Is change happening fast enough?
It was a resounding NO from almost everyone in the room at the game changers evening to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the women of New Zealand winning the right to vote.
As we gathered in the penthouse of the High Commission, faces of game changes of the past and present watched as we sipped wine and prepared to be challenged and inspired, although we didn’t know to what extent.
So often in our everyday lives we get together with our friends for a wine that can turn into a whine. But on this night as men, women, Maori, pakeha and well, everybody, gathered at the feet of our six wise panellists (they were on a podium), it was obvious the organisers wanted this to be forward thinking, discussing how we, together, can put change into motion. How can we progress equality and diversity in society?
“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” declared independent journalist and coach Mary Fenwick. She’s on a crusade to encourage more young women to aspire to have political power. “But it’s a circular thing as they need to see women in political power and not see these women sacrifice to an unreasonable level to achieve it.”
A woman who knows leadership is Lieutenant Colonel Kate Lee, who’ll soon head home to New Zealand, determined to continue to do her bit for the equality cause. “Culture is a leadership responsibility and everyone’s responsibility. We all need to be inclusive in everything we do and everything we say.”
Many of us despaired at the headlines about the abuse of power in kiwi law firms recently but listening to Alastair Curruthers speak would’ve eased your mind and given you hope. A champion of the arts and CEO of two of New Zealand’s biggest law firms, he promoted intervention over quotas. “Radical transparency on pay, participation and data that constantly challenges the person in charge to do better is a faster way to get change.“
All the panellists spoke of the importance of keeping the conversation and the education going. Role models are vital and many young women like consultant Aster Thackery, are showing the way by opening their own doors to greater success. “If organisational structures aren’t changing, women need to make structures that do work for us.”
The discussion flowed freely on the podium as the panellists swapped stories and ideas. The influence of these people extends fair beyond Britain’s boundaries. Simon Morely, the brain behind fair-trade gurus Karma Cola has been helping to educate women in Africa where the cola is sourced. Simon spoke of the women coming into power into Sierra Leone after the civil war. Mary Fenwick blew our minds with fact that Rwanda has the largest number of women in parliament at 66%. The West has a lot to learn.
So what next? Paddy Austin, a leader in private and public sector organisations feels there’s been a lot of progress but the failure of those in power to see childcare as society’s responsibility will continue to hold women back. “If businesses and organisation want to have full participation of the best and brightest working in society, then they have to be prepared to invest in it.”
As the evening wrapped up and one last glass of wine was poured, there was one more speaker, via video message, who knows all too well the judgement that still impedes women, Prime Minister Jacinda Adern. She spoke of the need to make changes so it’s easier for women to make choices. And, as the first country to give women the vote, it was now incumbent upon us to keep progressing. “We all have cause to be very proud of the Kiwis who represent us abroad and you’re amongst them so thank you again.”