‘Invisible women’ shaping the law

by Samantha Woodhill16 Mar 2016
A panel of University of Canterbury law academics will hold a seminar today to shine light on ‘invisible women’.

The seminar, Women Behind the Law, is the brainchild of senior lecturer Natalie Baird who believes that the seniority and pay gaps in the legal industry are still significant, despite the number of men and women being equal for the first time this year.

“The majority of judges are still male, as are the majority of our members of parliament and so that means that [decisions made by] judges determining content of the law and MPs passing new legislation are still being made by institutions that are predominantly male,” Baird told NZ Lawyer.

“What we are really trying to do is turn that on its head a little bit… looking at women who have chosen to take cases which have in turn contributed to development of the law.”

The panel of law academics will discuss cases such as that of aged care worker Kristine Bartlett, who took her case to the Court of Appeal, arguing that her hourly rate was a breach of the 1972 Equal Pay Act as it was less than what would be paid to men with the same skills.

“Women are underrepresented in the judiciary; as partners in firms, as MPs and in academia. So by looking at the women behind significant cases, as victims, plaintiffs and in one case a defendant, we can honour the women who have influenced the development of the law in New Zealand,” Baird said.

The seminar is part of an ongoing dialogue by the university to promote and discuss diversity.