Speech: New Horizons for Women Trust Award Ceremony

Speech: New Horizons for Women Trust Award Ceremony

July 23, 2016

I want to tell you a story about a young woman called Jenny.

She grew up in a North Island city with her parents and siblings. She had a happy childhood. 

While her family was not wealthy there always seemed to be enough money to pay the bills and go on holiday.

Her parents encouraged her in her academic efforts and although never top of the class she was a solid student. 

She listened to her parents’ advice and made decisions after weighing up all the pros and cons. 

She felt good about herself and had confidence in her own abilities.

She went to University where she avoided getting into drugs or alcohol. She made good choices around boyfriends.

After graduating she went on her OE where she met her future husband. 

They had a happy, respectful marriage and her husband took equal responsibility in the care of their two children. 

Her career trajectory did not miss a beat when she returned to the workplace from parental leave.

That's the story.

But I should have begun it with "Once upon a time" and ended it with “she lived happily ever after " because it is mostly complete fiction, a modern day fairy tale.

Is there anyone in this room who didn’t have at some point in their life have confidence issues ranging from being body conscious, insecure, having low self-esteem, experiencing anxiety or being a sufferer of imposter syndrome?       

Is there any one is this room who has not made a poor decision or decisions around alcohol, drugs, choosing partners, or major life events?

Is there anyone in the room who listened to their parents?

If there is, I congratulate you. You are indeed fortunate.

I certainly can’t put my hand up to any of these.

We are all imperfect and we all live imperfect lives, which is not necessarily a bad thing. 

I will enlarge on that later on.

For some, the aftermath of self-doubt, choices made or factors beyond their control may have prevented them grabbing hold of that first chance when it presented itself or open the door when opportunity came knocking.

This is what the New Horizon Trust Awards are about. 

Giving women that second chance.

It is also about supporting women who are doing research that will benefit women.

It’s about helping and supporting each other, because if we are ever to get over the line that it what we must do.

The reality for women in New Zealand is we do not have an equal society.

We are world leading in our domestic violence stats.

We do not have equal pay for work of equal value.

The Commission recently updated it’s Tracking Equality at Work which is a web-based interactive tool that includes data on four key aspects of work with the latest labour market data. 

The data can be filtered by sex, ethnicity, age, and disability as well as indicating trends over time. 

In all labour force metrics women fare worse than men and this is particularly true for Maori and Pacific women.

Almost 60% of people earning minimum wage are women. In the adult age group of 25-64-years it is 67% of minimum wage earners who are female.

Women are unemployed at a higher rate than men (6.4% vs 5.6%).  

Women have lower rates of labour force participation (62.9% vs 73.7% for men) and are underemployed at twice the rate of men (5.2% vs 2.5%). 

The gender pay gap remains and has deteriorated in the last year to be just on 12% or $2.90 per hour. But the difference between a European male and Pacific female is two and half times greater at $7.10. 

In the public service there is just on a seven and a half thousand-dollar gap in the annual pay rates between women and men. But the difference between a European male and Pacific female is over seventeen and a half thousand dollars.

Hourly wages based on educational qualification is quite worrying. At Bachelors level the difference between a European male and European female is $10 per hour but the difference between a European male and a Maori or Pacific female is around $16.00 per hour.

Let’s look at leadership.

In the private sector women make up only a paltry 17% of people on New Zealand Stock Exchange publically listed boards and 19% of senior managers in the private sector.

In contrast, the percentage of women on state sector boards is doing better at over 43% and just over 44% of senior managers in the state sector. Both are at all-time high.  But women make up 60% of the public sector workforce so it could be argued that they are under-represented at senior management.

The number of women MPs has essentially remained static at around 30% since the first MMP election 20 years ago. Women in the current Cabinet are also at around 30%.

It is inexcusable that in this day and age that women are so under-represented in our House of Representatives.

We need to look at the barriers to participation and equality for women in all sectors of society.

New Zealand women are more educated than men. 

In 2013 almost 60% (57.8%) of people with a bachelor’s degree in New Zealand were women. 

In the under 40’s category just on 20% of women hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with only 14% of men. 

If that is the case, why are there not more women earning above minimum wage, why is there still a gender pay gap and why is there no equality in senior management and leadership roles in New Zealand?

There are complex issues at play. 

Girls are not studying STEM subjects in school, in the same numbers as boys. 

So although they are more highly qualified, it is often in areas which don’t pay as much – the caring sectors such as health, teaching and social care. 

The caring professions are not valued as much as sectors which are traditionally thought of as “men’s work”.

Work is happening around Pay Equity, and I am very encouraged by the recent proposals by the Joint Working Group for Pay Equity which I am hopeful that the government will adopt. 

A lot more needs to happen in this area though so that women’s work is revalued.

I also believe that work needs to be done around pay transparency. 

I am pushing for legislation so that companies with 250 employees or more must publish the gender pay gap each year, along with the number of women at each level of their organisation, and the gender bonus gap. 

Australia is doing it; the UK has passed a law so that companies must publish this data from 2018. I believe New Zealand can and should do this as well.

We need more women in leadership. Women like Helen Clark and Teresa May should not be the exception, but the norm. 

What can we do to support more women to become leaders? 

We can look at ways to retain women in professions during the child bearing and rearing years with flexible working and better quality, affordable child care that wraps around school hours.

Companies need to look outside the old boy’s network when appointing to their boards. 

Every time someone resigns from a board they need to think about the number of women on the board and whether it is an opportunity to boost numbers. 

International studies show that companies with women on boards perform better than those without women.

Women can back themselves more too.

Data shows that the gender pay gap starts with the first job. We need to negotiate our salary more and not be afraid to apply for management roles when they come up.

We need more Justine Trudeaus in charge.

I truly believe that if we had gender equality globally, we would have happy, prosperous and peaceful societies.

Women don’t want war, they want peace,

Why is it that despite all the security council resolutions on the role of women in peace and security, that their role, it seems to me, to be just tokenism, particularly in conflict resolution.

Why is it, as of March this year, of the fifteen United Nations Security Council members, there is only one female diplomat?

Of course diplomats do the bidding of their respective foreign affairs Ministers and while I was unable to find out how many of those Ministers are female, I can tell you that there was only one Security Council member that has a female leader and that is Senegal. 

But who knows with the appointment of Teresa May in the UK and a new Leader in the USA, we could have 40% female representation of the 5 Security Council permanent members and 20% overall. 

I also firmly believe that for many countries, particularly those who have a dominant, deeply ingrained patriarchal society, gender equality must begin in the workplace and only then will it spill over into wider society.

Business has therefore a critical role to play.

There is international recognition and momentum that businesses must not only uphold the human rights of their workers, provide equal employment opportunities and gender equality in the workplace, but also consider negative human rights impacts of workers in the supply chains, the community in which the supply chain operates in and the environment.

Businesses are in the box seat to either uphold human rights and gender equality with decent work, conditions and pay or harm human rights for example with labour exploitation, land or water grabs and environmental harm.

In 2011 the UN developed UN Guiding Principles or UNGPs of Business and Human Rights was launched and in 2015 established a framework for businesses to benchmark their progress.


It is the expectation is that international companies who do business with New Zealand enterprises will expect that New Zealand businesses have Business and Human Rights policies.

It is also anticipated that overtime the UNGPs will become a United Nations Treaty. 

As well, business can play a role in meeting the ambitious targets of the sustainable development goals or SDGs.


For example, sustainable development goal #5 is the stand alone goal on gender equality.  Experts state that the SDGs will not be achieved without gender equality. 

Achieving goal #5 is therefore crucial and the role of business vital because by upholding human rights in the workplace with decent pay, work and conditions they can empower women and promote gender equality.

In fact, business potentially cuts across virtually every SDG

I said earlier on that it is not necessarily a bad thing, to live an imperfect life. In fact, it could be a definite advantage.

I would encourage you all to listen to the TED talk by Regina Hartley who states that firms when faced with two candidates of equal experience and qualification, should hire the ‘scrapper’ rather than the person with the ivy league, silver spoon background.

She explains that scrappers are people who fought their way through difficult circumstances.   

Scrappers learn from their worst circumstances and grow as a result, so later on in life when adversity once again confronts them, they aren’t brought to their knees but figure out a way to circumvent it, to dig deep into their resilience and work their way through.

Being a scrapper is definitely a key attribute to add to your CV and a key one that smart employers should take note of.

Regina Hartley said that from her TED talk she hoped that business would re-look at their hiring practices their promotion practices and their succession planning practices by valuing all of the pieces of an individual, irrespective of what college or university they went to. 

She concluded that we must not limit, contain and filter the talent that’s out there.

Why is it that its largely women who overwhelmingly identify with imposter syndrome, a condition where we feel we don’t belong—that we’ve fooled people into thinking we’re more competent and talented than we actually are? 

The self-doubt and self-blame can be paralysing.

It is that lack of confidence that prevent women from pushing themselves forward for fear that they will be exposed a fraud.

But the good news it is curable and that will be when we come to the conclusion that any success we have won is through hard work, determination and talent. 

When we are secure in that knowledge, we will have the confidence to push ourselves forward.

I stumbled on another TED talk that has been viewed over 35 million times. I thought it was wonderful.

Curing yourself of imposter syndrome won’t be instant but social scientist Amy Cuddy says that you need to fake it, not till you make it, but till you become it.

She has done research to show that if you strike a power pose for 2 minutes each day and before an interview or stressful situation where you know you will be judged, the serum testosterone will rise and cortisol, the stress hormone, will reduce.

The power pose could be Wonder Woman, Usain Bolt as he crosses the finishing line with his arms up or sitting with your feet on your desk with arms behind your head.

To conclude, I would like to acknowledge the New Horizons Trust who make these awards possible.

To all the award recipients, whether you are a researcher, a scrapper, an imperfect person living an imperfect life, a current sufferer of imposter syndrome, some combination of the above or none of the above, I would like to congratulate you for the work you doing and will do because I am certain that each of you will be making your own mark and contributing to our journey to achieving gender equality.

Be bold. Be courageous. Go well. Kia Kaha.

Thank you once again for opportunity to be here tonight.

EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue

Dr Blue is committed to progressing human rights and issues of equity, particularly those that affect equal employment opportunities.

She has identified youth unemployment and underachievement in Māori and Pacific communities as particular areas of concern. But is also working closely on issues to do with fair pay for carers.

Dr Blue also has a strong commitment to advancing the participation of women in society and is the Commission's lead on stopping violence against women.