One hundred and twenty-four years ago women in New Zealand woke up as voting citizens for the first time.

It had been a long and hard fought campaign by the women's suffrage movement and yesterday people all over the country paid tribute by casting early votes on the anniversary of a woman's right to vote becoming law.

But really, September 19, 1893 was just the start of a fight for political equality for women that has not finished. Not even close.

It wasn't until 1919 that women were allowed to stand for election and another 14 years until Labour's Elizabeth McCombs became New Zealand's first female MP.


The number of women in Parliament has been increasing ever since but at a painfully slow rate.

It peaked in 2008 with 41 out of 122 MPs (33.6 per cent) then fell back to 38 of 121 in this recent term.

Of the parliamentary parties only the Greens have a majority of women in the top 10 (7/10) with Act the only party that's close (4/10).

The top end of the Labour (3/10) and National lists (2/10) makes for poor reading.

This all despite voting women outnumbering men in numbers and turnout.

New Zealand has now had two female prime ministers and Whanganui will next week have its second female MP with both major parties running women.

Three out of the five local candidates are female.

In isolation these examples can give a false impression of equality.

But stepping back and taking a wider view, we still have a long way to go.

The job started by the Suffragettes more than a century ago won't be done until these examples are simply the norm instead of something to enthusiastically hold up as a sign of progress.

Looking back it is incomprehensible that women were ever denied the right to vote.

In another 124 years we'll look back on today's inequality in the same way.