the opinion piece because a story about it popped up in the local newspaper: Massey University’s new “I am” ad sparks debate. That is where I found Catherine Cater’s own defence of the ads.

Mother’s Day, 2015

I was on Radio NZ Nights a week or two ago, talking feminism and motherhood. You can listen to the podcast here: RNZ Nights – Feminism and Motherhood.

Often mothers feel that there isn’t a place for them in feminism. I think that’s a mistaken view, although it’s an understandable one. If feminism is about making choices, then motherhood does tend to run you slap bang into traditional gender roles, and suddenly there are no possible choices for you to make. So “choice” feminism simply has nothing to say to you.

But there is so much feminist stuff to say about motherhood.

For starters, we have a weird conversation about motherhood in our culture. On the one hand, all the rhetoric tells us that mothers are valued and that their role is the most important role a woman can have, but on the other, there is often very little support for mothers (oh for flexible work, and readily available childcare, and financial support, and easy access to healthcare, and employers who understand that schools are on holiday for 10 weeks of the year, and support for breastfeeding, and…).

On top of that, mothers are constantly judged. Then judged some more. Damned if you do go back to work (you’re selfish) and damned if you don’t (you’re a bludger and every bit of support for you and your children is taken out of the hides of hardworking taxpayers). But of course, you “chose” to be a mother, or you “chose” to work, so best you just live with your choices!

Then there’s all the issues around childcare and housework. Women still seem to end up doing far more of these everyday tasks, even when both parents are working. And if fathers do take on some of the childcare, then they’re praised for it. Or praised for “babysitting” their kids.

On the other hand, I’ve heard fathers being criticised for staying at home with the kids, and I know that fathers who take on the primary caregiving role often feel isolated and very much unwanted at playgroups and schools. As ever, patriarchy harms men too… Oh for a world in gender roles didn’t constrain us so much.

So when it comes to Mother’s Day, well, it’s lovely to have a cup of coffee in bed, and to spend some time with my beautiful daughters, and talking to my wonderful mum. But that’s very much an individual thing, something that happens between me and my mum, and me and my daughters. But when we look at our wider society, we see that there’s so much work still to do around motherhood and parenting and valuing women’s work, and valuing women. And the nominal respect we show for mothers on Mother’s Day makes me feel angry. It’s all buy mum this, and make her feel nice for just one day, and let’s pretend that we really do care about mothers and mothering, but we’re not actually going to do anything about it.

Marama Davidson puts it well.

When all mothers are truly valued as integral and essential parts of our economy, our politics, our workforce, our families and our society. …….until then the people pushing the mother damning agendas that we see today should all step down from any delight they take on Mother’s Day. Have you no shame?!

Finally, on Mother’s Day, remember that there are women who long to be mothers but for one reason and another, do not have children, and there are women who have lost children, and people who have lost their mothers. For so many of us, this can be a lovely family day, but for others, it can be very sad.

As for me today, it was a busy start to the day with eight or so extra teenagers in the house this morning, sleeping over after the after-ball party. I got up early to unstack the dishwasher and get breakfast set up, only to find that my lovely youngest daughter had gotten up already and organised everything already, and made a large pot of coffee to boot. And now that the extra teenagers have all departed, and the house is quiet, my three girls are making dinner for me.

The really nice thing is that my girls often do this sort of thing. They look after me all the time, not just on Mother’s Day. I am so very blessed to have these beautiful children.

To finish off – my favourite feminist parenting blog is Blue Milk, written by Andie Fox. I recommend it. I’m also enjoying Boganette’s Mama said. If you are one of the three people in the world who haven’t read her opening post yet, then I suggest you pop on over there now to read it: I am grateful, now f*#k off. Be warned: Boganette’s post is full of swearing. If you prefer to avoid the swearing, then here’s a version that she put up with the swearing removed: I am grateful and….

Talking about male privilege

I was on Radio NZ Nights last night, talking about male privilege, and some other forms of privilege. You can listen to the discussion here: Feminism – Male Privilege.

As usual, I had sent some notes to Bryan Crump before the discussion. I started with a definition of male privilege: social, economic and political advantages or rights that a made available to men solely on the basis of their sex. For background reading, I linked to tigtog’s excellent FAQ at Finally Feminism 101: What is male privilege?.

From there we quickly got onto Barry Deutsch’s male privilege checklist: The Male Privilege Checklist. The conversation segued all over the place from there, including the usual places: women and children first on shipwrecks, the privilege of beauty, and so on.

We didn’t get to John Scalzi’s Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, but Bryan suggested an excellent analogy. He thought that privilege is a bit like cycling with a tail wind. You don’t really notice the assistance at all: you just think that you’re peddling along at great speed.

I had been thinking about a few examples of privilege during the day, in preparation for the talk. I wanted to talk about white privilege, perhaps in connection with Peggy McIntosh’s famous white privilege checklist, but as it turned out, the topic came up in connection with a tweet from Morgan Godfrey that I had seen earlier in the day.

“Maori are bicultural by necessity, would be great if the rest of the country was too…”

I also talked about the planning that women go through about how they will walk home at night, in connection with a conference I am attending this weekend (Kiwi Foo Camp FTW!). I talked about how I had been offered accommodation in town, away from the conference venue, but in order to take it up, I would have to think through how I was going to get from the venue to my accommodation, which routes I would take, and how I could stay safe walking through a suburban street after dark. Bryan suggested that perhaps this on-going safety planning that women do is conditioned into us, in comparison to men feeling much more free to go where and when they will. I agreed that it was likely a matter of conditioning, but that didn’t take away the privilege of having that tailwind of not worrying about it.

Some other examples I had in mind but didn’t have the opportunity to mention:
– As a heterosexual woman, I enjoy the privilege of walking down the street holding my husband’s hand and not giving it a second thought, but a gay man would need to go through a process of checking his surroundings, checking who else was about, thinking about whether he and his husband were safe from attack before they could do such a thing, and possibly (probably, alas, in far too many streets in New Zealand) choose not to express their companionship by such a simple action.
– As an able bodied woman, I never, ever have to plan my routes around campus, or go around to a different entrance to a building, or ask for assistance from complete strangers to get up and down steps, whereas many disabled people have to go through these calculations every time they leave their home.

We talked a bit about privilege being a matter of context – a person can be privileged in some aspects of their lives, but not in others. That’s certainly my personal experience, and I know that many straight white men nevertheless experience real difficulty in other aspects of their lives. But really, see The Lowest Difficulty Setting.

A final note: as ever, a white person writing about white privilege and a man writing about male privilege are given far more credence than a black person or a woman writing about the same topics. As indeed, a white New Zealander talking about Pakeha privilege on Radio NZ might just be given far more credence than a Maori New Zealander talking about it…

Some more reading on privilege:
Don’t women have female privilege?
The lowest difficulty setting in action, with evidence


Women in the House – updating the numbers

All the special votes have been counted, and as a result, Maureen Pugh (National) has lost her list seat, and Steffan Browning (Greens) comes in instead.

That changes the numbers around. We’re down to 38 women in the House, out of 121 MPs. That’s just 31.4% women – the lowest proportion of women in the House since 2002 (graph, txt file).

Here’s the breakdown by party, excluding the one person “parties” both of which are represented by men.

Greens – 7 men, 7 women, 50% women
Maori – 1 man, 1 woman, 50% women
Labour – 20 men, 12 women, 37.5% women
National – 43 men, 17 women, 28% women
New Zealand First – 9 men, 2 women, 18% women

Women are 51% of the population, but less than a third of our elected representatives in Parliament are women. That’s a disgrace.