Working women not only ones to be insulted by sexist comments

22 June 2011

A claim by one of New Zealand’s top employer advocates that female workers are paid less than their male counterparts because of menstrual problems and increased sick leave requests not only insults the role of women in productivity, but also denigrates the responsibility modern men hold within their families, a leading New Zealand businesswoman says.

Cecilia Tarrant, Executive-in-Residence at The University of Auckland Business School, says comments by the Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Alasdair Thompson that “once a month (women) have sick problems” that affect their productivity due to increased sick leave are not only unbelievable and incredible, but also wrong.

Ms Tarrant – a veteran of more than 20 years’ experience in international banking and finance in San Francisco, New York and London – says the percentage of women who need time off for debilitating menstrual problems is miniscule, and both international and New Zealand studies have consistently shown women are just as productive as their male counterparts at work.

“In fact, in relation to Mr Thompson’s comments about working mothers taking more sick leave to care for ill children, I believe working fathers should be just as indignant…Mr Thompson’ comments hint at them not pulling their weight with childcare and parental leave,” Ms Tarrant says.

“To suggest that women take unacceptable sick leave when their children are unwell smacks the face of fathers who accept the same responsibilities for those children. Inequality in the workplace has much more to do with women not being given the same opportunities as men, and that is much more a factor of networking than sick leave.”

Ms Tarrant, who heads the Business School’s newly-established women students’ mentoring programme, says family commitments often hinder women from networking as well as their male equivalents, leading to an imbalance in career succession.

“Women with children are more unlikely to be able to enjoy a drink with superiors after work, or play a weekday game of golf, as men can often do,” Ms Tarrant says. “That is why our Business School is directly assisting promising women students with mentoring opportunities to assist them in developing strong business networking skills.”