Story: Women and men

Male and female members of Parliament

Women in public positions of authority were a rarity in New Zealand until the 1980s. The number of female members of Parliament provides a measure of women in top positions. From 1931 (when the first woman was elected) until the 1980s, there were never more than a handful of women in the House. From 1981 the numbers grew steadily, encouraged by new ideas about women’s abilities and role in society. In the 1990s there was another jump in numbers, a result of the newly introduced MMP (mixed-member proportional) voting system. Over the same period there were also increasing numbers of women in senior public-sector management. However, in 2010 the Human Rights Commission noted that in some areas women’s participation ‘had stalled and is sliding backward’ (New Zealand census of women’s participation 2010, p. 2). Private-sector management remained predominantly a male domain throughout this period. 

The 2017 election saw 46 women elected, making up 38% of Parliament.

Using this item

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Source: New Zealand Parliamentary debates and the New Zealand Houses of Parliament

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How to cite this page:

Charlotte Macdonald, 'Women and men - Common ground: 1999–21st century', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 11 August 2022)

Story by Charlotte Macdonald, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Aug 2017