'We are our favourite whipping boys and a lot of people are getting sick of it. We’ve got rights too.'
A Christchurch man has accused Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter of being “ageist, sexist and racist” and has laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
John Stringer, a member of Christchurch’s Papanui-Innes local board, asked that Genter retract her comments after a talk last Thursday at Cobham Intermediate.
At the school, Genter told students that 81 percent of board members were men, the vast majority were in their 60s and 70s and some of them should “move on and make way for new talent and diversity.”
Stringer, who identifies as white, male and in his 50s, says some in his demographic “struggle later in life to make headway in employment - particularly after layoffs - as do other groups.”
He also noted the higher suicide rate among males of all races compared to women, and said it was a tough time for older white men.
“We are our favourite whipping boys and a lot of people are getting sick of it. We’ve got rights too.”
Stringer said comments from someone as influential and powerful as Genter reinforced “negative stereotypes and prejudices that are hurtful and damaging to us personally.”
Stringer said that it he considered white to be a racial term meaning European, and he would like to see the Human Rights Commission deal with his complaint about Genter’s comments as they would with other comments on race.
This afternoon, in an op-ed on Stuff, Genter wrote that she believes older white men should be on boards, but that people from other demographics should be too: “Particularly women, young people, and people from other ethnicities.”
“I agree that board roles should go to the most qualified people. But do we honestly believe that the only qualified people are mostly male, mostly white, and mostly older? Or is the reality that inertia and unconscious bias means we tend to appoint people who look us and think like us?”
Across New Zealand the numbers of women in leadership roles has fallen to 18 percent this year, having declined steadily from about a third in 2004.
Last year, the 19 percent of women were directors on the NZX main board and 19 percent were officers.