Marilyn Waring

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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 66)
Ngaruawahia, Waikato
Political partyNational

Marilyn Joy Waring CNZM (born 7 October 1952) is a New Zealand feminist, politician, activist for female human rights and environmental issues, development consultant and United Nations expert, and author and academic, known as a principal founder of the discipline of feminist economics.[1]

She served as a member of the New Zealand Parliament for the conservative New Zealand National Party, successively representing the constituencies of Raglan and Waipa, between 1975 and 1984. Aged 23, she was the youngest member of parliament at the time of her election; as a member of Parliament, she served as Chair of the Public Expenditure Committee, Senior Government Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and member of the Disarmament and Arms Control Committee. Between 1978 and 1981 she was the sole woman in the government caucus.[2] Waring precipitated the 1984 general election by threatening to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation, leading Prime Minister Robert Muldoon to call a snap election, stating that Waring's "feminist anti-nuclear stance" threatened his ability to govern;[3] the nuclear-free New Zealand legislation was subsequently enacted by the new Labour government.

After leaving parliament, Waring obtained a D.Phil. in political economy (1989).[4] Her 1988 book If Women Counted (originally published with an introduction by Gloria Steinem) is a feminist analysis of modern economics, that argues that women's work and the value of Nature are not taken into account, it "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."[1]

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 held Fellowships at Harvard and Rutgers Universities. Waring was a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand from 2005 to 2009, and has worked as a consultant for organizations such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), United Nations Development Programme, Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), and the International Development Research Centre (Ottawa, Canada).

Waring's work was the subject of a 1995 film by Oscar-winning director Terre Nash, titled Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics.[5] She became a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2008 New Year Honours, for her services to women and economics,[6] and was awarded an honorary D.Litt. in 2011.[7] In 2012, she was included on the Wired Magazine Smart List of "50 people who will change the world."[8][9] 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.[10]


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.[11] A talented soprano in her youth, her parents had hoped that she would become a classical singer.[12]


Waring's recent work has focused on women's work as an issue of international human rights, she has also done activist work on behalf of women imprisoned or denied refugee status because of what she calls "feminist political issues beyond the restricted definitions and practices of international human rights".

She became well known in Canada following a 1995 National Film Board of Canada video documentary on her work, Who's Counting: Sex, Lies and Global Economics.

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'.[13][14]

Waring speaks publicly on gay and lesbian rights, most recently in support of same-sex marriages;[15] the New Zealand Truth tabloid newspaper "outed" her as a lesbian in 1976.[16] She refused to comment at the time[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

She teaches on the inequities of globalization, and gives conferences to high schools.[citation needed]


Early life[edit]

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

In the 1975 general election, she became the New Zealand National Party member of Parliament for the Raglan electorate,[20] 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.[21]

Her great grandfather,[22] Harry (Arthur Henry) Waring,[23] had contested the Raglan seat for the forerunner of National, the Reform Party, in 1927.[24]

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. Both Waring and Richardson were members of the Women's Electoral Lobby.[25]

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.[26]

She also served on the Select committee for Violent Offending, taking a particular interest in the Aroha Trust, formed by Black Power women;[27] 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.[28]

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.[29]

Academic work[edit]

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

In 1988 she published If Women Counted; 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."[30]

A highly influential thinker and practitioner, her work has influenced both academia and United Nations policies.[8]

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,[4][31] 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.[32]

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."[33] 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."[34]

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."[8]

Waring's work is discussed in Melinda Gates' book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.[35]

She was a board member of the Association for Women's Rights in Development.[36]


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.[37]


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.[38] She organised her farm for maximum simplicity and self-sufficiency.[39] Waring left the farm to become a city dweller on turning 50.[citation needed]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

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. Marilyn Waring: the Political Years. Bridget Williams Books (2019). ISBN 978-1-98854-593-6




See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Marilyn Waring on the Australian hero of nuclear-free New Zealand". Spinoff. Spinoff. 14 November 2016. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Marilyn Waring joins AUT". Inside AUT. July 2006. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  6. ^ "New Year honour for Marilyn Waring". 31 December 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Professor awarded with Honorary Degree from Scotland". Auckland University of Technology. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  8. ^ a b c "The Smart List 2012: 50 people who will change the world". Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  9. ^ "Marilyn Waring makes Wired magazine 'Smart List'". 23 March 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Memories of the meat trade
  12. ^ Making women’s unpaid work count
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Fischlin, Daniel; Nandorfy, Martha (2007). The Concise Guide to Global Human Rights. Black Rose Books. ISBN 978-1-55164-294-9.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Gianoulis, Tina (2006). "Waring, Marilyn". In Claude J. Summers (ed.). glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture.
  17. ^ Young, Hugh (2002). "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender New Zealand History. Part 2". Queer History New Zealand. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  18. ^ Gustafson, Barry (2000). His Way: A Biography of Robert Muldoon. Auckland: Auckland University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-86940-243-3.
  19. ^ Young, Hugh (2002). "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender New Zealand History. Part 4". Queer History New Zealand. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  20. ^ McCallum, Janet (1993). Women in the House - Members of Parliament in New Zealand. Wellington: Cape Catley. ISBN 0-908561-41-5.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Waring, Marilyn (2009). 1 Way 2 C the World: Writings 1984-2006. University of Toronto Press. p. 10.
  23. ^ "DEATHS (New Zealand Herald, 1942-01-26)". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  24. ^ "OBITUARY (New Zealand Herald, 1942-01-26)". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  25. ^ Julian, Rae (2018). "Women's Electoral Lobby of New Zealand 1975-2003". New Zealand history online. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  26. ^ Gustafson, Barry (2000). His Way: A Biography of Robert Muldoon. Auckland: Auckland University Press. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-86940-243-3.
  27. ^ Trust: A true story of Women and Gangs. Pip Desmond. 2009. Page 241.
  28. ^ "Marilyn Waring | The Institute of Politics at Harvard University". Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  29. ^ Waring interviewed by Gustafson, 24 February 1993, cited Gustafson, His Way p. 370 n. 33 and n. 38.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Marilyn Waring biography". Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  32. ^ "Rebel voice of the world". Inside AUT. March 2007. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  33. ^ Sullivan, T.E. (2014). "Counting on Marilyn Waring: new advances in feminist economics". Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. 52 (3). doi:10.5860/CHOICE.185300.
  34. ^ Elson, Diane (2015). "Book Review: Counting on Marilyn Waring: new advances in feminist economics". Feminist Review (109). doi:10.1057/fr.2014.58. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  35. ^
  36. ^ "Board of Directors". AWID. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  37. ^ "Table of Contents: Sisterhood is global :". Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  38. ^ Waring, Marilyn (2000). "Introduction". In the Lifetime of a Goat: Writings 1984-2000. Bridget Williams Books. p. xi. ISBN 9781877242090.
  39. ^ "Marilyn Waring Pastoral Politico". Adventure Divas. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  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. ^ "Program Information - TUC Radio: Marilyn Waring: Sex, Lies & Global Economics|A-Infos Radio Project". Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  44. ^ "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