Marilyn Waring

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Dame Marilyn Waring

Waring in 2012
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Raglan
In office
1975 – 1978
Preceded byDouglas Carter
Succeeded byElectorate abolished
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waipa
In office
1978 – 1984
Preceded byElectorate re-established
Succeeded byKatherine O'Regan
Chair of the Public Expenditure Committee
In office
Board member of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
In office
Personal details
Born (1952-10-07) 7 October 1952 (age 67)
Ngāruawāhia, New Zealand
Political partyNational

Dame Marilyn Joy Waring DNZM (born 7 October 1952) is a New Zealand public policy scholar, international development consultant, former politician, environmentalist, feminist and a principal founder of feminist economics.

In 1975, aged 23, she became New Zealand's youngest member of parliament for the conservative New Zealand National Party. As a member of parliament she chaired the Public Expenditure Committee. Her support of the opposition Labour Party's proposed nuclear-free New Zealand policy was instrumental in precipitating the 1984 New Zealand general election, and she left parliament in 1984.

On leaving parliament she moved into academia; she is best known for her 1988 book If Women Counted, and she obtained a D.Phil in political economy in 1989. Through her research and writing she is known as the principal founder of the discipline of feminist economics. Since 2006, Waring has been a Professor of Public Policy at the Institute of Public Policy at AUT in Auckland, New Zealand, focusing on governance and public policy, political economy, gender analysis, and human rights. She has taken part in international aid work and served as a consultant to UNDP and other international organisations.

She has outspokenly criticised the concept of GDP, the economic measure that became a foundation of the United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA) following World War II. She criticises a system which 'counts oil spills and wars as contributors to economic growth, while child-rearing and housekeeping are deemed valueless'.[1][2] Her work has influenced academics, government accounting in a number of countries, and United Nations policies.

Early life[edit]

Marilyn Waring grew up at Taupiri, where her parents owned a butchery. Her great-grandfather Harry (Arthur Henry) Waring had emigrated to New Zealand from Hopesay in Herefordshire, England in 1881, and established the family butchery business at Taupiri.[3] In 1927 Harry Waring stood unsuccessfully for election to parliament in the Raglan seat for the Reform Party, the forerunner of the National Party.[4][5][6] A talented soprano in her youth, her parents had hoped that she would become a classical singer.[7] In 1973, Waring received an Honours BA in political science and international politics from Victoria University of Wellington.


Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1975–1978 38th Raglan National
1978–1981 39th Waipa National
1981–1984 40th Waipa National

Waring joined the National Party while still a student at Victoria University. She joined the party because she supported the opposition National MP Venn Young who introduced a private member's bill into parliament for homosexual law reform; this was opposed by Norman Kirk, the Labour Party Prime Minister.[8]

In the 1975 general election, she became the New Zealand National Party member of Parliament for the Raglan electorate.[9] Her selection in 1975 reflected her "obvious ability and ... well-articulated convictions", but was helped because the two best-known local candidates disliked each other, and when one was eliminated his support went to Waring to prevent the selection of the other.[10] Aged 23, she was the youngest member of parliament at the time of her election.[11]

Together with Colleen Dewe, at the time of their election, they were only the fourteenth and fifteenth women elected as a Member of Parliament in New Zealand. She was only one of two women in the government caucus and only one of four women elected in the 1975 election. After the 1978 election she was the sole female government MP, until Ruth Richardson was elected at the 1981 election.[12] Both Waring and Richardson were members of the Women's Electoral Lobby.[13]

She fell out with Prime Minister Robert Muldoon almost immediately, and there were several episodes of conflict, although they also shared views on some issues such as welfare payments to single mothers, where Muldoon was a believer in the welfare state.

During her period in Parliament, she served as Chair of the Public Expenditure Committee, Senior Government Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and on the Disarmament and Arms Control Committee. The appointment to the Public Expenditure Committee after the 1978 election was a considerable achievement for a member of only three years' standing. According to Barry Gustafson,

Waring recalled that she 'just fell off my chair' when Muldoon, without any prior consultation, announced at caucus that she would be chairperson of the very influential Public Expenditure Committee. This was a major position for an MP of only three years' experience and even more so in light of Waring's youth and controversial first term. Muldoon, however, knew that Waring had similar views and values on the economy to his own and that she had the intellectual capacity and drive to cope with complex investigation and analysis. He was also well aware that she would not be intimidated by ministers or senior officials.[14]

She also served on the Select committee for Violent Offending, taking a particular interest in the Aroha Trust, formed by Black Power women.[15] As a Member of Parliament, she was also the New Zealand Observer at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and chaired the New Zealand Delegation to the OECD Conference on the Role of Women in the Economy in 1978.[16]

Waring had come especially to disagree with the National Party policy over the issue of a nuclear-free New Zealand and, on 14 June 1984, she informed the leadership that she would vote independently on nuclear issues, disarmament issues, and rape but would continue to support the Government on confidence. Since the National Party had only a one-seat majority, the government would be likely (though not certain) to lose on an issue Muldoon regarded as one of national security.

That evening Muldoon decided to call a snap election to be held on 14 July (a general election was due at the end of the year). The election was a disaster for the National Party. Waring told Muldoon's biographer that she had deliberately sought to provoke Muldoon into this action.[17] The nuclear-free New Zealand legislation was subsequently enacted by the new Labour government. In her autobiography, The Political Years, she described laughing as Muldoon berated her in a parliamentary office, and recounted eating an apple to taunt him as Muldoon drank and grew enraged.[18]

Academic work[edit]

In 1984 Waring left politics and returned to academia, where her research has focused on feminist economics, well-being, human rights and on economic factors that influence legislation and aid.

In 1988 she published If Women Counted (originally published with an introduction by Gloria Steinem). The book has also been published as Counting for Nothing, but remains most widely known under the first title. It criticises the use of GDP as a surrogate for "progress," and argues that lacking valuation of women and nature drive decisions in globalisation that have unintended but terrible consequences for the world. According to Julie A. Nelson,

"Marilyn Waring's work woke people up. She showed exactly how the unpaid work traditionally done by women has been made invisible within national accounting systems, and the damage this causes. Her book [...] encouraged and influenced a wide range of work on ways, both numerical and otherwise, of valuing, preserving, and rewarding the work of care that sustains our lives. By pointing to a similar neglect of the natural environment, she also issued a wake-up call to issues of ecological sustainability that have only grown more pressing over time. In recent decades, the field of feminist economics has broadened and widened to encompass these topics and more."[19]

A highly influential thinker and practitioner, her work has influenced both academia and United Nations policies.[20] If Women Counted "persuaded the United Nations to redefine gross domestic product, inspired new accounting methods in dozens of countries and became the founding document of the discipline of feminist economics."[11] Waring has continued to challenge governments to adopt her work even though some countries such as Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and South Korea have recognised unpaid work and improved data collection and statistics to inform policy making.[11]

In 1989 Waring gained a D.Phil. in political economy from the University of Waikato with a thesis on the United Nations System of National Accounts,[21][22] and in 1990 a University of Waikato Research Council grant to continue work on "female human rights."

Between 1991 and 1994, Waring served as Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and the Politics of Human Rights with the Department of Politics at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

In May 2006, Waring was appointed Professor of Public Policy at the Institute for Public Policy (IPP) at AUT. Her research focuses on governance and public policy, political economy, gender analysis, and human rights.

She was one of 16 prominent intellectuals invited to contribute to a French publication on human rights around the globe in 2007, along with Ken Loach, Maude Barlow, Walden Bello and Susan George.[23]

In 2014, the anthology Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics, edited by Margunn Bjørnholt and Ailsa McKay, was published. According to Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, the book explores "a wide range of issues—including the fundamental meaning of economic growth and activity to consumption, health care, mortality, unpaid household work, mothering, education, nutrition, equality, and sustainability" and reveals "the breadth, depth, and substance that can grow from innovative ideas and critical analysis."[24] Diane Elson argues that "despite many valiant efforts, women do not as yet really count in the conduct of economic policy. This book is an imaginative contribution to an ongoing struggle."[25]

According to Wired,

"Marilyn Waring is an extremely clear thinker about the disastrous consequences of using measures such as GDP as a surrogate for "progress" or "wellbeing" in a country. She has also analysed how economics as it is currently practised as a "science" is radically defective and that it drives decisions in globalisation that have unintended but terrible consequences for the world. We must realise that we can't tackle the problems in health care, environmental issues, food security, democracy and women's rights in isolation; they must be seen as a set of interrelated issues, and anyone who wants to make a difference in the human condition must look at all of these factors."[20]

International aid work[edit]

Waring has led the Gender and Governance team for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. She also led UNDP's largest project in the Asia Pacific for the Gender and Economic Policy Management Initiative. She led the Commonwealth Secretariat teams on Unpaid Work and HIV/Aids and on Social Protection. She has also served as a technical expert on gender and poverty for both UNDP and AUSAid.[26]


She and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku contributed the piece "Foreigners in our own land" to the 1984 anthology Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology, edited by Robin Morgan.[27]

Waring speaks publicly on gay and lesbian rights, most recently in support of same-sex marriages.[28] The New Zealand Truth tabloid newspaper "outed" her as a lesbian in 1976.[29] She refused to comment at the time[30] and the Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, moved swiftly to minimize publicity and protect her, the general attitude among politicians being that it was a private matter.[31] Also, Waring's strong pro-choice identification and vocal feminism would overshadow her lesbianism. Since she left Parliament in 1984, Waring has more openly acknowledged her sexual orientation.[32]

Appointments and affiliations[edit]

Waring was a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand from 2005 to 2009.[33] She has been a consultant for, and a board member of, international organisations such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), United Nations Development Programme, Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), the International Development Research Centre (Ottawa, Canada) and the Association for Women's Rights in Development.[22][34]


Since 1984 and in between her academic and activist engagements, Waring farmed angora goats and dry stock, latterly on her hill-farm north of Auckland. Her experiences of life on the farm, international questions, New Zealand politics, feminist issues, and women of influence, were recorded In the Lifetime of a Goat: Writings 1984–2000; her popular Listener columns Letters to My Sisters from 1984 to 1989, form the basis.[35] She organised her farm for maximum simplicity and self-sufficiency.[36] Waring gave up goat farming in 2003.[8]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Waring's work was the subject of a 1995 film by Oscar-winning director Terre Nash, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, titled Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics.[45] In 2012, she was included on the Wired Magazine Smart List of "50 people who will change the world."[20][46] An anthology named Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics was published in 2014, edited by Margunn Bjørnholt and Ailsa McKay and with contributions of a diverse group of scholars on advances made in the field since the publication of If Women Counted.[47]

Waring's work is discussed in Melinda Gates' 2019 book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World;[48][49] former President Barack Obama starred in a comedy sketch in order to promote the book.[50][51]

Selected works[edit]

  • Waring, Marilyn. Women, Politics, and Power: Essays, Unwin Paperbacks-Port Nicholson Press (1984). Issues on women in Parliament, apartheid and New Zealand sport, Nuclear Free New Zealand. ISBN 0-86861-562-5
  • Waring, Marilyn. If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, Harper & Row (1988), republished by Macmillan, Allen & Unwin and University of Toronto Press several times under its original title and as Counting for Nothing
  • Waring, Marilyn. Three Masquerades: Essays on Equality, Work and Hu(man) Rights, Auckland: Auckland University Press with Bridget Williams Books (1996) ISBN 0-8020-8076-6. Three Masquerades includes references to Waring's years in Parliament, which she describes as "an experience of counterfeit equality". It also looks at her experiences with farming and with the development field, where she was "daily confronted with the travesty of excluding women's unpaid work from the policy-making process".
  • Waring, Marilyn. In the Lifetime of a Goat: Writings 1984–2000, Bridget Williams Books (April 2004) ISBN 1-877242-09-8
  • Waring, Marilyn. Managing Mayhem : Work Life Balance in New Zealand, Dunmore Publishing (2007). ISBN 9781877399282
  • Waring, Marilyn. 1 Way 2 C the World: Writings 1984–2006, University of Toronto Press (2011)
  • Anit N Mukherjee, Marilyn Waring, Meena Shivdas, Robert Carr. Who Cares?: The Economics of Dignity, Commonwealth Secretariat (2011). ISBN 978-1-84929-019-7
  • Waring, Marilyn & Kearins, Kate. Thesis Survivor Stories, Exisle Publishing (2011). Practical Advice on Getting Through Your PhD or Masters Thesis. ISBN 978-0-9582997-2-5
  • Anit N Mukherjee, Elizabeth Reid, Marilyn Waring, Meena Shivdas. Anticipatory Social Protection: Claiming dignity and rights, Commonwealth Secretariat (2013). ISBN 978-1-84929-095-1
  • Waring, Marilyn. Still Counting: Wellbeing, Women's Work and Policy-making. Bridget Williams Books (2019) ISBN 9781988545530
  • Waring, Marilyn. Marilyn Waring: the Political Years. Bridget Williams Books (2019). ISBN 978-1-98854-593-6




See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Bjørnholt, Margunn (2010). "Waring, Marilyn". In Andrea O'Reilly (ed.). Encyclopedia of Motherhood. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. pp. 1260–1261. ISBN 978-1-4129-6846-1.
  2. ^ Fischlin, Daniel; Nandorfy, Martha (2007). The Concise Guide to Global Human Rights. Black Rose Books. ISBN 978-1-55164-294-9.
  3. ^ "Memories of the meat trade". Number 8 Network. 11 March 2012.
  4. ^ Waring, Marilyn (2009). 1 Way 2 C the World: Writings 1984–2006. University of Toronto Press. p. 10.
  5. ^ "DEATHS (New Zealand Herald, 1942-01-26)". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  6. ^ "OBITUARY (New Zealand Herald, 1942-01-26)". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  7. ^ "Making women's unpaid work count". The Monthly. 1 May 2018.
  8. ^ a b Espiner, Guyon (3 December 2012). "Interview: Marilyn Waring". Noted. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  9. ^ McCallum, Janet (1993). Women in the House – Members of Parliament in New Zealand. Wellington: Cape Catley. ISBN 0-908561-41-5.
  10. ^ Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years: A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. p. 286. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  11. ^ a b c Langeland, Terje (18 June 2013). "Women Unaccounted for in Global Economy Proves Waring Influence". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  12. ^ Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. p. 286. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  13. ^ Julian, Rae (2018). "Women's Electoral Lobby of New Zealand 1975–2003". New Zealand history online. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  14. ^ Gustafson, Barry (2000). His Way: A Biography of Robert Muldoon. Auckland: Auckland University Press. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-86940-243-3.
  15. ^ Desmond, Pip (2012). Trust: a true story of women & gangs. Auckland, NZ: Read How You Want. p. 241. ISBN 978-1-4596-3656-9. OCLC 980285105.
  16. ^ "Marilyn Waring | The Institute of Politics at Harvard University". Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  17. ^ Waring interviewed by Gustafson, 24 February 1993, cited Gustafson, His Way p. 370 n. 33 and n. 38.
  18. ^ [email protected], Boris Jancic Political reporter, NZ Herald (30 December 2019). "New Year Honours: Dame Marilyn Waring's ground-breaking career honoured". NZ Herald – via
  19. ^ Nelson, Julie A. (2014). "Foreword". In Bjørnholt, Margunn; McKay, Ailsa (eds.). Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics. Demeter Press. pp. ix–x. ISBN 9781927335277.
  20. ^ a b c "The Smart List 2012: 50 people who will change the world". Wired UK. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  21. ^ "Marilyn Waring joins AUT". Inside AUT. July 2006. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  22. ^ a b "Marilyn Waring biography". Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  23. ^ "Rebel voice of the world". Inside AUT. March 2007. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  24. ^ Sullivan, T.E. (2014). "Counting on Marilyn Waring: new advances in feminist economics". Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. 52 (3): 52–1517. doi:10.5860/CHOICE.185300.
  25. ^ Elson, Diane (2015). "Book Review: Counting on Marilyn Waring: new advances in feminist economics". Feminist Review. 109 (109): e9–e11. doi:10.1057/fr.2014.58. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  26. ^ "New Year Honours 2020 - Citations for Dames Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit". New Year Honours 2020 - Citations for Dames Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
  27. ^ Morgan, Robin (1985). Sisterhood is global : the international women's movement anthology. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 9780140080056.
  28. ^ Duder, Karen (2001). "Waring, Marilyn". In Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (ed.). Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present. London: Routledge. p. 433. ISBN 0-415-29161-5.
  29. ^ Gianoulis, Tina (2006). "Waring, Marilyn". In Claude J. Summers (ed.). glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Archived from the original on 30 October 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  30. ^ Young, Hugh (2002). "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender New Zealand History. Part 2". Queer History New Zealand. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  31. ^ Gustafson, Barry (2000). His Way: A Biography of Robert Muldoon. Auckland: Auckland University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-86940-243-3.
  32. ^ Young, Hugh (2002). "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender New Zealand History. Part 4". Queer History New Zealand. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  33. ^ "Government appoints Reserve Bank directors". Reserve Bank of New Zealand. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  34. ^ Collins, Simon (3 May 2014). "Feminist's ideas resonating in unlikely places". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  35. ^ Waring, Marilyn (2000). "Introduction". In the Lifetime of a Goat: Writings 1984–2000. Bridget Williams Books. p. xi. ISBN 9781877242090.
  36. ^ "Marilyn Waring Pastoral Politico". Adventure Divas. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  37. ^ "New Year Honours 2020: The full list". The New Zealand Herald. 31 December 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  38. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2019: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. 16 October 2019.
  39. ^ "Deloitte Top 200 Award Winners Announced for 2018". Deloitte New Zealand. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  40. ^ "Professor Marilyn Waring – 2014 Economics Award winner". NZIER. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  41. ^ "24 October 2013 » Westpac New Zealand". Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  42. ^ "Amnesty honours Marilyn Waring – 2013 Human Rights Defender". 6 May 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  43. ^ "Professor awarded with Honorary Degree from Scotland". Auckland University of Technology. 24 May 2011. Archived from the original on 10 June 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  44. ^ "New Year Honours List 2008". New Zealand. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  45. ^ "Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  46. ^ "Marilyn Waring makes Wired magazine 'Smart List'". 23 March 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  47. ^ Bjørnholt, Margunn; McKay, Ailsa, eds. (2014). Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics. Demeter Press. ISBN 9781927335277. With a foreword by Julie A. Nelson.
  48. ^ "Book excerpt: Melinda Gates' 'The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World'". ABC News.
  49. ^ Gates, Melinda (2019). The moment of lift : how empowering women changes the world (First U.S. ed.). New York: Flatiron Books. ISBN 9781250313577. OCLC 1044553839.
  50. ^ Darrisaw, Michelle (10 May 2019). "Barack Obama Is the Ultimate Funny Guy in a Video Made for Melinda Gates". Oprah Magazine.
  51. ^ "Melinda Gates draws huge crowd for hometown finale of 'Moment of Lift' tour, with surprise intro". GeekWire. 10 May 2019.
  52. ^ "Program Information – TUC Radio: Marilyn Waring: Sex, Lies & Global Economics|A-Infos Radio Project". Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  53. ^ "Marilyn Waring – Working Class Hero". Discogs. Retrieved 4 May 2010.

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Douglas Carter
Member of Parliament for Raglan
Constituency abolished, recreated in 1984
Title next held by
Simon Upton
Constituency recreated after abolition in 1969
Title last held by
Sir Leslie Munro
Member of Parliament for Waipa
Succeeded by
Katherine O'Regan
Preceded by
Chair of the Public Expenditure Committee
Succeeded by