Monday, 25 August 2008

A Woman's Place: National Party List

Anjum has already done a great job looking at the role of women in the National party's list for the 2008 election, which has also attracted some interesting comments.

Historical representation of women:
Annoyingly Wikipedia does not have the helpful list of National MPs that it did for Act and the Greens. I'm not sure I have the patience to count all the National MPs that have ever been. But I can work out reasonably easily that they have had 31 female MPs in their history to date, based on counting from this list and adding Katrina Shanks.

According to the Elections website their first female MP was Mary Polson who won a by-election in 1942 and stood down at the next election. According to National's history page, their first female MP, Hilda Ross, was elected in 1945 and held ministerial office from 1949 to 1957. After that National did not have another woman in Cabinet until Ruth Richardson et al in 1990.

Other notable female MPs from National have included renowned feminist Marilyn Waring and NZ's first female Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, who held the big swivelly chair from her successful coup for the party leadership in 1997 until National's defeat in the 1999 general election. She was overthrown by Bill English as leader of National in 2001.

Current representation of women:
National currently have 13 female MPs in their caucus of 48, making 27%. Anjum has done an excellent analysis of the gender breakdown of their portfolio allocations. While the highest ranked woman in their caucus is at no 7 (Judith Collins), it is worth noting they do have a female party president (Judy Kirk).

2008 National Party List:
Women represented across the whole list: 18 out of 73 (25%)

Top 5 - None (yes that's right, none) 0/5 = 0%
Top 10 - Two (Collins at 7, Anne Tolley at 10) 2/10 = 20%
Top 20 - Four (plus Georgina Te Heu Heu at 17, Pansy Wong at 20) 4/20 = 20%
Top 30 - Six (plus Sandra Goudie at 27, Kate Wilkinson at 30) 6/30 = 20%
Top 40 - Ten (plus Hekia Parata at 36, Melissa Lee at 37, Jo Goodhew at 39, Jacqui Dean at 40) 10/40 = 25%
Top 50 - 14 (plus at Paula Bennett at 41, Nicky Wagner at 43, Dr Jackie Blue at 45, Katrina Shanks at 46) 14/50 = 28%
Top 60 - 17 (plus Amy Adams at 52, Louise Upston at 53, Nikki Kaye at 57) 17/60 = 28%

Note Parata and Lee, both candidates who diverge from the norm not only by lacking Y chromosomes, but also due to their ethnicity, are the only women to be "parachuted" (i.e. ranked ahead of sitting MPs).

Idiot/Savant's thorough list analysis for National can be found here. Green MP Metiria Turei has also commented on Frogblog about the place of Maori on the list and The Standard has had a crack at the shallow veneer of diversity. Anjum has further comment on her own blog about the lack of renewal, while Jafapete isn't fooled about the diversity claims either. Feel free to add links to your posts that cover this stuff too.

My general view is that while National has tried hard to look less like a bunch of older, white men in suits, there is actually a dirth of diversity on their list. In the light of the actual figures, the National media statement about the list reminded me of the point Anna McM made in comments about the Microsoft business conference pic; "it looks like the women have been foregrounded to make it seem like there are more than the small number actually there..." It's the same with those who are candidates of colour. This could be a real point of contrast with Labour; I guess we'll know at the end of the month!

Likely future representation of women:
It's pretty hard to extrapolate much at this point, because I think I can say that most people concede that National's poll ratings are likely to drop in the coming months. Whether they drop a little or a lot will have a big impact on the number of women they bring into Parliament, as they most of their women are lower down the list.

There's a pro-National breakdown (of those Nats think are likely to get in) which is floating around the ether, assuming 57 MPs total and a number of electorates changing from Labour to National. On those results the demographics of those elected look like this:
  • 17 female MPs (30%)
  • 11 MPs under 40 (19%)
  • 6 Maori MPs (11%)
  • 1 Pacific MP (2%)
  • 3 Asian MPs (5%)
In general I think that analysis is a bit over optimistic about both the final list vote on election day and which electorates National will win from Labour. But I suppose it is as good a starting point as any at the moment. Flipping it around, as Frogblog did a little bit, we find:
  • 40 male MPs (70%)
  • 46 MPs 40 and over (81%)
  • 47 MPs of European descent/Pakeha (82%)
Out of 57, I remind you. Not looking quite so diverse now is it?

Other posts in this series to date:
- Act's Party List
- Green's Party List


Anna McM said...

Twenty-seven percent probably compares quite well internationally, although as you note, National women will not likely fare so well on election day. Interesting that there was such a long drought before Ruth Richardson arrived, particularly with NZ's tradition of strident rural women.

Julie said...

Note that there were women MPs between Ross and Richardson, but none made it onto the front benches, or even Cabinet.

Richardson is in some ways an example of the ways women can broaden perspectives; for all that many of her policies were imho bad for women (and indeed all NZers) she was instrumental in starting a creche at Parliament, which was a pretty family-friendly (and thus mother-friendly) thing to do.