CAPTION: It is Activism 101. But dismissing citizens as “old white men” indicates Julie Anne Genter has not adjusted to her new role.
Green Party activists have been slow to adjust to the New World Order: a Labour-led government where they are part of the ruling coalition and not just agitators looking for attention.
Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter epitomised the mismatch this week with her comment that “old white men” should stand down to make way for more diverse corporate boards.
Women’s Minister Julie Anne Genter says old white men need to “move on” from company boards to help close the gender pay gap. Speaking to students at Christchurch’s Cobham Intermediate School on Thursday, Genter said the private sector needed to address the low level of female representation on New Zealand company boards if more businesses were to be led by women.About 85 per cent of board members were male, and many were “old white men in their 60s”.“Some of them need to move on and allow for diversity and new talent,” she said, later clarifying she had “no problem with old white men” on company boards generally.
It was a minister of the Crown talking to kids. It seems that “pale, stale males” ― as some other critics call them ― are ruining it for everyone again. It’s a bad call to dismiss a whole section of the population like that. It shows that she still hasn’t got to grips with her role. Identity politics are not going to help resolve the equal pay issue.
I am ambivalent about the older male dominance of corporate boards. I can see the logic of encouraging more diverse people with diverse backgrounds. More worker involvement in business certainly works in Germany.
But whatever happens, the focus of corporate boards is going to remain on delivering profits to investors. Women directors will still make the same harsh decisions that men sometimes make. More-diverse boards will include clever people, but still include racists and sexists on occasion.I worry about the language used by Genter and the activist media. I’m not sure I want activists ― especially those who use terms like “old white men” ― telling businesses who they should not have leading them.
Removed from the double-speak of justification, the term “old white males” is ageist, racist and sexist. It is unnecessarily alienating.To her credit, Genter engaged with her critics. But she has an unfortunate tendency to think she knows better than everyone else and does not try to convince people she is listening. Her reaction does not generate optimism for the future. Genter is making her own bid to become joint leader of a party where deriding “old white men” and “pale, stale males” is acceptable.
Her role as associate transport minister makes sense given her expertise in transport planning.
Genter is not alone in being stuck in the activist rut. Golriz Ghahraman and Chlöe Swarbrick have not moved on from being in election-campaign mode. Swarbrick has been accomplished as a new MP. But Genter and Swarbrick gave Parliament a firm ticking off when a majority of MPs did not back the Greens’ bid to partially legalise cannabis.
They lost the vote, they screwed up. A politician’s job is to get people on their side, and they failed to do that. Likewise, the collapse of the Greens’ vote in the election after Metiria Turei’s confession about her questionable welfare and electoral issues is not blamed on a shambolic party, but on an errant media. The Greens are backed by whiny journalists and media commentators who target the hip activist audience to sell ads.