Bill Ralston: Julie Anne Genter is right, let women do the work

by Bill Ralston / 30 March, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Julie Anne Genter

Julie Anne Genter making a point to then Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee in 2014.

To close the Genter pay gap, perhaps blokes should stand aside.

Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter recently told a group of intermediate school pupils that old white men in their sixties need to move on from company boards to help close the gender pay gap. Presumably old brown men and old white women need not, but quite how this gets women more money in the workplace is not clear.

By the way, someone should point out to Genter that to an intermediate-age school kid, she may appear “old” and certainly “white”, if not male.

At 64, I am sure I appear positively ancient to the 38-year-old minister. However, I know a few 80-year-olds who could easily hold their own in a boardroom, and to write someone off simply because of how old they are is like writing off Genter just because she’s American.

You cannot help being born or where you came into being. Those are two things you cannot control. More important than age is attitude of mind.

Perhaps she was not that worried about age and was, instead, trying to make a point about white folk being too powerful and holding good jobs. The only problem with that is a lot of white men are not powerful at all and work in menial employment. I am sure Genter is not trying to stigmatise people by the colour of their skin – that would be racist and, besides, we also cannot control the skin colouring we were born with.

I think she must have been making a point that there were too many men on boards and in other leadership roles. That might make Greens co-leader James Shaw a little nervous, but she is right: women are under-represented in such areas and about 85% of board members are male. Well, one woman just became Prime Minister, the third in the past 20 years to become the most powerful person in the country, but you get my drift. We blokes should stand aside and let the women do the work.

In my small family business, we have a board of just two people: my wife, Janet, and me. That makes our board 50% female, which should impress Genter.

To further empower Janet, I am working less and less while she works at an increasingly frantic pace. I pointed out to her I was doing so on the advice of a Green member of Parliament to help close the gender pay gap. Sadly, her exact reply cannot be repeated in a quality family publication such as this, but the gist of it was that she not only had closed the gap but had left me wallowing in the dust of her greatly increased income.

Genter needs to realise that for women, the situation is changing rapidly. She need only look around the floor of the House, where there is a record number of 46 women, 38% of the 120 MPs. In one generation or less, I would suggest there will be gender parity both on boards and in Parliament. If more blokes followed my example and did much less than they do now, then women could become the majority in these fields. A tired, exhausted, over-worked majority, but a majority nonetheless.

Age, sex and race really should not come into it in relation to company boards or high-paying jobs. It should be all about having the right attitude and skill set, and if your selection criteria are right, the chances are the male-female ratio should be about 50-50, whatever age or race they may be.

This article was first published in the April 7, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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