NZ Shows Progress for Women 120 Years after Suffrage

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Women have a much higher profile in New Zealand in 2013 than they did in 1893, the year that they won the right to vote.

For starters, the government itself is 34 percent female. Women held no seats in Parliament in 1893 and held as little as 5 percent of the seats as late as 1953. The first female MP (Member of Parliament) was Elizabeth McCombs, in 1933. Mabel Howard, in 1947, was the first female Cabinet Minister. (She was Minister of Health.)

The first female mayor in New Zealand was Elizabeth Yates. She was elected as mayor of Onehunga in the same year that women won the vote, 1893, and was the first female mayor anywhere in the British Empire.

New Zealand has had two female Prime Ministers, Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark. Shipley came to power in between elections. Clark was elected (and re-elected). New Zealand is a member of the British Commonwealth, which means technically, Queen Elizabeth is the head of state. However, Parliament makes the laws. Signing those laws, however, is the Governor-General, who acts as the Queen's representative. In 1990, Catherine Tizard became the country's first female Governor-General.

The New Zealand working population is, in 2013, 58 percent female. The 1893 figure was 26 percent. On the way to a career, the percentage of female students in higher education institutions in 1893 was 39 percent, and the 2013 figure is 56 percent.

Click on the graphic at right (courtesy of Statistics New Zealand) for more.

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David White