Thursday, 23 June 2011

Is it just me or did the EMA just reinforce their sexism?

Very quick post from me on the Issue of the Morning - Alasdair Thompson's incredibly sexist comments that women are paid less because of taking sick leave off for periods and childcare.

 This would be worrying on it's own, but the fact that Thompson leads the major employer body in New Zealand, the EMA, leaves me chilled.  These are the views he encounters when he talks to the employers he represents, and what echoes around the EMA and thus to other bodies it has a close relationship with like other employer bodies, the Business Round Table, and so on.

I wonder what it feels like today to be a woman employed by Thompson?  Or a woman in his family?

There are some great posts out there about this already by others, here's just a few of them, feel free to add more in comments.

unequal pay is ok with employers & manufacturers association - stargazer
This is what makes periods painful - stef
I'm sick of this bullshit. Period. -Tallulah Spankhead

I would like to add one thing to this discussion - which is to point to the EMA's media statement which went up on Scoop around ten minutes ago.  I believe this statement makes things worse, because it includes this kind of rubbish:
"Alasdair Thompson, chief executive of the Employers & Manufacturers Association, says its only right that women should be paid more than men when their output and productivity is greater than men.

We back higher pay for women when they're doing a better job than men, he said."
We are not talking about higher pay for women, we are talking about equal pay.  The problem is now that men are getting higher pay, as a group, and if you turn Thompson's statement above around then assumedly he means that men get higher pay than women because they're doing a better job than women.  Is it just me or did he just say something incredibly sexist?  Again.



coleytangerina said...

One of the more subtle harmful messages here is that it belittles the women (and men) who actually do take time off for rough periods. It harks back to that whole early 20th century line of "it's all in your head" for people with a huge amount of menstrual pain.

Some people's mental health suffers as a consequence of their periods, some people bleed so much they're too exhausted to do anything but sleep, and some people end up doubled over with cramps.

Last month I actually did have a day off work because of my period (the first period-related sick day since high school, which just shows how privileged I with my uterus-health) because I was dizzy and nauseous and had horrible cramps. But you know, I probably just should have sucked it up and gone to work rather than being such a GIRL about the whole thing.

Tallulah said...

I tweeted him to ask about that last statement. Because isn't he basically saying men earn more because they work harder?

Julie said...

Agreed Coley - to use an analogy that just popped into my head, so I haven't thought it through totally, what about asthmatics? Some asthmatics have bad reactions to certain pollens and activity, and would thus have to take time off work as a result. Others (like me) have it only mildly and barely have to take medication. Does that make me inherently more productive than an asthmatic who gets sicker? There's so much more to the productivity equation than how much sick leave someone takes, or even how many hours they work. To reduce it to one factor like this, especially one that is clearly such BS, is ridiculous.

What about all the women who don't get periods? Why are they paid less? Because women are paid less _as a group_ not just the ones who menstruate. (Although maybe I should retrospectively apply for a pay rise to cover the periods [boom boom] when I was pg and then breastfeeding?)

Julie said...

I've tweeted him too T, will be interesting to see how he responds to all this. So far he seems to be grabbing a second spade.

It's also about how we measure productivity. Even if we gave some credence to the Weaker Sense argument (which I don't) then what is more _productive_ in a different sense of the word than actually growing a new human being - first in your uterus and then outside it as you support a baby, toddler, preschooler, child, teen, and ultimately adult.


Carol said...

Well, given that the average age of menopause is 51 years, and that the government is hoping people will keep on working well into their 60s, there must be a lot of non-menstruating women in the workforce Yet they also are effected by unequal pay. And how many years of their lives do mothers (or fathers) spend in child care that may require time off work?

Muerk said...

" wonder what it feels like today to be... a woman in his family?"

I was thinking the opposite. I was wondered how he was going to feel when the women of his family get a hold of him!

Although yes, I would not want to be employed by Thompson.

lprent said...

Julie: would it be possible to cross-post this up at The Standard for a wider audience? Lyn pointed it out to me and you're right - the basic argument is idiotic.

Either use your login or I can do it for you

Psycho Milt said...

...assumedly he means that men get higher pay than women because they're doing a better job than women.

Yep, that's exactly what he means: employers pay strictly on merit, so if you're not getting paid much it's because you don't merit much. All entirely straightforward, so he can't see what the fuss is about.

You could spend all day pointing out to him in the simplest possible terms just how stupid that is and he'd just harrumph a bit about "PC."

T said...

"isn't he basically saying men earn more because they work harder?"

That's not how I read it. I read it as, men put in more hours. He assumes that more hours necessarily leads to greater productivity. This isn't true of course, so I would be keen to see his citations.

This was interesting:

"many working mothers are so grateful to be employed and so worried about the perception that they might be less than 100% committed that they overwork themselves. (A CEO once confessed to me that he loved to hire them for this very reason.) They are the ones keeping the number of useless meetings to a minimum in a relentless effort to be home for dinner. I have always been struck by how much working moms resemble Germans. They toil diligently and efficiently from 9 to 6. Then they go home. Germany, it should be noted, has higher productivity and a faster-growing economy than the U.S., proving that you don’t have to be in the office 24/7 to get the job done."

katy said...

Some women don't menstruate for reasons apart from menopause or pregnancy, I didn't realise it was part of the definition, cheers for clarifying that AT.

Fun fact: when I was working in a public school in Japan my contract had menstrual leave (as did all public school teachers). I was always too shy to take it though, not sure how widely used it is.

Anonymous said...

Menstruation leave is provided by law in Japan. However, it is unpaid leave so is very rarely used.


katy said...

Cheers CK, I had a quick google and the wording around it is interesting. My googling found that apart from some companies it looks like Indonesia, Korea and Japan all provide for some variation in their labour laws. Korea looks interesting (according to Wikipedia): "In Korea, not only are female employees entitled to menstrual leave according to the Article 71 of the Labour Standards Law, but they are also ensured additional pay if they do not take the menstrual leave that they are entitled to."

Daisychain said...

Sorry but what was actually factually incorrect with what he said? Some Women DO take days off work for menstrual pain....I did and so has one of my happens.And Thompson did say "SOME"...not all as you claim.

While his statement rankles somewhat I can't fault his facts.Women are disadvantaged by their biology and the fact of childbirth when it comes to maintaining their earning potential compared to men and other Women who don't have sucks but its just is.

Daisychain said...

I tweeted him to ask about that last statement. Because isn't he basically saying men earn more because they work harder?

I read it as him saying Men are at work for longer because they don't have these Women specific issues to worry about so end up earning more by default as they are more likely to receive raises and promotions based on that longevity in the job.

Anonymous said...


I don't think the wikipedia article is correct. Admittedly I haven't worked with Korean labour law since 2009, but my understanding is that the ruling is the same as Japan, i.e. 1 day unpaid menstrual leave per month. Again, the situation is similar to Japan where very few females actually use it due to the fact that it is unpaid.

Also, if you read the article that wikipedia is referencing (citation 12):

"Before the introduction of the five-day workweek in July 2004, Korean women were allowed one paid day off each month in menstrual leave. Now the leave is permitted, but unpaid."

The article is referring to a court case where the employer was not allowing female staff to take menstrual leave, and was for historical cases prior to 2004 where the menstrual leave was a paid leave type.

Apologies for boring everyone else, but I deal with labour laws across APAC and find this stuff quite interesting :-)


Anonymous said...

Also, the Indonesia ruling is correct, i.e. 2 days paid leave per month. Although in practice, most companies will require a medical certificate from a company-approved doctor before granting the leave (larger manufacturing sites tend to hire a company doctor on site). I remember asking some HR people there how you're meant to prove that you need the leave...


katy said...

CK, do you know what the origin of these laws is?

Anonymous said...

Something that I haven't seen commented on, is that some women do take more sick days than men to look after sick children, because it is the expectation in the household that she is the mother she will take the sick day, that her job is somehow less important than his. I am sure this is not the case in every household, but it is in my household and in most of my friends' households. I also know that it is easier to be absent from some jobs compared to others, but it does annoy me that some fathers think their job is more important than that of their wife/partner.

A Nonny Moose said...

DaisyChain: The point is that active discrimination because of biological differences is wrong. Just imagine, within the confines of our patriarchal society, if men had a permanent biological thing. Do you think they would be discriminated against, told that it would and SHOULD affect their pay? I very much doubt it.

As for jobs and longevity: I have been in my position for longer than any of the men in my company. Are you still to say that because I have periods I shouldn't get raises, equal pay and promotions? Seriously, come is quite possible for women to be productive, contributing parts of a business without this period malarky. That phrase about working "twice as hard to be taken half as seriously" springs to mind.

Anonymous said...


Not sure of the complete origin, but I believe it is based on the following (my opinion only):

- In many Asian countries, sick / medical leave entitlements tend to be relatively low

- Asian countries are still very male dominated, and the women's role is seen as the home-maker. There are many other leave types which are based on this, e.g. nursing care leave where new mothers can take 30 minutes of unpaid leave daily to feed their child(ren).

I think these kinds of provisions are recognition that females have different needs, and that these should be catered for.