Dr Liz Gordon: Women make the parliamentary grade at last


A milestone was passed on Saturday night as sixty women were elected to the Parliament of 120. That’s right, for the first time ever, half of our MPs are women.  There is a lot to celebrate here, but there are still some pitfalls to be overcome to true representative status.

  • The left is bearing the brunt of getting women into power

The Greens lead the race, with 70% of the party’s MPs women.  For the first time, Labour has a majority of women in its caucus, 34/64 or 53% (well done, you!).  Act has managed 40% women and National 42%, with 15/35. While the left is leading, all parties in this Parliament will have good representation from women.

  • Losing New Zealand First made a big difference

It is fair to say that NZ First has always had trouble keeping its women, due no doubt to several (who shall not be named) really sexist senior male MPs. The highly effective Tracey Martin is the only woman who has ever done well in the party, and even she was rolled as Deputy Leader a few years ago (by Ron Mark, who was himself later rolled). Poor Jenny Marcroft, as hard-working as any of them, was dumped from the top ten of the list for no reason that I know.  If NZ First had got 10 MPs, two would have been women.

  • But the story is not all good

Labour needs to move some of its women MPs up.  With only six women in its top 20 (30%), the leadership is still overwhelmingly male. The aspiration is surely for the Cabinet (top 20) to be gender-equal (maybe it is time to expand the Cabinet a bit – perhaps to 24). Then a good sprinkling of women in ministerial posts outside Parliament.

  • The shift needs to be sustainable

Now that we have at last achieved gender equity in Parliament, there must be acknowledgement that this is how it should be for the future, forever. Any Party worth its salt will have women in half of its leadership positions.

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  • A long time coming

We have had women MPs since 1933 but the past is littered with their oppression.  Stories abound of no female toilets (Marilyn Waring), women MPs being ‘scored out of 10’ when coming up to be sworn in (that was 1984, when Labour got ten women MPs in) and so on. One day the full story will be told in a book, no doubt. The Alliance in 1996 was the first party to be elected with more women than men (7/6).  This equality has been a long time coming.  Kia kaha, nga wāhine toa!

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.


  1. Women, men, what’s the difference if none of them have a clue how the economy works, nor have any idea why we are in the early phase of ultra-rapid planetary meltdown, nor do they have any idea what to do about any of it?

    Some of the worst comes against society were perpetrated by women: Margaret Thatcher, Helen Clark and Hi Liar Clinton immediately come to mind.

    So, it’s straight off the cliff, with a few more women contributing to the abysmal failure of the government to even acknowledge there is an ever-worsening catastrophe, let alone do anything about it. And you expect us to celebrate???

    • Maybe the real catastrophe is that the negative doomsday outlook some have. What is the catastrophe you see? Poverty? Housing? Social problems? Mental health issues? Under-resourced hospitals?

      Where did those come from? Perpetrators in Parliaments over scores of years? Just about all males?

      Just lighten up for a moment if you can and think that in one sense the house of Representative is representative now in one aspect. We all want the best out of these there, whoever they are. At last they are a picture of who we are.

    • Correction

      Some of the worst CRIMES against society were perpetrated by women: Margaret Thatcher, Helen Clark and Hi Liar Clinton immediately come to mind.

      Additionally, maybe some of the women and men in parliament might like to do something about the implications of this shocking research, since it undoubtedly applies to NZ.

      ‘Bottle-fed babies swallow millions of microplastics a day, study finds
      Exposure is far higher than previously thought and also affects plastic food containers’


    • Of course there have been bad female leaders. But overwhelmingly more bad Male leaders because the overwhelming majority of leaders have been male. When Thatcher was around so was Reagan. When Clinton was around, oh yeah, she actually never got to be the leader, there were Trump, Bush, Bush Snr, her husband Clinton etc etc. Surely you can acknowledge that having equal representation for women and men in parliament is a good thing in itself.

  2. Hopefully this term they won’t be silenced in advance, as James did to Marama when he handed over her voice the Nats, muzzling her before she ever got a say. That Question Time boys-in-the-back-room underhand deal was absolutely shameful!

  3. The Daily Blog readership is not well known for supporting the aspirations of feminists, and my blogs about women are nearly always my least-read contributions. Nevertheless, I want to push back on those of you who just don’t think this is important. The idea that women ‘hold up half the sky’ is a crucial goal for gender equality. Of course there have been dreadful women leaders, as there have men. Although overall women tend to look left rather than right in our country nowadays. There is still a large gender pay gap (women being paid less because they are women) and the burdens of raising the next generation still fall primarily on us. Gender equality in parliament will hopefully provide better and stronger laws.

  4. Thanks for this article, Liz. The achievement of gender equality in parliamentary representation this year is not an accident or coincidence. It is a result of deliberate strategy and determined organisation and hard work, with some help from a red tsunami. Congratulations to the NZLP Women’s Council on a successful campaign to achieve 50:50 representation in 2020.

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