NEXT report finds Kiwi women are optimistic about the future when it comes to gender equality

International Women's Day was celebrated on March 8. This year NEXT magazine conducted a survey to find out how Kiwi women feel we're progressing in the march towards gender equality.

By Kate Terry and Bauer Media Insights IQ
As the world celebrates International Women's Day on March 8, we wanted to find out where Kiwi women feel we're up to in the great march towards gender equality. This is the third year of our Gender Equality Study, which means we've also been able to compare attitudes then and now, and notice the changing tide of opinion. As you'll see, the results show we have a good dose of optimism for the future, tempered with a fair amount realism about the here and now.

Equality as we see it now

It didn't come as a surprise that 91 per cent of respondents said that equality between women and men is important to them, but it turns out that only 42 per cent feel that equality between women and men is a reality today. On the plus side, many felt that we were doing better than our friends across the ditch – 35 per cent think New Zealand has greater gender equality than Australia, while only 7 per cent think it's the reverse. There is also a minority who are 'over' it and believe there are more important issues than gender equality.
Jacinda Ardern

Inspiring women

Seventy-nine per cent say we need more positive female role models to inspire future generations. And this year saw Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as the undisputed number one New Zealand female role model with seven times as many nominations as Helen Clark; Dame Valerie Adams rounds out the top three. In 2018 Jacinda and Helen were neck and neck.
Michelle Obama is the international personality most admired by New Zealand women.
Queen Elizabeth II has risen to second in 2020, ahead of Oprah Winfrey. Time's person of the year Greta Thunberg has appeared for the first time in sixth place.
Dame Valerie Adams
  • Four in 10 respondents believe there are many more important issues than gender equality (and this is up from 31 per cent in 2018)
  • Seven out of 10 respondents think New Zealand should still be leading the equality conversation.
  • Many respondents are proud of our history but only 12 per cent think we still lead the way. Another 56 per cent think we're doing okay, while 29 per cent say we have lost our edge.
  • 81 per cent believe it is more important than ever to challenge stereotypes
Michelle Obama

Equality (or lack thereof) in the workplace

Depressingly, 48 per cent of women have experienced sexual discrimination at work. This is the highest number since the research began. It may be that the emergence of the #MeToo movement has enabled more women to speak out.
This year we asked women what they wanted to see from the people at the top. They told us integrity and trust (80 per cent) are the most important qualities for leaders, followed by people management abilities (56 per cent) and empathy (48 per cent). These were considered the three top qualities by all age groups, with traits like complex problem solving and discipline/self control coming further down the order.
Despite recognition of the importance of 'softer skills', only one in six think leaders are completely able to lead, if they wish, in a more 'feminine' way rather than the traditional, tough 'masculine' approach.
"You see more about soft skills being as important as other management skills. People like Brené Brown have really demonstrated how vulnerability can make people better leaders."
"In my own experiences, bosses are a lot more open and personable now compared to when I first started out working. My past bosses used to be scary."
Others felt such skills were sometimes seen as a "weakness" or an indication that "you are not up to the game". They felt women were often seen as "soft" for displaying such attributes, whereas men were seen as "wonderful" for being so kind.
"There are still a lot of 'old school' thinkers out there who think leaders should be tough and come across as real powerhouses."
Disappointingly, more than four out of five women think female leaders tend to have more questions asked about their competence and suitability.

Taking time to celebrate women's achievements

Seventy-five percent of respondents want us to better celebrate women's achievements:
"I think rather than focusing on women who have got into positions of 'power' traditionally held by men, we need to celebrate females full-stop. Females in caring roles, mothers at home raising children, females making a difference in their local communities. And then do the same for men. Celebrating those who make a difference in the community, volunteer firefighters, fathers who work all day and come home to enjoy time with their children. We need to stop focusing on the 'exceptional', and celebrate those that have prioritised their life, family, and community over money and power. Our world will grow into a better place to live if our focus is on kindness and goodness rather than power and money. We should celebrate women from all cultures and all ages, those who have done great things, but also the quiet ones who are just getting the job done."

What's next in the fight for equality?

When asked what should be focused on in 2020 and beyond, pay and work-related issues were the top choices. Equal pay for equal work and closing the gender pay gap were followed by calls for more women in leadership roles, greater work opportunities, reducing sexual discrimination, improving parental leave and other employment matters.
Climate had greater prominence than in other years, and this was most likely influenced by the Australian bushfires. There were also many other areas that women felt deserved scrutiny.
Eighty-one percent believe it is more important than ever to challenge stereotypes – as one woman told us, "We have started work in this area, now we need to continue for the good of future generations." Areas requiring particular attention include everything from education and parenting, to different cultures and racism, to advertising and media.
"As a country we are still run on outdated norms and stereotypes. Big cities and the regions still suffer from the old-boy networks, this is how business, development, investment and planning is done and it's still being passed down. Equality today won't undo the imbalance that has existed for years, so we need to work hard to ensure that for our kids, or our grandkids' generation, it is better."
*Bauer Media Insights IQ Gender Equality Study 2020 Sample size n = 909 females 18+. Weighted by age. The margin of error is +/- 3.25%.