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The race to bridge the gap: An analysis of women's policy within the spectrum of New Zealand politics in the lead up to the 2014 general election

Women in Aotearoa New Zealand were the first in the developed world to receive the right to vote in parliamentary elections. However, despite this early promise of gender equality, the introduction of a variety of initiatives aimed to foster equality has had limited success, and such equality remains a contentious issue. This paper focuses on political communication surrounding women’s affairs in the most recent general election in Aotearoa New Zealand. I examine the media campaigns and policy statements from seven political parties to determine how each party represents the gender divide and seeks to address women’s issues. My analysis is based on interviews with party spokespersons for women’s affairs and documented party policy sourced from both websites and party representatives. I draw on thematic and critical discourse analysis to determine how messages about women’s affairs are constructed and positioned in relation to current socio-political issues. Through the implementation of gendered communication theory, which acknowledges that men and women observe and practice different communication tools and styles, and social construction feminism—the exercise of gendering as a consistent aspect of who we are, how we view others, as well as our societal standing—my analysis of the findings identifies the dominant discourses within the political spectrum in New Zealand. I discuss the implications of the various party policies in relation, for example, to parental leave and domestic violence and whether the enactment of these policies is likely to prove beneficial to New Zealand women. My analysis of the findings highlights the strategic direction of current policy aimed at closing the gender gap and addressing women’s issues in Aotearoa New Zealand, represented through themes. The discussion demonstrates that differing perspectives of equality as opposed to equity require further consideration before significant progress can be made towards developing cohesive, culturally relevant practices, as opposed to the temporary measures often instigated by ideology to support a political campaign.
Type of thesis
Holdsworth, R. E. (2015). The race to bridge the gap: An analysis of women’s policy within the spectrum of New Zealand politics in the lead up to the 2014 general election (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9763
University of Waikato
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