Notwithstanding the obvious gains since 1893, we need to do more. Women have been admitted to the Bar since 1897, but remain under-represented in senior roles in the legal profession. Moreover, female lawyers are greatly under-represented in appearances before the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The first female QCs were appointed in 1988 but, since that date, less than 20% of QCs appointed have been women. Gender disparities remain evident in the wider population. Although the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1972, there is still a pay difference of nearly ten percent between men and women in Aotearoa (increasing to fifteen percent for Wāhine Māori). Rates of family violence (a particular concern of Kate Sheppard’s) have increased in recent times and more than a quarter of women will experience intimate partner violence or sexual violence in their lifetime. The intersection of identities can exacerbate challenges. For example, our Rainbow community faces significant additional discrimination, as do disabled New Zealanders.
Poet Emma Lazarus put it well when she said, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”