OPINION PIECE - Lani Evans is Vodafone New Zealand Foundation Manager.
On September 19th 1893, Lord Glasgow signed women’s suffrage into law at Parliament. That signature, and the work of hundreds of women (and men), changed the landscape of New Zealand and it changed the global landscape, creating a pathway for women’s suffrage around the world.
Kiwis love to be first, and our number one spot is something we’re proud of. It’s as much a part of our collective pride and our national identity as Ti Tiriti o Waitangi, our nuclear free status and Sir Edmund Hillary’s mountaineering exploits. But despite being frontrunners in the suffrage stakes, New Zealand has not reached gender equity.
We have the highest reported rates of sexual violence in the OECD (24% of women) and the highest rates of domestic violence (around 118,000 reported incidents per year). Our pay gap is sitting at around 11% and while 51.3% of our population are women, only 31% of our MPs are (well, for the next week anyway).
According to the OECD, at the current rate of progress, it’s going to take 80 years for us to achieve gender equality. I think we can do it much, much faster.
We can do it faster by understanding our own unconscious bias, the ideas that shape our decisions and our interactions, without us consciously realising it. If you’re interested, Harvard has a test you can take to measure your unconscious sexism here.
We can speed up equity by focusing our resources on positive change. Vodafone is contributing with our generous parental leave packages and via the Reconnect programme and the Foundation is contributing through initiatives like TecSOS, a specifically adapted piece of technology that allows survivors and victims of domestic violence to access help from police faster.
We can cut down the time to equity by supporting women who are sticking their heads above the parapet to lead change. In August this year, two teenage girls from Wellington High delivered a 6000 signature strong petition to parliament, asking for better consent education in schools. And in April, aged care worker Kristine Bartlett successfully advocated for a historic pay increase for care and support workers. These women deserve our support and aroha.
And we can create change by getting out to vote. Politics is about people, and politics is powerful so, whatever your political persuasion, use the civic power Kate Sheppard fought for and cast your vote.