Education and Skills

New Zealand is replacing 'sexist' road signs - after a 7-year-old complained

Road signs stand in Mongolia's South Gobi desert, awaiting to be deployed during the development of Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in Mongolia November 10, 2007. Mining firms are telling Mongolia's parliament to unlock the country's mining sector by taking a landmark decision on a multi-billion dollar copper deal. Oyu Tolgoi's potential was enough to make geologists' eyes bulge on a recent tour of the site, where traditional Mongolian white tents stand alongside thousands of crates containing 720 km of drill core -- rock drilled out during the exploration phase. Picture taken November 10, 2007.   REUTERS/Tom Miles   (MONGOLIA) - GF2DWPBYTIAA

From "line men" to "line crew". Image: REUTERS/Tom Miles

Beh Lih Yi
Correspondent, Thomas Reuters Foundation
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Education and Skills?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Education is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


New Zealand's transport authority said on Tuesday it would adopt gender-neutral signs after a 7-year-old girl said it was "wrong and unfair" to suggest only men could work on roadside power lines.

Zoe Carew spotted a "linemen" hazard sign - to warn drivers about workers repairing or installing electricity and telecommunications cables - when she was en route to her grandparents' house last month.

She took issue with the sign because "women can be line workers" too, which she wrote in a letter to the head of the New Zealand Transport Agency, Fergus Gammie.

 The end of the line: Girl, seven, gets her wish as government agree to change gendered roadsigns
Image: Shutterstock/Google Maps/INSIDER

"Why does the sign say 'linemen' when the people working on the lines may be men or women?" she wrote in the letter, which her mother, Caitlin Carew, shared on the social media site Twitter this week.

"I think that this sign is wrong and unfair. Do you agree?" she asked Gammie.

In a letter of reply posted to the agency's official Twitter account on Tuesday, Gammie promised that authorities would replace old signs as they wore out with new ones reading, "line crew".

Gammie cautioned that "this may take some time," and praised Carew for speaking up.

"I commend you for your suggestion and for taking action where you think something unfair should be fixed," he said, offering to have a photo taken with both of them and the new sign.

The agency also said in a Twitter post that it was happy to take on Carew's suggestion as "great ideas can come from anyone, including seven-year-olds".


Carew's mother declined to comment further, while the transport agency was not available.

New Zealand has long had a progressive reputation and was the first nation to give women the right to vote in 1893. Its current prime minister Jacinda Ardern is the country's third female leader.

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Education and SkillsEquity, Diversity and InclusionGlobal Cooperation
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How to harness generative AI and other emerging technologies to close the opportunity gap

Jeff Maggioncalda

June 21, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum