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Marilyn Waring

Marilyn Waring New Zealand politician

New Zealand politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro New Zealand politician
Is Activist Politician Writer Economist Farmer Feminist Educator
From New Zealand
Type Academia Activism Finance Literature Politics
Gender female
Birth 7 October 1952, Ngaruawahia
Age: 67 years
Star sign LibraLibra
The details

Marilyn Joy Waring, CNZM (born 7 October 1952), is a New Zealand feminist, a politician, an activist for female human rights and environmental issues, a development consultant and United Nations expert, an author and an academic, known as a principal founder of the discipline of feminist economics.
She served as a member of the Parliament of New Zealand 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. Waring precipitated the New Zealand general election, 1984 by threatening to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation, leading Prime Minister Rob Muldoon to call a snap election, stating that Waring's "feminist anti-nuclear stance" threatened his ability to govern. The nuclear-free New Zealand legislation was subsequently enacted by the new Labour government, and has been a sacrosanct touchstone of New Zealand foreign policy since.
After leaving parliament, Waring obtained a D.Phil. in political economy (1989). 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."
Since 2006, Marilyn 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. She became a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2008 New Year's Honours List, for her services to women and economics, and was awarded an honorary D.Litt. in 2011. In 2012, she was included on the Wired Magazine Smart List of "50 people who will change the world." 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.


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'.

Waring speaks publicly on gay and lesbian rights, most recently in support of same-sex marriages. The New Zealand Truth tabloid newspaper "outed" her as a lesbian in 1976. She refused to comment at the time and the Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon, moved swiftly to minimize publicity and protect her, the general attitude among politicians being that it was a private matter. 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.

She teaches on the inequities of globalization and the misery it causes in countries like India or China. She also gives conferences to high schools.


Early life

In 1973, Waring received an Honours BA in political science and international politics from Victoria University of Wellington.

Political career

Parliament of New Zealand
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. 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.

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.

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

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.

Academic work

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."

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

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, and in 1990 a University of Waikato Research Council grant to continue work on "female human rights."

Between 1991 and 1994, Marilyn 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, Marilyn 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.

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." 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."

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."

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


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.


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. She organised her farm for maximum simplicity and self-sufficiency. Waring left the farm to become a city dweller on turning 50.

Awards and recognitions

  • 2014 New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) Economics Award - to recognise and reward specific contributions in the fields of applied economics, economic dissemination, and economic policymaking affecting New Zealand
  • 2013 Inaugural Westpac/Fairfax "Women of Influence Awards" - winner of the Science and Innovation Category
  • 2013 Amnesty International New Zealand’s Human Rights Defender Award
  • 2011 Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) honoris causa, Glasgow Caledonian University, for her "outstanding international contribution towards the understanding of feminism and female human rights"
  • 2008 Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for her "services to women and economics"
  • 2000 The College of Nurses (Aotearoa) announce an annual award for graduate study called the Marilyn Waring Scholarship
  • 1995 Hiroshima Day: Special Award of NZ Foundation for Peace Studies for Peacework
  • 1993 Suffrage Centenary Medal
  • 1990 Commemorative Medal
  • 1977 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal

Selected works

  • 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


  • Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics (1995). Directed by Terre Nash and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The film can be viewed at nfb.ca.


  • Marilyn Waring on TUC Radio. This is an audio version of "Who's Counting?" video (also called "Counting for Nothing"). Direct link to audio is here.


  • Working Class Hero (John Lennon cover) b/w Couldn't Get It Right (Climax Blues Band cover) (1980).


  • Margunn Bjørnholt and Ailsa McKay (eds.), Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics, with a foreword by Julie A. Nelson, Toronto, Demeter Press/Brunswick Books, 2014, ISBN 9781927335277

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