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 pay equity

I was on Nights on Radio NZ last night, talking about pay equity.

The podcast of the talk is available here: Pundit: Feminist thought

As usual, I put together a set of notes for Bryan Crump, together with links to relevant articles. I’ve reproduced them below, with some extra notes.

Pay equity – discussion notes for Radio NZ Nights on Monday 13 October

Problem – women’s wages lagging behind men’s wages

NZ evidence – depends how you measure it – somewhere between 10% and 14%.

Ministry of Women’s Affairs gender pay gap data

Over the past few years, the gap between women’s and men’s wages in New Zealand has hovered around 10%. It got down to as low as 9.3% in 2012, but it’s gone back up to around 10% in the last couple of years.

The most recent information I could find puts the gender pay gap in NZ at about 14% – Radio NZ story from 4 October on the gender pay gap.

But we compare quite well to the US – the gender pay gap there is about 23% for full time workers (ref).

In Australia, one CEO who recognises that there is a pay gap got into trouble when he said that:

by hiring women, he got better-qualified employees to whom he was able to give more responsibility. “And [they were] still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender,” he concluded. To illustrate his point he showed a slide that said: “Women: Like Men, Only Cheaper.”

What causes it?

Standard explanations – caring duties, time out for pregnancy/ childcare, lack of flexible work, occupational segregation, experience, education. But research shows that even when you account for all of that, a pay gap remains. See NZ Herald – the true reasons behind the gender pay gap.

Some evidence that I find interesting, given that I started out as an accountant – men in accountancy with less than five years experience earn about $3,600 more than their female counterparts (Radio NZ story). At that stage of people’s careers, explanations based around pregnancy and childcare don’t seem to be quite so relevant.

What can be done about it?

Take a pay equity case, as Kristine Bartlett has done in NZ.

Encourage women to negotiate for higher wages but that’s a double edged sword.

Women earn less than men because they are seen as pushovers when they don’t negotiate hard and are seen as “ball-breakers” when they do, a psychologist says.

Or… we could always cut men’s wages!

Some other references:
A piece I wrote for the Dom Post about the gender pay gap a few years ago:
Isn’t it time to fix the pay gap?

Dr Jackie Blue on pay equity – Bridging the gender pay gap: Pay-up time at public service

A couple of research reports on the gender pay gap.
What causes the gender wage gap, from the Center for American Progress

Explaining the wage gap, from the American National Women’s Law Center.

On housework, and paying other people to do it for me

Cross posted

In a column on what New Zealand’s public priorities ought to be, economist Brian Easton give a brief summary of the latent functions of work, as articulated by social psychologist Marie Jahoda.

That is because work is a socially valuable experience. It does not just pay us, but it has some latent social functions:

– Employment imposes a time structure on the working day:

– It involves regularly shared experiences and contacts with people outside the nuclear family:

– It links an individual to goals and purposes which transcend her or his own:

– It enforces activity.

….A quick summary is that we because we are social animals we are happy to work, for it gives us more than just income.

That all seems plausible to me, and it certainly explains at least some of the disconnection I experienced when we lived in Adelaide, where my work was irregular and not integrated into a particular workplace community. Easton uses the analysis to show why we need to do better with respect to managing unemployment, and why we need to change our attitudes towards the unemployed. If you are at all interested in New Zealand’s economic priorities, or in social justice, then Easton’s column is very much worth reading.

It’s the next thing that Easton says in his column that has had me thinking.

You will observe that housework is not quite as successful at covering the latent functions – as well as it is not paid – which may explain why it is unpopular.

Why, YES!

– Housework has no time structure, for it is always there, always waiting to be done, always able to be done. One cannot resolve to finish housework for the day, turn off the computer, leave the office and go home to relax, because home is the very site where housework occurs.
– Housework occurs within the nuclear family.
– Perhaps housework does link one to goals and purposes outside one’s own goals and purposes, in the sense that it helps to create an environment in which other people can thrive, but that seems to stretch the idea of transcendence a little far.
– But it does enforce activity. It’s just hard for me to see it as particularly enjoyable activity, ‘though I know that others differ in this regard.

I find it very, very hard to motivate myself to do housework, ‘though oddly enough, i find it easier to do so when I have to fit it in around my paid work. A quick 15 minutes here or there is not too difficult to manage. But 15 minutes here or there isn’t really enough to keep it all under control, especially when we are both in paid employment. So… we have outsourced the horrid work, and hired a cleaner.

And there’s the rub. I know that all of us have work preferences, that just as the thought of academic work might send you running for the hills, the thought of say, accounts work makes we want to crawl under my desk in despair. But it seems that most people loathe housework, and really, I don’t see why my cleaner would enjoy it any more than I do. Of course, he can lock the door and go home… to more housework. And he gets paid for the work, which must help. However he works on his own – no social structure around work for him. Just in and out of different houses, cleaning, with no one to share the work, no one to chat to, to sit down for a coffee break with.

I tend to try to be out of the house when our cleaner comes in, partly so that he doesn’t have to work around me, partly because even though academic work is flexible, I prefer to work in my office on campus, and partly because our current cleaner insists on chatting to me, so that I can’t get on with my own work, and partly because I always find it hard having tradies in my space (that would be my native curmudgeonliness and introversion coming out ). But I’ve just started to think that making an effort to be absent is unfair, and that if I am going to provide a decent work environment, then as well as making sure that he is fairly paid (we hire and pay for cleaners through a local company, which means that we can be sure that the workers are getting the going rate, and holiday pay and sick pay and so on), I ought to be open to making sure that some of those latent functions of work are served as well. I don’t think I need to make a special effort to stay home, but scuttling out as quickly as I can seems to be at least a little churlish.

Or maybe this is all just too middle-class-angst-ridden for words, and I should just get over it.


Previous writing on housework (as you can see this has been a bit of a touchstone issue for me over the years):
Dinosaurs thundering by again
Simone de Beauvoir on housework
We need a wife
Sharing the load

I did it, so why can’t you?

The National party has made good on its promises, and released a new and punitive welfare policy, aimed at all those wretched sole parents who depend on the Domestic Purposes Benefit for subsistence. The overt aim of the policy is to “assist” sole parents into paid employment, but the implied aim seems to be to characterise sole parents as lazy good for nothings who can’t be bothered working.

And on cue, commentators have popped up letting us know just how hard they worked when they were young chaps. From DPF:

Like Duncan I cleaned a store while at school. But I was 14 and got $1.99 an hour for cleaning at Woolworths. I was so proud to be in regular employment, working every day after school plus Friday nights and Saturday mornings. And my first job after university was $22,000 a year only and at one point I was working part-time for $18,000 a year.

And via DPF, a similar story from Duncan Garner:

I often get accused by some who say I’m a media hack and what would I know about low-paid work?

Well I know something. I know I cleaned the Whitcoulls Queen Street store at 16 in my school holidays for youth rates – about $4.50 an hour at the time. I powder-coated curtain rails for $6.00 an hour in a Glenfield factory a year later. I put lids on toothpaste at the Avondale Redseal factory at the same time to help me pay for my first year at university.

My first job at TVNZ in 1995 was as an intern and I was paid $15,400 a year – about $250 a week from memory. A year later they put me on $21,000. By year three it was $30,000.

I worked like a slave for $250 a week. Try living on that in Auckland – it was impossible.

They were part-time crappy jobs (not the TVNZ one) – and they sure as hell encouraged me to take my studies seriously by year three!

The take home message from these two commentators: I did it, I worked for low wages, so all you sole parents can, and ought, to do it too.

But with respect, gentlemen, you did NOT do it.

Here’s the thing about being a sole parent. In addition to working damned hard at work, as people do, you have to go home and cook and clean and care for children. Your work day doesn’t end when you wave goodbye to the boss. That’s precisely the time when the toughest part of the day begins. No matter how long your work day was, nor how tired you are because you are both studying and working, you can’t just go home and make yourself two minute noodles and crash in front of the TV. You must turn around and pick up children from school or day care, and get them home, on public transport if you can’t afford to run a car, and help them with homework, and make a meal for them, and then get them through the bath and read a bedtime book with them, because that’s what parents try to do, all before you can even begin to think about having a moment to put your feet up. And by that time of day, children are tired and scratchy, making it all even more difficult. It’s not for nothing that most parents of small children refer to the hours between about 4.30pm and 7pm as the hell hour.

I’m willing to take DPF’s and Duncan Garner’s word for it when they say they worked very hard. What they didn’t have to do was take responsibility for anyone else. If they wanted to, they could take a day off work or a day off study. They could crash in bed the moment they got home, or sleep in if necessary. Parents have no such luxury. I’d also lay good odds that DPF didn’t have to cook all his own meals when he was a school kid. I’m sure he contributed to his family home, as most secondary school kids do. But I bet there was food in the pantry, available because someone else in the household had the time to get to the supermarket, if not meals cooked for him. And of course, that’s all fair enough: it’s what most parents try to do for their children who are working and studying. The point is not that DPF had access to such support. It is that it is unfair of him to extrapolate from his own experience as a young person working, and assume that because he was able to do it, sole parents ought to be able to do it too. The same applies to Duncan Garner’s experience. That’s brilliant that he was able to work so hard. But he wasn’t trying to care for children at the same time.

But if we are going to admit personal experience to the discussion of what sole parents should be required to do, let’s start with Paula Bennett’s experience, recounted in an interview in 2008.

The baby’s father “was well out of the picture and wasn’t going to come back”. Bennett says she decided alone to go ahead with the pregnancy. Asked why New Zealand has the world’s second-highest rate of sole parenthood, she says: “Because we back people to have choice … You’re not going to have me bagging the solo mums.”

At 19, still on the domestic purposes benefit, she bought her own house in Taupo for $56,000 with a Housing Corporation loan.

The mortgage drove her back to work. She did a part-time day job booking tourists on lake excursions while Ana was in childcare, then worked the 11pm-7am shift waitressing at a truck stop while someone else looked after Ana at home.

“Then I pretty much fell apart because I was exhausted. I went back on the DPB,” she says.

Over the next few years she worked as a cleaner, went back to the tourist job and was receptionist at a hair salon. In between, she was on and off the benefit.

Working in paid employment and caring for small children is exhausting.

And my own experience. I have never been a sole parent. But I did try to work full time in my dream job when my children were small. It placed tremendous strain on my beloved partner and me, and ultimately, I crashed and burned. Badly. To the extent that it was several years before I could even contemplate going back to work that was somewhat similar to the dream job I had left. And even then, I experienced recurrent panic attacks. It has taken me years to recover.

Working in paid employment and caring for small children is very difficult indeed. Yes, it can be done, and some people manage it, especially if they have good support networks, and if they are sufficiently well paid to be able to afford cleaners and pre-prepared food, and can get household appliances fixed as needed, and run a good quality car. But just because some people can manage it, doesn’t mean that all people can. And especially take note of this: young men without childcare responsibilities who work hard in low paid jobs are not a model for anything at all when it comes what sole parents should, and shouldn’t do.


Cross posted

New Zealand Labour Day, 2010

Yesterday, Madame Grémont, the cleaning lady, brought Maman a bouquet of roses. … OK, I won’t go into the fact that Madame Grémont gives roses to Maman. They have the same relationship that all progressive middle-class women have with their cleaning ladies, although Maman thinks she really is the exception: a good old rose-coloured paternalistic relationship (we offer her coffee, pay her decently, never scold, pass on old clothes and broken furniture, and show an interest in her children, and in return she brings us roses and brown and beige crocheted bedspreads).

From The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, translated by Alison Anderson, Paris: Gallic, 2006 (trans. 2008).

From time to time when we have both been working full time, or near full time, we have employed cleaners, and we have always paid them decently, ensured they have paid tea breaks, asked them to do a springclean instead of a regular clean if we are going to be away (even if we don’t need the house cleaned, the cleaner still needs her wages), tried to treat them respectfully as people who are providing a much needed service for us. Plus I have always insisted that they not clean the toilets: we can clean up our own sh*t.

Even so, this paragraph from this excellent novel hit home. All the same, I wonder what the alternative is? Should I treat people who come into my home to clean with less respect than say, tradies who come in to fix taps and drains and electrical connections and the like?

I don’t think so. I think the answer is to remember that cleaners and other workers are entitled to the full protection of the law. The quality of their employment is not dependent on an employer’s fancies, but on the conditions that have been fought for by unions, and enshrined in law. And decent employers should comply with those conditions, not because they fear the might of the law, but because they are the minimally decent way to behave with respect to other human beings.