For the first time in our history, women Members of Parliament outnumber men. With one vacancy in Parliament (a by-election is due soon) the swearing in of Soraya Peke-Mason yesterday means that there are currently 60 women MPs (Members of Parliament) and 59 men MPs.
Grant Robertson (an openly gay MP) who is Acting Prime Minister while Jacinda Ardern is in Antarctica, stated that It is a significant moment in the democratic representation of New Zealand. “At a time when we have a female prime minister, Governor General and Chief Justice, it is further evidence of the strides that we’re making in gender equality.” Notice that he said strides we are making – in other words there’s still progress to be made.
Aotearoa New Zealand made history in 1893 by becoming the nation to grant universal suffrage regardless of ethnicity, gender or property ownership. Then we progressed at a snail’s pace, with women not being able to be elected to parliament until 1919, and the first woman being successfully elected fourteen years later in 1933. As Ms Peke-Mason said, “Good things take time. No doubt it’s a special day for me but it’s also a historic occasion for Aotearoa New Zealand.”
What is significant is that it’s the left of centre parties where women are better represented. Of the 64 Labour MPs, 37 are women, while 7 of the 10 Green MPs are women. In contrast, the right of centre National party has only 10 women amongst its 33 MPs, and the ACT party does slightly better with 4 of its 10 MPs being women. It’s interesting to note that in the first 23 years of this century, we’ve had a woman Prime Minister for 14 of those years.
As a footnote Aotearoa New Zealand became the first nation to elect an openly trans woman to Parliament in 2005. Following the 2020 general elections, our Parliament became the “queerest” in the world with 12 openly LGBTQI representatives elected – 10% of all MPs sitting in Parliament.