In which I get a bit ranty about the obvious topic - Tactical Ninja
Jun. 24th, 2011
09:32 am - In which I get a bit ranty about the obvious topic
Yesterday was quite the day for curmudgeonliness it seems. For those who have been living either under a rock or in a country that isn't New Zealand, there was a bit of a hurricane in a thimble when the head of the Employers and Manufacturers Association addressed the gender pay gap (12%ish here) by suggesting that it's because women take more leave:
"'Why do they take the most sick leave? Women do in general. Why? Because once a month they have sick problems, not all of them but some do,'' he said.
''They have children that they have to take leave of therefore their productivity...(it's) not their fault. It may be that they have not got it sorted with their partners where the partners take more responsibility for what happens outside work."
He said this in response to a proposal by the Greens that employers be required to note the gender of employees against their pay statistics, as a potential way of addressing the pay gap.
Cue two million women and not a few men going O.o, and then very vocally calling for this guy to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. He was interviewed twice that I have seen after making those comments:
Here by Rachel Morton (watch out, the sound on this one is bad)
and here, by Mihingarangi Forbes.
In the first interview he rambles about how his wife took a day off to look after his daughter's kid so the daughter could meet a deadline, mentions something he calls 'testeronic issues' that affect men, and pulls out his two top lawyers being women as a reason why he personally isn't sexist. In the second he storms off, stands over Mihi and yells in her face, produces anecdata about how his payroll lady knows why women take time off, and insists he isn't sexist.
Personally, I think he's an embarrassment to the EMA and that he should resign for not only making these statements but defending them. But he won't and here's why - have a picture of the NZ Business Council, which is made up of regional business heads and EMA members:
Nope, nothing homogenous about that group.
Mr Thompson's statements about this debacle include an accusation of the criticism levelled against him being 'political' - coming from Labour or the Greens - which spells out his political leanings pretty clearly. He's a (NZ version*) right winger, and right wingers like to couch everything in terms of personal responsibility. He reckons that whether a woman takes Panadol and keeps on trucking or stays home is a product of her passion for her job, her dedication, her drive to succeed. He reckons that whether a woman takes leave to look after children when they are sick is about whether she's come to a good arrangement with her partner and whether she's chosen to bear the opportunity cost of having children.
Now, I don't know whether his claim that women take more leave is true or not. I do know that I have never had a day off with period pain. I also know women who have regular days off with period pain. These women have endometriosis. One of these women was 35 before she got a diagnosis, was collapsing in the street with the pain and dosing herself up on codeine so she could go to work. After her diagnosis she waited another 5 years before the waiting list got to her for surgery to alleviate it. Yes that's right, she reached 40 before her illness was addressed. That's 25 years of crippling pain once a month. She went through being told it was psychosomatic, that she should just breathe through the pain, that she should 'harden up'. It cost her career opportunities. So yes, in some ways he's right.
But you know what? Only 10% of women (roughly) have endometriosis. I'm pretty sure a higher percentage of men take regular days off with 'testeronic issues' (not sure what these are but according to Mr Thompson they have something to do with rugby injuries and drinking). And you know what? If you have a rugby injury you get treatment straight away. If you're a woman with endometriosis you go through 25 years of being told you're imagining it before anyone will do anything about it. Endo research is underfunded and women with it are not taken seriously, and I would suggest that this is partly because the 'it's all in your head' fallacy it still prevalent among those who make the decisions about how research is funded. Hands up ladies! How many of you suffer period pain severe enough to go to the doctor with, only to have been told you're imagining it?
You know, there are quite a few chronic, debilitating illnesses that affect people's ability to attend work. Yet apparently endo is a 'personal choice'. Fuck you, Mr Thompson - first for erasing the experience of 5% of our population and second for assuming that all women get paid less because some have an illness. Fuck you right in the ear, no lube.
And as for the 'taking time off for kids' thing, again he's right in one respect. Women generally do take more time off for kids, because we live and work in a society that assumes we will. His wee anecdote about how his saint of a wife called in sick to work so she could care for their ill granddaughter while the mother went to work was a demonstration of this in the way it missed one vital detail - any consideration at all of how it could have been HIM that called in sick. You know what, if he'd done that yesterday it would have saved a lot of trouble. But it didn't cross his mind. Probably because he and his family assumed it would be Mum who did it, and probably also because if they did discuss it, his job would be 'more important' for him to be at than hers.
Therein lies the rub. Women are assumed to be the ones with less important work, who are responsible for children and will be the ones who take time off to be with them. This doesn't just impact women who have jobs, it impacts women who are trying to get jobs. Employers look at a woman and think "will she be taking time off for kids?" They do not think this about men, even though men are just as capable of taking time off for kids. And women end up doing 'less important', less well-paid jobs because of this assumption, regardless of their own reality. Yet according to Mr Thompson, the opportunity cost in having children is about personal choice in arrangements with her partner.
As a single parent whose productivity is doing just fine, at this point I would like to invite Mr Thompson to kiss my shapely white arse. I may fart in his face or if the timing is right, perhaps bleed on him.
I think here I'll also point out that as well as ignoring single parents, he is ignoring the existence of transgender women, and of any woman who isn't middle class. His examples? Lawyers. My example? Professional. Actual reality? Most people in New Zealand are working in low wage situations, not salaried middle class positions.
Back in the day I worked in shearing gangs, freezing works, and kumara packing plants, in the days of the Employment Contracts Act which essentially took away my access to union representation. Anyone here want to tell me how much slack I got cut for having a kid? I was damn lucky in that my Mum and Dad were retired and willing to babysit for me when The Youth Of Today was little. If it hadn't been for them, I wouldn't have been able to work at all. As it was the jobs available to me were on the low end of the payscale, did not come with built in statutory holidays, included weekends and required rigid hours instead of the flexibility I now get. Shearing gang work is seasonal - you don't get maternity leave for that. These kind of jobs conveniently don't exist for Mr Thompson - or he thinks that women choose them because they'd prefer to work long hours for low pay.
Never mind that every woman who works in New Zealand faces the assumption that she will have kids and that when those kids arrive it'll be her that takes the leave to look after them.
None of this is Mr Thompson's fault, and when he says these things are partly the cause of the pay gap, he is right. However as the head of the EMA, he is in a position to be challenging these problems, addressing the actual causes, pointing out the issues and working to fix them. Instead he talked about 'productivity' and 'personal choice'. Mr Thompson, it was not my personal choice for you and the other old white men on your committee to believe that by virtue of having a vagina I am less productive. It was not my personal choice for those who make the rules, who influence societal perspectives, who create the environment in which we work, to place the responsibility for children on me and to assume that it will be me who takes leave regardless of my personal choices. It was not my choice for issues that affect women to be under-researched and under-funded because they are seen as less important because women "have children that they have to take leave of therefore their productivity.." THAT WAS YOU, DUDE. You and your bunch of old white men made those choices, and you are in a position to choose differently and influence others to do so as well.
So don't give me those bullshit excuses for why women get paid less. "Oh it's just a fact" is not good enough. It wouldn't be a fact if the attitudes of those like Mr Thompson, those who have the power to change things, didn't excuse the status quo at every turn.
Mr Thompson, I would like to invite you to shove your excuses up your arse. Sideways, Again, no lube.
This guy represents the employers of New Zealand. He gets to influence how they think. He is part of the problem and if his statements and defence of them are actually what he thinks, he should not resign - he should be sacked.
Oh, and just because I wasn't quite done with being grumpy, here's my response to the NZPost 'Lifestyle Survey'.
Yes, I'm sending it. Why do you ask?
Today I'm making an offer on that apartment. Tonight my house will be full of teenagers. In between there will be Fidels. Tomorrow is SlutWalk. Sunday I'm doing Mum's garden for the last time. Gosh, busy weekend.
* NZ's right wing is still more left than much of the US's left wing, but they are running as fast as they can to the right as we speak.