About a quarter of New Zealand women are abused by a partner in their lifetime. Most female work is unpaid and they're still earning less than men. Women are bombarded with images of how they 'should' look and how, with a little bit of time and money, they could look. There are all sorts of pressures facing New Zealand women. To mark International Women's Day 2012 we spoke with the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Rowena Phair about the top five concerns they face:
1. Balancing home life with paid work
Women are still doing most of the unpaid work, especially when it comes to caring for the kids, Phair said. "Men are doing more, but they're not doing enough yet ... we need to share the load." She says women are doing a "double shift" - attending to her role at home on the back of a full day of paid work. This heavy load affects the type of jobs a woman can do as well as the level of seniority they can reach, Phair said.
She said compared to other countries, NZ has a low level of women in the workplace that are at a childbearing age (in their early 30s). "A big issue for women is managing those responsibilities."
2. Staying healthy
New Zealand women need to make sure they leave space in their busy schedule to take care of themselves. This means getting enough rest, having a healthy diet and getting enough exercise. Phair said they also need to do their best not to be negatively affected by unrealistic images of woman. "This is an issue that young women raise. They're concerned about sexualisation of women and the prevalence of using women's bodies to sell all manner of products."
3. Getting the right reward for their skills
Women are increasingly well qualified and Phair encouraged them to be well-informed about the kind of jobs they can have and how much they should be earning. Women are concerned about their financial future, especially in their 20s, and Phair said one way this can be dealt with is by considering all the options available to them in the workforce. "We work for lots of women and there are lots of things that attract us to certain types of jobs and money is one of those ... Women have got the skills, so go and get the income."
4. Backing themselves as leaders
"Women are really active in their communities, they've got opinions to contribute, but they've really got to have the confidence in their convictions," Phair said. Despite being educated and intelligent, women are still a minority in local politics, they're not reaching senior levels "in the way you would expect" in the workplace. This is because they aren't confident, Phair said. "Women really want to make sure they're ready for the roles they're putting forward, perhaps they're a little more risk averse at times. There's some research that showed women will put themselves forward when they can tick 90 per cent of the required skills when men will put themselves forward when they can tick 30 per cent. Women, if they're not putting themselves forward for roles, they're not going to be considered."
5. Feeling safe in relationships
A quarter of New Zealand women have at least one experience of domestic violence, Phair said. "That's huge." Half of those will experience it more than once. "It's very unusual for men to be physically violent without some behaviours that lead up to that so women can keep themselves safe by being very alert ... and to get help as quickly as they can." She said young women are particularly vulnerable to abusive relationships. "Woman really need to keep their eyes open in relationships."
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* Women, what do you feel is your greatest concern? Are you affected by the ones mentioned here?