Poneke's worthy read says New Zealand has just gone through a ‘Golden Age’ with women in top positions such as Prime Minister, Speaker, chief of the judiciary, etc, etc.
And he laments what role models might remain for his two daughters in the near future, a time what I will call the ‘Post-Clark era’.
Well, I would hardly call Dear Leader and the Sisterhood ‘role models’ but I find Poneke’s neo-feminism so last century.
I am sure as a fellow journalist, Poneke has come across many, many women in top jobs in newsrooms, as much as men.
In fact, at present, I answer to as many women editors as men.
For me, women in power is nothing special.
I grew up in Britain when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, so having a woman in charge hardly seems novel.
Thus, when I arrived in New Zealand permanently, having Jenny Shipley in office, followed by Dear Leader was no big deal either.
Ditto with Theresa Gattung as the boss of Telecom, one of New Zealand’s largest corporates.
I think Poneke is right in seeing a ‘Golden Age’ for such career women, truth that equality has arrived, with other countries quickly coming up the rear.
I am sure over the Tasman, Julia Gillard will be doing her bit to depose Kevin Rudd, as others on the right sometimes claim/ fear. The US could well be led by Hillary Clinton.
But he need not fear its end. I doubt there are glass ceilings anymore. They have been well and truly shattered.
But what caused this?
Cactus Kate, in response, sees economic necessity as the big driver in women entering the workforce and Dear Leader as a money-grabbing socialist, a poor role model.
Cactus credits Sir Roger Douglas as the Godfather of New Zealand feminism.
Under the realities he raised, people learnt it was no longer possible for families to live solely on a man’s wage. Two wages were now needed to pay the mortgage.
In a similar vein, I could probably count Margaret Thatcher as a similar economic handmaiden to change.
The economies of many industrialised nations underwent severe adjustment during the 1970s and 1980s.
Many old well-paid jobs in manufacturing, or mining, jobs involving physical labour disappeared.Office-based service jobs appeared in their place. Jobs that were more likely suited to women.
As women left the kitchens and flooded the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s, they took the jobs that might have been taken by men.
Thus, unemployment soared and wages stagnated.It took years for labour markets to absorb a near doubling of the workforce.
Now, that might sound sexist, but looking in the newsroom, you might wonder that if that woman editor was at home raising babies, then you might be editor in place of her.
A mere generation ago, a male would have progressed further due to less competition.
Indeed, having a better job would have made you a better catch, more in a position to ‘keep’ a woman. But feminism and workplace equality has thus undermined the provider role for New Zealand and Western Man.
Nowadays, the feminists could well be right when they say a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. They can be big earners and breadwinners too.
Indeed, Cactus rightfully points to a UK survey showing 39% of British women earn more than their partners. My brother is a police inspector in Yorkshire, but his wife as an HR manager for an insurance giant earns even more than he does. And their twin daughters probably earn as much, if not more, than their boyfriends.
I don’t think Poneke need worry about role models for his daughters.I’d perhaps be more concerned about role models if he has any sons.
Recent years appear to show more emphasis on the teaching of girls at the expense of boys, and it is the underachievement of boys that seems New Zealand’s greatest problem.
We see media obsessed with knowing how well-placed women are on the National Party list, etc, lamenting the demise of Katharine Rich when she decided politics was not for her, when really if you can’t hack it as politician, or anything, then do something else.
I have written articles on ‘women in business’ or seen my colleagues work on similar ‘women in technology’ features. But what is special about women in the workforce? They don’t need special help. They have made it to the top and can hack it as well as the guys. Such feminist promotion of women seems so terribly prejudiced, patronizing and old-fashioned. It undermines their success, their position at or near the top, which one hopes would have been achieved by their own efforts, on merit.
Barriers, be they class, sexual, race and otherwise have broken down.
Business has learnt it does not profit to discriminate; and money, success and promotion chases the talented. Capitalism is the greatest destroyer of discrimination than anything else around.
Now, Britain, for example, has once more decided in its ‘classless’ society that it is again safe for the Tory party to be led by privately educated Oxbridge boys like Dave Cameron.
Likewise in the post-Clark era, New Zealand will decide it is safe again to have a man in charge, be it John Key, Phil Goff or David Cunliffe.
Should they want it too, there is nothing stopping Poneke's daughters running the Beehive or any of our largest corporations, well nothing but themselves.
And that’s the way it should be.
UPDATE: Poneke follows up his piece, noting other responses on the blogosphere.