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Q+A: Prof Marilyn Waring interviewed by Corin Dann

Q+A: Prof Marilyn Waring interviewed by Corin Dann


Professor Marilyn Waring told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that when it comes to recognising the value of unpaid work in New Zealand ‘we’re going backwards’.

Ms Waring, author of ‘If Women Counted’ was speaking on Q+A following International Women’s Day. Her book argues that women’s unpaid work is ignored in conventional economic thinking.

‘We actually can’t proceed to having a very good database of wellbeing until we return to those nationwide time-use studies.

The first thing you have to realise is it’s the single-largest sector in any nation’s economy. And the whole of the market economy only is able to function on top of that. So I’m not talking about paying it; I’m talking about redistributing resources according to that.’

On the gender pay gap Ms Waring said,’ let New Zealand run with just the gains at the moment. We know we’ve got other sectors moving now into disability care workers; we know midwives are another pay-equity gap. We know nurses and teachers generally are too, so we heard Grant talking about that. If we can move on this with momentum..’

And on getting more women onto boards, Ms Waring told Corin Dann, ‘Yeah, well, I’m a quota person for boards. I disagree with loads of the leadership of the Global Women organisation, which I belong to. I’ve spent more than 40 years—‘

‘One of the things that evidence does tell us, particularly if we look at the global financial crisis, is that the boards on which there were numbers of women did not go to the wall. Loads of research has demonstrated that if you’ve got a room full of men, there’s a kind of testosterone competition to be even more daring and to take more risks around the board table, and, frankly, investors aren’t interested in that.’

Q + A
Episode 2
MARILYN WARING
Interviewed by CORIN DANN

CORIN Welcome back to Q + A. 30 years ago, Marilyn Waring wrote a ground-breaking book that American feminist Gloria Steinem declared that changed her world view. ‘If Women Counted’, released after Professor Waring left Parliament, argues that women’s unpaid work is ignored in conventional economic thinking and this has helped shape a bias towards women. Marilyn Waring joins me now. Good morning to you.

MARILYN Good morning, Corin.

CORIN Now, I think you’re at your mother’s retirement home this morning, which is apt, given some of the gains that have been made with pay equity in that sector. I wonder, looking at the world at the moment, do you feel more positive about the gains for women?

MARILYN Well, there are a lot of legislative gains, and whenever, for example, in New Zealand, we’re beginning to get progress with pay equity, but so many things, Corin, just keep going on – violence against women, the bias against women in a number of leadership roles, and the issue I’ve been more concerned with, which has been leaving all unpaid work out of the GDP and the effect that has on making economic decisions.

CORIN I wonder, then, the Census this week – I noticed there was a question about unpaid work. Is that a bit of a legacy of yours – a step towards that inclusion of that unpaid work element?

MARILYN No, we’re going backwards. In 1996, New Zealand First negotiated in their coalition agreement the first nation time-use studies in New Zealand. And we had two of them. And they were the best in the world. They recorded simultaneity of activities, they were given to members of the household aged 12 years and over, they gave an amazing texture of data. But the previous government had no interest in time-use studies at all. And although Grant Robertson is talking about wellbeing, we actually can’t proceed to having a very good database of wellbeing until we return to those nationwide time-use studies.

CORIN What is it that you would want? If you had a magic wand and you could measure that unpaid work that women do and men do, what would you want? How would it be manifested?

MARILYN Well, the first thing you have to realise is it’s the single-largest sector in any nation’s economy. And the whole of the market economy only is able to function on top of that. So I’m not talking about paying it; I’m talking about redistributing resources according to that. So, for example, you would understand that primary healthcare starts in the home. That’s where primary healthcare happens, not when you finally get to the GP. You would look at issues such as putting the health workers back on the road, not just the midwives, because the person who’s doing the unpaid work in the household, if we look at those 24/7 caring families in New Zealand who are having to return to the court time and time again, what we would find out is it costs more to interrupt their day, even though it’s unpaid, than it does to put the ancillary care of the road to them. So you can go from sector to sector, for example, in agriculture – on most farms in New Zealand, anybody, as soon as they can walk, works, whether it’s feeding the chooks or getting hens or whatever it is. And for many years, we looked at inputs into agriculture on a per-capita production basis. It’s a lie. It’s not run one capita doing that production. At every sector you look at, Corin, there are problems, and the issues would be those of redistribution, were we to have a full picture of our economy, both paid and unpaid.

CORIN Should we be doing more on the gender pay gap? Should governments be doing even more? More legislation, perhaps, looking into examples in France, where they’re talking about fines? Do you want to see more action there?

MARILYN Let New Zealand run with just the gains at the moment, I think. We know we’ve got other sectors moving now into disability care workers; we know midwives are another pay-equity gap. We know nurses and teachers generally are too, so we heard Grant talking about that. If we can move on this with momentum, then of course the irony is that we’ll put the GDP up and it will also increase the revenue.

CORIN You talk about momentum, and there is a bit of pushback, though, isn’t there? We’re starting to see some pushback. I know we’re starting to see the likes of Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist – he’s famously had an interview where he took on an interviewer over the gender pay gap. He essentially was arguing this argument that there are multi-factor reasons for the gender pay gap and sex is only one or bias is only one and there are a number of factors. But there’s a pushback. What would be your response to him on something like that?

MARILYN Oh, yeah, yeah. But all my life as a feminist, we’ve always had those boys roaring in the corner, and I really just ignore them.

CORIN So you’re not worried that they are getting air time, that they’re pushing back?

MARILYN Oh, I’m worried. I’m worried about the obstinacy of males yet again on yet another issue that is patently about dignity and equality and getting rid of discriminatory behaviours. But whatever he’s saying, to me, will be pretty vacuous-

CORIN But he’s saying it to men.

MARILYN …because they’ll come from any corner you like to try and stop women getting their rightful gains.

CORIN But he’s saying it to young men, isn’t he?

MARILYN And they say exactly the same thing. It doesn’t matter which part of the world they come from, and they think they’re being original.

CORIN What about quotas for senior leadership in business. Is that something we need?

MARILYN Yeah, well, I’m a quota person for boards. I disagree with loads of the leadership of the Global Women organisation, which I belong to. I’ve spent more than 40 years—

CORIN So you’ve had a few scraps with Joan Withers, have you?

MARILYN Well, I just disagree with them. You know, there are exceptions. And one of the things that evidence does tell us, particularly if we look at the global financial crisis, is that the boards on which there were numbers of women did not go to the wall. Loads of research has demonstrated that if you’ve got a room full of men, there’s a kind of testosterone competition to be even more daring and to take more risks around the board table, and, frankly, investors aren’t interested in that.

CORIN But are women interested in that? Because they have to go up against a very cut-throat market to get onto boards or to get to senior leadership positions, so they want to have that fight.

MARILYN You’re talking to me, Corin. You’re talking to somebody who did, you know, nine years with Muldoon. There will be people who can do that.

CORIN I’m not saying that they can’t. I’m just saying that’s one of the arguments, that there’s less of a desire to want to do it.

MARILYN Well, when you are impacted by, you know, the full male forum, it’s very difficult. But if there are two or three of you sitting there. I mean, the moment, for example, that Ann Hercus joined the Public Expenditure Committee, even as a Labour member, we were able to transform some of the characteristics of the way in which that committee behaved.

CORIN You talked at the beginning about violence against women. Are you encouraged by what we’re seeing coming out of— I suppose, starting in Hollywood with the Me Too movements, the social media that is starting to really push back in that area?

MARILYN Well, yes and no. You know, I’m somebody who doesn’t think ‘liking’ something on Facebook is a political activity. I’d rather see you on the streets. And it seems to me that we still have a huge problem around violence – violence in your own homes, violence in your communities. Grant spoke about safety and wellbeing indicators, and if I can just spend a moment on that. One of the things that New Zealand is getting wrong in terms of the wellbeing characteristics is buying into the OECD. It’s like, ‘From the people who gave us GDP, now for something completely similar,’ because they are choosing only indicators that all the OECD countries share that are collected at national level, and then they are deciding what characteristics of wellbeing are.

CORIN Dr Waring, we have to leave it there. I’m sorry to interrupt you. We are running out of time, but I really appreciate your time. Thank you very much for coming on Q + A this morning. Appreciate it.

MARILYN Thank you, Corin.




you can watch the interview here.


Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TVNZ 1 and one hour later on TVNZ 1 + 1. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz

Thanks to the support from NZ On Air.

Q+A is on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/NZQandA#!/NZQandA and on Twitter, http://twitter.com/#!/NZQandA

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