Thursday, July 7, 2011

Women Should Be Paid Less Because of Monthly Periods

Just when you think all the dinosaurs have gone extinct (or at least have learned to keep their thoughts to themselves), one of them forgets that it's the 21st century and makes a blatantly sexist statement.

Alasdair Thompson, the CEO of New Zealand's Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), said in a debate on gender and equality that women should be paid less because of their "monthly sick time".  He stated that women take more sick leave than men, a difference he attributed to women's monthly periods (and having babies). He was attempting to explain why women are paid, on average, 12% less than men.  Thompson walked out on two interviews when asked about his "monthly sickness" statement and where were his statistics about women's sick leave.  Thompson later said in an interview that he was sorry if what he said upset anyone, but that it was true.

Government officials did not agree with him.  Some reactions:

"To have someone with those sort of neanderthal views head of a major employers' association undermines the credibility of the whole organisation."

"At least some of the true attitudes that employers hold are coming out, but they are pretty shocking and utterly sexist." 

"His ideas are 19th century."

"These are the people that are providing hundreds of hours advising business in New Zealand... He's spreading it. He's creating the space for these ideas to take root."

"He's saying we're not entitled to equal pay because women are women - because we have the capacity to give birth and have children. He's in a leadership role and it's pretty much rubbish. It shows worrying prejudice. It's actually illegal to discriminate against women."

"Alasdair Thompson needs to get with the programme."

A firestorm ensued, ending with Thompson getting the sack.  Other repercussions include Air New Zealand cancelling its membership in the EMA.

It's ironic that I've been recently posting about gender bias in the workplace.  This incident highlights the point I made about a bias that someone keeps hidden or that may not be recognized by the perpetrator as a bias until they are called on it.  At some point Thompson said (and I'm paraphrasing) that he realized that what he said was sexist, but he wasn't a sexist.  Hmmm. 

I personally know some men who sound exactly like Thompson.  If you asked them if they support equal pay for women or if they believe women are as capable as men in science, they would vociferously respond in the affirmative.  However, they periodically let slip a comment that reveals gender bias, but they clearly don't recognize it as such (or don't realize that their words reveal their bias).  They defend themselves by insisting that they're just stating the facts...that it has nothing to do with bias.  This is what Thompson tried to do.  This is a guy who says he is all for gender equality and equal pay for women, but who either doesn't "get it" or is flat lying.

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