‘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…” ’
Julie Anne Genter, Minister for Women
Speaking to students at Christchurch’s Cobham Intermediate School recently 38 year old Genter, (who herself may not have seemed all that young to 12 year olds), 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.
It was a great opportunity for the Cobham students to engage in this sort of live discussion with the Minister after Maia Devereux, 12, corresponded with her-and good on Genter for participating.
But old white men in their 60s?! Sexist and the racist labels to one side, the ageist epithet is unkind, nay deeply wounding to sensitive late middle aged males, showcased in Mark Hadlow’s wonderful one man performance in MAMIL and now MAMIL(Remounted) with his depiction, hysterical more than lycra lyrical, of cycle ways on the cycleways.
(Sadly I may now be disqualified from MAMILian status, having attained trombone longevity by entering my fourth quarter century; but I still actively use the de rigueur shorts worn to complete my fifth 163Km Taupo Cycle Challenge in 2016. With the nether padding if I ever get caught short they will be handy incontinence-wise.)
Ironically, Genter herself, as a candidate for female co-leader of the Green Party – by definition no men need apply even if they are young and brown – has herself recently encountered some stereotyping. Up against Maori backbencher MP and self-styled Deputy Musterer Marama Davidson, the losing candidate ran into the line of argument run by some Green members that if they were to elect Genter the Green Party would be the only major party with a fully Pakeha leadership team. Genter might have been the right gender but she was the wrong ethnicity and perhaps a touch too middle class. Some even took a potshot at her birth nationality.
Newsroom’s Emma Espiner said in her piece In praise of some old white men: “… I don’t have a problem with the sentiment of her speech – that the leadership of our country is skewed towards a specific group which no longer reflects (it never did) our diverse population. My problem is this: it’s now acceptable to publicly disparage someone if they have a specific trifecta of age, gender and ethnicity.”
MPs and PMs, like policeman, teachers and rugby players, to those silently silvering, have seemed to be getting younger and younger for a long time. Of course, some are somewhat younger and it’s great to have an injection of youthful energy, ideas and information so long as there is a balance of experience, knowledge and even wisdom.
Generation change is ineluctable, even if its leaders may not always be electable, but members of the Me Generation, even those who only just qualify, need to remind themselves that degeneration is not necessarily the flip side of regeneration.
Lyall Lukey– Liveserver, Silververve