But in New Zealand that was just the beginning.
Almost half of New Zealand’s newly sworn parliament are women and 11% are openly LGBTQ. Both New Zealand’s indigenous Māori and people with Pacific island heritage are slightly more common than the general population.
Politicians from different backgrounds don’t just build numbers in parliament – they hold key positions in power.
Eight of Ardern’s 20 cabinets – the senior legislators – are also women, and a quarter are Māori. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson will be the first openly gay politician to hold this role in New Zealand. And Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, wearing a moko kauae or a traditional Māori face tattoo, is the first indigenous woman in New Zealand history to represent the country in that position.
“It looks like New Zealand,” said Jennifer Curtin, professor of politics and director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland, of the country’s government. “We are no longer manly, pale and stale.”
This is what the new New Zealand parliament looks like
New Zealand already had a relatively diverse parliament. After the 2017 election, 38% of New Zealand’s MPs were women – a record in the country. Now it’s 48%.
The proportion of openly LGBTQ legislators has also increased from 7% to 11%.
However, Māori representation has fallen from 23% in the last election to 21%. This is the lowest Māori representation since 2014, but still higher than the total percentage of people who identify as Māori in the general population – around 17%.
Diversity in the New Zealand Parliament
Almost half are Women, a record in New Zealand. Last choice, 38% of the MPs were women.
More than one in 10 Are parliamentarians openly LGBTQ, the highest percentage in New Zealand history.
A fifth are Māori, New Zealand’s indigenous people. This is higher than the general population, but the lowest share in parliament since 2014.
New Zealand’s parliament has had Māori seats since 1867, shortly after the country was founded, but these have sometimes been viewed as tokenism. Until 1967, Māori candidates were only allowed to hold a limited number of Māori seats, and it was not until 1975 that Māori could decide whether to be included on the Māori electoral roll. Kelvin Davis, Māori and vice chairman of the center-left Ardern Labor Party, said he was satisfied with the indigenous representation in New Zealand’s cabinet. “I think (the Cabinet) is the first time and we are proud to be a part of it,” he said on the public broadcaster Radio New Zealand (RNZ). Labor MP Louisa Wall, who is Māori and lesbian, says the increase in LGBTQ representation will create an even more progressive society. New Zealand introduced same-sex civil unions in 2004, and in 2013 Wall led a bill to make same-sex marriages legal. “We have come a long way and for me it is about representative democracy. We reflect our larger New Zealand population,” Wall said, according to RNZ.
Curtin said that having a representative legislature means a range of perspectives at the decision-making table. “Diversity in itself is good,” she said. “Anything that disturbs the homogeneity and dominance of the white majority or the colonizers of this place.”
This is how it stacks up globally
Of the thousands of active lawmakers around the world, only 194 in 42 countries are openly gay, according to Andrew Reynolds of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.
Of these countries, New Zealand has the highest proportion of openly LGBTQ lawmakers, according to his data, at 11%. (Previously the UK was 8%.)
In New Zealand, 3.5% of adults were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or some other sexual identity as heterosexual. This was the result of a 2018 New Zealand survey of approximately 12,000 households. The reviewers said, however, that the result may “underestimate” the actual proportion as the data was collected through face-to-face interviews. When it comes to gender, New Zealand doesn’t have the highest percentage of female legislators in the world – that title goes to Rwanda, where 61% of the seats in the country’s lower house are held by women. The country lost so many men during the 1994 genocide that women stepped in to take on key leadership roles. But New Zealand’s 48% women’s legislation is the highest of all OECD countries, alongside Mexico (where a 2014 law mandated gender equality in politics), well above the global average of 25%.
New Zealand’s closest neighbor, Australia, only has 31% women in its lower house, while the Pacific Island countries have an average of 6%.
In relation to the total population, New Zealand has slightly more women than men – there are slightly more men than women worldwide, according to the CIA World Factbook.
In terms of ethnic diversity, the country still lacks representatives from Asian New Zealanders, who for example make up 15% of the country’s total population, but only hold 7% of the seats in parliament.
However, demographer Paul Spoonley, a professor at Massey University in Auckland, said that a parliament does not have to fit the general make-up of the population perfectly to be representative – although warned that if it is too different, the public may have confidence in theirs Legislators lose.
“I think it’s really important that a political system represents diversity, including ethnic diversity, of a population and that’s because they have that voice and experience,” he said.
But there is still room for improvement
The meaning of all of this is that the New Zealand Parliament is more like the general population – which in turn makes it more representative.
But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
While one in four New Zealanders has a disability – defined by Statistics New Zealand as a long-term limitation on a person’s ability to perform daily activities – Curtin said she was not aware of any MPs with disabilities. The lawyer for disability, Jonny Wilkinson, criticized this and stated that the “largest minority” in the country is still not represented.
And Spoonley, the demographer, pointed out that diversity involves ensuring a range of age groups and socio-economic backgrounds.
“It’s not a finished project,” said Curtin.
Not everyone in New Zealand enjoys Ardern’s diverse parliament. Right-wing blogger Olivia Pierson said Mahuta’s Moko Kauae was unsuitable for a foreign diplomat, and her appointment showed that Ardern “made a full wokelette on stilts”.
While New Zealand Maybe there is a diverse parliament now, there is no guarantee for the future.
The country’s right-wing parties are less represented than the left-wing parties, so a change of government in 2023 could mean a less inclusive parliament. New Zealand’s main opposition party, National, has only two Māori MPs and only 30% of lawmakers are women. No current national MPs are openly LGBTQ.
National Leader Judith Collins – who famously asked, “Is something wrong when you’re white?” – Has dismissed concerns about diversity, arguing that her party has “diversity of thought”.
Curtin hopes there will be a “contagion” effect, with parties on the right choosing to diversify in order to attract voters.
“We’ve seen ups and downs in the portrayal of women before,” she said. “It cannot be taken for granted that this level of diversity will persist over the next three years.”