Friday, 27 February 2009

Diversity deficit at the Job Summit redux

Further to this post from yesterday, I see the Greens picked up on this issue two days ago, with this release from new MP Catherine Delahunty:
"I’m sure John Key doesn’t intend to send the message to New Zealand that the National Party does not value women, but that is what he is doing. We urge the Prime Minister to check the numbers and think again about the needs of half the workforce at this critical time," said Green Women’s Issues spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

"Only three women’s organisations have been invited to the Job Summit. This tiny number needs to be expanded to include more groups that have expertise in women’s employment issues.

"The Prime Minister should invite groups such as the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women, The New Horizons Trust for Women, The NZ Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Association, the NZ Centre for Women and Leadership, and Rural Women New Zealand who would contribute a lot to this Summit.

"Although the Government has described the Summit as not "representational" we want to see women leaders who work in job creation sitting at this table. Women are typically the first to lose their jobs in a recession; the PM should show he means business – for all New Zealanders – and use this opportunity to harness experienced women’s groups in the job creation process."

Labour's spokesperson Sue Moroney has also voiced concern, specifically picking up on Minister of Women's Affairs, Pansy Wong, justifying the lack of women:

"...Ms Wong is using her role as Minister of Women's Affairs to defend the lack of women invited to attend the Government's Jobs Summit this week.

"Even though she knows that large numbers of women will be affected, she still thinks it is an achievement for 35 women to be involved in putting ideas forward to the forum of almost 200 participants," said Sue Moroney.

“Her statement that she will represent the women's views because she is in the cabinet hold little weight after she failed to stop National from scrapping pay equity investigations for social workers and school support staff last week and are even less credible when you consider that of the Ministers invited to the planning meeting not one was a woman.

"Where was she when Summit organisers invited CEO Bill Gallagher, but refused to accept his Corporate Service Executive, Margaret Comer in his place?"

The organisers later reversed their decision but Mrs Comer has decided that she will not attend the Summit because of the "way it is being handled."

Here's Wong's original statement, and a couple of highlights:

Thirty-five influential women and representatives from small, medium and large businesses and unions met to debate a range of solutions, ideas and initiatives on how to deal with the challenging economic situation at the Women in Business Workshop on Tuesday.

“Women are a vulnerable group in times of recession and unemployment and the National-led government feels that it is important they participate and are heard in providing solutions to the recession. Large percentages of women in the workforce are employed in areas that are likely to be affected and it is inevitable that New Zealand women will be hugely affected by the recession,” Women’s Affairs Minister Pansy Wong says.

Mrs Wong adds that another impact redundancies and unemployment will have on women is a likely increase in domestic violence.


The discussions from the workshop will be fed into Friday’s job summit.

“We had a number of key women who are involved in the Prime Minister’s job summit attending the workshop and they will be feeding the ideas through. Also, as a member of Cabinet I will ensure that women will have a voice in any decision made as a result of the job summit,” she says.

So let me get this straight:

  • Around 200 delegates at the Job Summit
  • Around 15% of these will be women
  • There was a working group on women's issues before the Summit*, to feed into it, featuring 35 women.
  • The Minister is aware that there will be significant detriments to many women from the recession, in particular job losses, cuts in pay or hours, and increased domestic violence

And the Minister thinks they're doing enough?

I'll be very very interested to see what comes out of this Summit. I hope it works, and I hope that some fantastic ideas come out of it and are adopted. But the way it's structured at the moment I don't know how they can find those ideas, and work through how to adopt them, when the Summit's participants are so far removed from what Aotearoa New Zealand really looks like.

* I heard on the radio this morning that many of the groupings involved in the Summit were doing workshops and conference calls beforehand to get the most out of the day, so I'm not sure whether this is something in addition, to overcome the exclusion of many relevant women's voices at the Summit itself, or whether it's largely the same group.


Idiot/Savant said...

And now in pictures...

(Word verification: "madgendr". Yes, really)

Julie said...

Thanks Idiot/Savant. It has been good to see yourself and The Standard pick up on this, although the comment threads at TStd have contained the usual hoary old chestnuts.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised this is such a game for you people. I am a working mother and I thought we send in the main players into such events regardless of their skin colour and sex. Plus aren't you always saying that rich white men control the world?

The best people for the job. A businessman employing thousands of people is surely more important than somebody there simply because they add "colour", surely?

Julie said...

Who said it's a game Mary-Lou? Would we be so concerned about it if it was just a game? It's the very importance of this Job Summit, as the main idea-generator for getting our country out of recession, which makes the input of a wide range of delegates so important.

Are you saying that "rich white men" (your words) are more important than everyone else?

Anonymous said...

"We" didn't send anybody to this event.

A small group of people selected the participants. They seem to have subconsciously selected a remarkably narrow group.

The group's supposed "ability" and "quality" is in that they have managed to profit from the system that has put us in this situation. They therefore have little incentive to solve the situation to the benefit of everyone, rather than just themselves.

For example, would they regard an increased unemployment rate as better than risking an increase in the rate of companies failing?
Would they argue for tax cuts as a way of preserving their own jobs at the expense of many others?

Who knows? But we might well be bound by their opinions.

Anna said...

Exactly right, AWicken - the phrase is 'moral hazard', ie 'no matter how bad you f*ck it up, we'll bail you out'. This is an invitation for business to run itself badly and face no consequences. We should be pretty selective about the 'business experts' we take advice from. After all, a lot of people thought Blue Chip was a successful business until a few months ago.

And Mary-Lou, you're by no means the only working mother who's concerned about the economy around here.