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Ruth Dyson Speech: Her Business Conference

Ruth Dyson Speech: Her Business Conference

Rau rangatira maa, tenei te mihi ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ra. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

[Distinguished guests, greetings to you gathered here for this purpose today. Greetings once, twice, three times to you all.]

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to open your conference. I welcome you all to the capital, and bring greetings from my colleagues, local MPs Marion Hobbs and Annette King.

Today I've been asked to talk about women's potential in business - cultivating our entrepreneurial spirit.

I want to congratulate Her Business Group, who have organised this conference, another in Auckland last weekend attended by the Prime Minister, and a third in Christchurch on Saturday which is International Women's Day - as well as dozens of other activities around the country to celebrate National Women in Business Week.

These events are excellent examples of cultivating women's entrepreneurial spirit, and it's great to see the organisation's influence expanding as you join forces with the Wise Women Network supporting women in self-employment.

Conferences like these are extremely important. They bring together women who are dreaming of starting a business, those who have taken the first steps and those who are already highly successful.

Over the next two days, you'll learn a lot, make useful contacts and lifelong friends, and have your batteries recharged. You'll be motivated, challenged and inspired by the line-up of speakers and workshops. At the end of each day, you'll have the perfect excuse to let your hair down and sample the best restaurants and nightlife on offer in any city of New Zealand.

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Denise McBeth, director of Pete's Post Limited, New Plymouth, who was named Her Business Businesswoman of the Year on Saturday night. I understand that Denise scored highly in all areas of business excellence from operations through to customer satisfaction, and I want to acknowledge her contribution as a role model for other women in business.

Global Entrepreneur Monitor We can get our most up-to-date picture of women entrepreneurs in New Zealand from the 2002 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an annual international study which last year covered 37 countries.

The study showed that 38 per cent of New Zealand's entrepreneurs are women, a slight drop from 2001 when we topped the list at 43 per cent, but still ahead of Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, and on a par with the United States.

It had some revealing things to say about our female entrepreneurs: · that New Zealand women lead the world in having the necessary skills and motivation to start a new business; · that we rank second highest as a country in which starting a new business is a socially acceptable career option for women; and · that we are also world-ranked in encouraging women to become self-employed or start a new business.

On a more negative note, the study showed that New Zealand women have a higher fear of failure than men, and this may be one reason preventing more of us from starting up a business. However, there are encouraging signs among the younger generation, with women in the 18-24 year old age group being more entrepreneurial than young men. I hope that over time, their self-confidence will 'trickle up' and inspire increasing numbers of older women to back themselves as well.

Maori women Maori were among the big success stories identified by the study. When taken as a 'country' in their own right, they have the seventh highest proportion of entrepreneurs of all those surveyed.

Maori women make up slightly more than half of all Maori entrepreneurs, and they have gone from strength to strength in recent years, many assisted by the Maori Women's Development Fund.

An important source of Maori women's entrepreneurial strength comes from the their cultural and social renaissance, especially through educational developments in kohanga reo and kura kaupapa, and the revival of the Maori language.

Maori women are increasingly turning their role as cultural guardians into successful business opportunities that benefit not only themselves but also their whanau, hapu and iwi. They play a vital role in Iwi Authorities, Maori Trust Boards and Urban Maori Authorities. And they have been the driving force behind setting up and running health and social services by Maori, for Maori. A recent report on Maori Economic Development, produced for Te Puni Kokiri by the NZ Institute of Economic Research, confirms the positive contribution of the Maori economy, showing that Maori enterprises add almost two billion dollars a year to the national economy. This trend is set to continue, with the younger population and higher fertility rates of Maori producing an increasing proportion of New Zealand entrepreneurs in the 21st century.

Getting started Women have many reasons for deciding to go into business or become self-employed, including: · the attraction of a new challenge; · the need for flexibility to look after children or other family members; · a response to redundancy or time out of the paid workforce; · a desire for a better work/life balance.

Whatever their motivation or the nature of the business, the principles are the same, says Kay Koplovitz, one of America's most successful businesswomen.

In her book 'Bold Women, Big Ideas', Kay has this advice for women: "Unless we are independently wealthy (some entrepreneurs are) or have husbands with deep pockets (some of us do), wherever we go to raise money, we'll have to pitch our businesses. "Any formal written loan application will contain elements of a business plan in it, so we'd better know how to describe our business and our goals concisely and accurately. We'll be interviewed too, and we're going to make an impression (good or bad). Our poise, our knowledge, our experience, our confidence -all these will be appraised.

"But above all, as we will find out, many people are out there ready to lend us a hand. And there are more surfacing all the time."

Business development This is certainly true in New Zealand where, in 2000, the Labour-led government committed $346 million over four years for a more active business development programme, emphasising export development.

In the same year, we set up Industry New Zealand to help businesses get professional advice and skills, and I want to commend that organisation for providing financial support for this conference.

I am told that large numbers of women attend the free small business courses which are run all over the country, but far fewer approach Industry New Zealand for help with venture capital, investment or business growth. A part of what may be holding women back is lack of confidence. As the global survey showed, women are more afraid of failure and less likely to want to take economic risks than men. Industry New Zealand also has an Enterprise Awards Scheme whereby small businesses and entrepreneurs can apply for 50 per cent of the costs of a project to help test and develop concepts with commercial potential. A variety of other support is available specifically for women, including the Community Employment Group's women's strategy to address the employment barriers facing women, its Maori and Pacific Women's Leadership initiatives, and Te Ara Kaipakihi, launched in 2001 to improve business development opportunities for self-employed Maori women.

Many of the government's wider social and economic policies also support women's choices in paid employment, including: · improved access to childcare and out of school care, the single biggest barrier to women's participation in the paid workforce; · a 10-year plan to increase the participation of Maori, Pacific, low income and rural children in early childhood education; · fairer human rights legislation, better labour laws and more equitable property relationships for married and de facto couples.

Paid parental leave In the middle of last year, we introduced paid parental leave so that parents can take time to adjust to the birth or arrival of a new child without having to rush back to work, with all the associated social and health benefits for parents and baby.

The scheme will be comprehensively reviewed after 12 months. We have three priorities for the future - to extend coverage to the self-employed and those with more than one employer in the previous year, and to extend the period of leave beyond the current 12 weeks.

Pay equity We have also put pay equity back on the political agenda for the first time since the National Government repealed the Employment Equity Act in 1990. It's a key issue for women, and a top priority for me as Minister of Women's Affairs.

It is obvious that, left to its own devices, the market is not going to close the income gap between the sexes. Higher qualifications have done little to address the imbalance either, with the gender pay gap greater between women and men who have degrees than between those who have no qualifications.

Research has shown there are two main contributors to the gender pay gap - · the time women take out of the paid workforce to bear and rear children; and · the lower levels of pay for the caring, education and 'people' professions where women are more likely to work.

But this isn't the whole story. The gap exists not just when women reach the age where they spend less time in paid work because of children, but right from the beginning of their postgraduate careers.

Nor can it be completely explained by women dominating certain occupations. University graduate surveys have shown, for instance, that male commerce graduates start out in their careers earning on average nearly $5000 a year more than women of the same age with the same qualifications.

In other words, some of the gap simply comes down to gender stereotyping in pay rates and negotiations.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs has just finished collating the 80-plus excellent submissions we received on pay equity, and I look forward to receiving the analysis so that we can get on and develop appropriate solutions.

Other support Of course, governments can only provide some of the answers. Almost half the women surveyed in the 2000 Avon Global Women's Survey - conducted every two years to gather information on the interests, issues and challenges facing women - identified the support of a spouse or domestic partner as the leading factor that would help them become an entrepreneur. The second and third factors were more self-confidence (there's that word again) and a large network of personal contacts, with about one-third of women citing each.

Susan J. Kropf, chief operating officer of Avon North America and Global Business Operations, had this to say about the result. "What is extremely compelling about the results of the 2000 Avon Global Women's Survey, but perhaps not surprising, is how the personal and professional lives of women are invariably linked. Financial independence is the leading influence - and goal - in women's lives worldwide. At the same time, we find that a supportive spouse or partner plays a dominant role in a woman's life when it comes to developing the entrepreneurial business that can bring about financial empowerment."

>From personal experience, I know that the support of other women is also crucial to realising our goals. In fact, it would be fair to say that I owe my political career to women.

I first became involved in the Labour Party because of women's support and encouragement, and my first elected position in the party was onto the Labour Women's Council. At that time, I worked with women like Helen Clark, Liz Tennent, and then party president Margaret Wilson. When I consider the calibre of that line-up, and the support they and other women colleagues have given me for the last 20 years, it's not surprising that I have stuck around!

New Zealand women have come a long way since being first in the world to win the right to vote. Today, we occupy most of the top jobs - Prime Minister, Governor General, Attorney General, Chief Justice, Chief Human Rights Commissioner, head of Telecom, one of our largest companies.

Unfortunately, this success has created some misconceptions. Young women and older women in senior positions tend to think the fight for equality has been won, while there is a certain backlash from those who resent the gains women have made.

In the current Labour-led government, women make up around a third of MPs and roughly the same proportion of ministers. While this is significantly better than any of the other political parties, we are still too light on the ground.

Which reminds me of Glenda Jackson's impressions when she became a new MP. "People have said to me that your first week in the Commons is like your first week at school," she said. "My school was never like this. People told you what to do, they were less friendly and there were more girls." In business, women make up around one-third of top management, and a similar proportion sit around our board tables - although the Ministry of Women's Affairs Nominations Service, whose job is to boost the number of women on New Zealand's 500 statutory boards and committee, is aiming for equal representation within eight years.

The only way to ensure that there are plenty of 'girls' at the top in politics, business and community life is to ensure that organisations' structures promote women's involvement at all levels. New Zealand women are great leaders - there's plenty of evidence of that in this room - and we must work hard to encourage and support each other in leadership roles.

Women's Action plan The fact that we will soon have a Women's Action Plan will add momentum to our efforts. We are currently about half-way through a six-week consultation period to discuss the action plan, with more than 20 formal meetings being held around the country, and many more informal ones.

The action plan will give us a clear vision, set of goals and framework for action across the whole of government to address the challenges facing New Zealand women. It has three key themes: · having enough money to care for ourselves and those who depend on us; · balancing our work, family, whanau and community roles; and · preserving our general well-being, including safety, security, housing, physical and mental health.

Please check the Ministry of Women's Affairs website for details of meetings in your area. We want to know your view of life for women in New Zealand, and how government and the community can best respond. We want to hear about your contributions and achievements, as well as suggestions for improvements.

We also want you to give some thought to setting priorities. While we recognise that one size does not fit all, it is important that we focus our energies on agreed goals, so that we do not run out of steam pulling in too many directions at the same time.

I hope the submissions will be analysed and the action plan completed in time for me to take to New York in the middle of the year, to present to the United Nations alongside the government's latest report on the status of women in this country.

I know how busy you all are. I know you have given us your views before. But I appeal to you to let us pick your brains one more time so that we can come with a democratic and representative action plan to successfully guide us into the future.

Our successes to date have been due to the women's movement working together, setting priorities, and making strong and steady progress. I appreciate your support and the challenges you offer. I wish you all the best for your conference over the next two days, and I look forward to working with you in the future on behalf of all New Zealand women.

Thank you.

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