Friday, March 11, 2011

What does MWA do?

Over on the DimPost, Danyl propagates a common myth about the Ministry of Women's Affairs: they don't actually do anything important:

I’m not sure how many people realise this, but nominating women to sit on the boards of state sector organisations is the core function of the Ministry of Women’s affairs. Whenever there’s any suggestion of closing it down there’s always an outcry and I think that’s based on the misunderstanding that Women’s Affairs is a crown entity like, say, the Children’s Commission, and thus acts as a policy advocate or representative for New Zealand women. They’re really more like a job placement agency for the very small number of New Zealand women qualified to sit on public sector committees.
A quick perusal of MWA's website would show that this is false. MWA lists its functions right there on its front page. These are:
  • Providing suitable women nominees for appointment to state sector boards and committees
  • Policy advice on improving outcomes for women in New Zealand
  • Providing support services to the Minister of Women’s Affairs
  • Managing New Zealand’s international obligations in relation to the status of women
Digging deeper, their annual report lists four key areas of policy advice: "women in leadership" (basically, "why are our company boards full of dead white males who all went to Auckland Grammar together?"), "women and employment" (the gender pay gap, and how to bust it), and "violence against women" (which ought to be pretty obvious). In addition to these core areas, it also participates in the wider policy process, consulting on policy generated by other departments which may have gender implications. This is more important than it sounds; such consultation is a vital part of the policy process, and a way of ensuring that nothing significant is overlooked.

Yes, it could be folded into MSD as a policy unit. But the cost of that would be that those specific concerns about gender equality and women's interests it was established to advocate for would be lost. And that's not a Good Thing - except for dead white males trying to protect their privilege.