The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Powerful Fellas

Jeremy has the Listener's latest Power List over at Aucklander at Large.

Jeremy's struck by the absence of unionists, as am I. Particularly as unionists have become more prominent in recent times, even outside of specific disputes, eg Laila Harre's current stint on National Radio up against Matthew Hooton.
Also of note is the influx of Maori figures new to the list. Perhaps the Maori Queen's funeral and the media frenzy around the Kahui twins has brought them more to mainstream media prominence.

There's rather a lack of Cabinet Ministers, or indeed politicians in general, reflecting the shift in power from democratically elected people to private individuals that privatisation inevitably seems to bring. It would be interesting to do some kind of analysis comparing the Power List and the Rich List methinks.

But the one thing that really stood out for me, and I'm sure this will come as no surprise to regular readers, is the lack of women.

Sure the top spot is a woman, but I agree with Jeremy; you would expect the Prime Minister to be in or close to number one in any year.

You have to go down to 14 for the next woman - Paula Rebstock, who is apparently the Commerce Commission Chair and is new to the list. Then at 21 and 28 are Dame Sian Elias (Chief Justice) and Heather Simpson (H2 as she's known) respectively. Neither are new and neither are suprising. Julie Christie in 30th place rounds out the five women, and twenty-five men, in the top 30.

In total there are 8 women on the list, 16%. Out of 50 people altogether. It's almost as bad as the National Party front bench before the last election!

Mind you, it is an increase of 1 on 2005's list.

Here's a few ideas, of some other powerful women who perhaps should have made it:
  • Carol Beaumont - Secretary of the Council of Trade Unions

  • Margaret Wilson - Speaker of the House

  • Ann Sherry - CEO of Westpac

  • Laila Harre - already mentioned for her media role, also National Secretary of the National Distribution Union

  • Theresa Gattung - CEO of Telecom (who has featured in the last two years, in 2005 at 8)

  • Jeanette Fitzsimmons - Co-leader of the Greens

  • Kim Hill - or another of the large number of prominent women journalists
I may not like all of these women, or agree with them, but they are powerful in our country. A Power List is always going to be a subjective thing, but surely more than eight women would show up on anyone's list of their top 50? After all, isn't this Socialist government we suffer under supposed to be run by a lesbian sisterhood?

If you consider the list reasonably accurate then it's depressing - so few women, so few people outside business, so few who aren't Pakeha.

And if you don't think the list is on the mark, then that's depressing too - that the people who are perceived to be powerful in our society, by a supposedly liberal magazine, are still largely so like the be-suited, clubbable, older men that would have dominated a list of this nature twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago.
Update, 2.38pm 20th Nov: DPF has also posted on this topic, with similar points about the lack of representation from the public sector.


Jeremy Greenbrook-Held said...

Or Catherine Ryan, Helen Kelly (AUS Gen Sec and NZLP player), Brenda Pilott (PSA Gen Sec)...

Andrew Little's inclusion last year was because of the success of the 5% in 05 campaign, but I would have thought that the union's reaction to Wayne Mapp's bill or the Progressives lockout would have warrented at least one person this year.

Then again, the union movement is about collectivism - it isn't personalities which succeed, it's organisations.

Rich said...

I doubt the list is particularly scientific. And they probably work on a basis of choosing various categories and then picking the person with the biggest media profile.

How much *influence* has "John Fellet, CEO of Sky Television (11)" got? Apart from over those who might want a job from him or to sell him advertising?

I suppose Theresa Gattung has dropped out she stuffed up so badly at Telecom - but I doubt she's lost much "influence" until she actually gets fired.

I guess the people you've never heard of are, like the people in the party photos at the front, customers of either the Listener, ACP, or the company sponsoring the list.