• Deborah Morris
Associate Minister of Women's Affairs

Wellington Library


I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you tonight. It is an ideal chance to meet you all and more importantly, to hear your views on certain issues. It also gives me an opportunity to let you know about developments in the Women's Affairs portfolio. Especially in the area of Maori women and business development.

One initiative of relevance is the Maori Women in Decision Making project. This project was developed by Te Ohu Whakatupu, the Maori Policy Unit of the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

The primary purpose of the project is to increase the number of Maori women in decision making positions. Decision making positions are many and varied. However, the type I am talking about tonight are those that involve taking a place on boards and committees.

Comparatively, Maori women are poorly represented on government and iwi boards, so it is vital that we promote Maori women's involvement in decision-making at all levels. To achieve this, the decision-making project has been divided into bite size pieces.

One component is to increase the number of women contained on the Ministry's nominations database. The Ministry often nominates women. So it is essential that the pool of potential contains women with a variety of skills and expertise.

There are currently 300 Maori women on the database and we're always keen to get more. The women currently registered come from different backgrounds. Some are teachers, others are community workers. There are plumbers, lawyers, accountants and counsellors.

There are some boards that are harder than others to get women appointed to. These boards seem to have been the domain of men for such a long time, that shifting the attitude that they are 'jobs for boys' is a long haul.

The Boards that are proving particularly tough for women to get onto are the Producer Boards and Crown Company Boards, including SOEs.

To address this problem, part of the decision-making project involves promoting a selection of Maori women who have what it takes to sit on those types of boards.

The intention is to make the people responsible for appointments more aware of, and comfortable with, Maori women as potential appointees.

The project promotes ten Maori women who are emerging leaders in their fields and that have the expertise and experience to participate on high level national boards.

Te Ohu Whakatupu has done a lot of work investigating the possible reasons why the appointment rate for Maori women is comparatively low. Their research showed that lack of visibility was a major barrier.

So a primary purpose of the project to is to get the names and skills of these women out there and known.

While Te Ohu were researching the reasons why appointments were so low, some interesting issues unfolded. For example, often the people making the appointments were not aware of the achievements of Maori women, and why they were desirable appointees.

The project wants to change this around. Finding women with the skills was easy, all that was necessary was a bit of promotion. The campaign intends to be high profile, in magazines, newspapers and on the radio. You may have heard National Radio's nightly Mana Tangata programme already featuring some of these women.

We all know that Maori women play a critical role in our communities - at every level. This week being Mana Wahine week, is all about celebrating the unique contributions all of you make. I would like to see that acknowledgment continue beyond this week. And that's why the decision making project is important. It has the potential to deliver boards that are more representative of our communities and therefore deliver better quality decisions.

In 1995, when the Government attended the Beijing Women's Conference, several resolutions were passed to improve the status of women. At that conference the New Zealand Government made a commitment to getting gender balance on government boards and committees by the year 2000. It will be exciting to report on progress as we approach the new millennium.

As well as achieving the necessary gender balance, this project will also go some way to ensuring broader Maori representation too.

Something I noticed while following the development of the decision making project, was the lack of information on Maori women and economic development.

It is a sad fact that when it comes to gender specific information, the statistics are sparse. In fact, it can be hard to get departments to focus on collecting gender information at all. It is an even bigger battle to get them to focus on collecting data about Maori women specifically.

Without this crucial information it is hard to convince people that a need exists, because there are no facts and figures to back it up. By the same token it is impossible to evaluate the success of policy if we can't track the trends. So I am pleased to be able to tell you about another project Women's Affairs and Statistics New Zealand are working on to fill this information vacuum. That project is the time use survey.

The survey will measure time use - the amount of time ordinary New Zealanders spend on different activities as they go about their lives. For example, how much time do we spend looking after children, or relatives who are elderly or sick? How much time is spent on voluntary community work? Or on recreation?

To paint this picture, respondents will fill out a time diary over a 48 hour period. During that time they will note down all the things they are doing, where they are doing it, and who those activities are for.

The survey will provide solid information on the patterns of people's daily lives, and will provide a clearer idea of how to shape services and policies for the better.

This information can be used to improve outcomes for Maori women in business. For instance, if we knew how self employment fitted in with family obligations, such as looking after children, policies and services could be developed to take that into account.

The opportunities are infinite. Transport, health, education, and even tax. I'm sure that as entrepreneurs you can imagine the possibilities that stem from understanding how people manage their time.

Speaking of entrepreneurs, where did Hire-a-Hubby come from? Perhaps it's because I'm from a younger generation, but it disturbs me to think that women need help to change the clocks when daylight saving comes 'round. In my brief experience of having a husband (and I didn't hire him), if you can't do it yourself there's even less chance he can.

The time use survey will begin in July this year and will finish in 1999. It has taken several years to secure the funding but it will be worth the wait. So along with being able to quantify the value of unpaid work, more women on boards, and husbands on call...............we've all got a lot to look forward to.