"Feminism is not an f-word", says Rich

National list MP Katherine Rich, of Dunedin, addresses the Otago branch of the New Zealand...
National list MP Katherine Rich, of Dunedin, addresses the Otago branch of the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women on the topic of "Feminism is not an F Word", at the Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum, yesterday. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The slogan "Girls can do anything" needed to be reprised for a younger generation because the battle for equal rights was not over, National List MP Katherine Rich said yesterday.

Invited to speak by the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women Otago branch, Mrs Rich chose the topic "Feminism is not an F Word" before addressing the more than 70 people at the Hutton Theatre, at Otago Museum.

"My husband read the [advertisement for the lecture in the] Otago Daily Times and said: "What the hell are you doing?".

The provocative title was chosen because young women often told her the battle for equal rights had been won, and the word feminism, to them, conjured up images of "hairy armpits" and "burning bras".

Feminism should be seen neither as a dirty word, nor as a relic of some forgotten past, Mrs Rich said.

She was proud to be called a feminist and "people say they are really surprised by that".

Bringing back the "Girls can do anything" campaign was one way to encourage girls to realise their ambitions, as the world was a different place once they left school.

There was "still huge progress to be made", particularly around pay disparity, she said.

A survey carried out by Mrs Rich on policy analysts in various ministries revealed men were paid between $2000 and $28,000 more than women even when working in more senior roles.

While great progress had been made in recent years, representation of women in the workforce and pay equality were still issues worth fighting for, she said.

"There is no silver-bullet solution."

In February, Mrs Rich announced she was stepping down from Parliament to concentrate on her family and a new career direction.

"I have had a good nine years," she said.

"I leave pretty positive about the whole democratic process.

"Politics isn't a job. It is a life, all day and every day . . . and the public don't deserve anything less."

Mrs Rich said she was inspired to enter politics after hearing former National Party MP Marilyn Waring speak at St Hilda's Collegiate School.

"I was just 13 years old and I have never forgotten her speech".

Ms Waring was one of the first people she contacted after being demoted by former National Party leader, Don Brash.

"I rung her up and said we may have some things in common."

One highlight during her three terms in Parliament was watching the first female speaker of the House, Margaret Wilson, be received by former Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright and Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Not since she attended the Outram Brownies in 1975 had she witnessed three females in charge, she said.

"When my daughter grows up I hope she gets to see something like this again."

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