I went to the demo in Parliament's grounds for pay equity on Tuesday. It was cold, of course, and damp rather than wet, but there was a great turn-out of angry women, and men, of all ages and stages. I enjoyed meeting up with two die-hard feminists of my vintage, with their equally staunch daughters alongside them. But we did wonder whether, in another twenty years' time, they'd be standing there again with THEIR daughters, still demanding equal pay for work of equal value.
The lack of this is the biggest reason for women getting paid less than men for similar levels of work. One woman who spoke was a teacher's aide, helping children with special needs in the classroom. She does an absolutely essential, highly skilled, demanding job - but unlike the teachers she works with, she is employed on an annual basis, gets no pay in the holidays, and gets precisely 44 cents an hour above the minimum wage. (See her whole speech here - in post for last Tuesday.)
Teacher aides were one of the groups the axed Pay and Employment Equity Unit had been working on. But just as they got to the point of proving precisely how underpaid these women were, it was all stopped. Can't raise women's wages, eh. There's a recession on. Well, as Green MP Catherine Delahunty said: recession is no excuse for oppression.
Still, it was heartening to see the Dominion Post run a photo of a protestor about my age on its front page. She was holding up a placard with a classic feminist cartoon (I wonder if the photographer was so taken with it because he'd never seen it before? Come to think of it, I haven't seen any women's by-lines under photos, ever). It shows a little girl and boy peering into their nappies, and saying, "Oh, that explains the difference in our wages!"