Goodhew: Auckland Suffrage Event
6 September, 2013
Speech: Auckland Suffrage Event
E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.
Distinguished leaders, ladies and gentlemen, a very warm welcome to this 120th anniversary celebration of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.
I would particularly like to acknowledge His Excellency, Lieutenant General the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, Rt Hon Dame Jenny Shipley, Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell, Reverend Iritana Hankins, members of the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women, my parliamentary colleagues, Auckland City councillors, Jo Cribb, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and Major-General Dave Gawn, and my fellow speakers Phil, Helen, Lise, and Lynn.
Kate Sheppard said “All that separates, whether of race, class, creed, or sex, is inhuman, and must be overcome.”
Today we honour Kate Sheppard and the suffragists who won for New Zealand women, the right to vote, an inspiring and remarkable milestone for women throughout the world. It is also inspiring for us now, as a country, to know that we stepped up and blazed the way with an act of leadership of international renown.
We also honour the work of Sophia Kerr Taylor, a well-known women's rights advocate and suffrage campaigner, who lived here in Alberton. In 1892 Sophia Taylor became a member of the Auckland branch of the Women's Franchise League. She supported the franchise movement for the practical reason that if women had to obey laws and pay taxes then, they should also have the vote as men did.
Another frequent guest at Alberton was Elizabeth Yates who, in 1893, became the Mayor of Onehunga – the first woman Mayor in the British Empire.
While suffrage was led by a few very determined and courageous women, it came about because of the actions of both men and women. It illustrates how we can achieve real change through meaningful action when genuine alliances are forged.
Our success as a country relies on every New Zealander being able to realise their full potential. But when we look at the small number of women in leadership roles in New Zealand’s top organisations, we have to wonder whether New Zealand women are getting the opportunities to succeed that their talents warrant. And we have to wonder whether our organisations are making the best use of the talent on offer.
As we mark suffrage we have the perfect opportunity to consider how we can further progress opportunities for women in the future.
Today we are also celebrating initiatives of organisations to improve the ‘pipeline’ of women in leadership in New Zealand. I want to acknowledge these organisations that are recognising the leadership contribution women make and the women themselves who are stepping up to leadership roles.
But although we have come a long way, we need to set the bar higher. The stories our speakers today will share should inspire us all to do more.
We should all know by now that the benefits of diversity in leadership are significant, and that women represent a significant pool of untapped talent. It is therefore lamentable that at least 40 of our top 100 listed companies have not one - not even one - woman director on their board.
At every successive management level, significant proportions of talented women leave the leadership pipeline.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been investigating issues that influence women’s career progression into leadership roles. Key issues include unconscious bias, re-entry to work after career breaks, and flexible work. Usually flexible work is seen as a positive, but it can have a negative effect on career progression
Today I am pleased to release a Ministry paper about how these three factors influence women’s progress in leadership roles. The paper – Realising the opportunity: Addressing New Zealand’s leadership pipeline by attracting and retaining talented women – aims to inform discussion, support initiatives already underway, and more importantly encourage new actions so that organisations recruit and retain more talented women in leadership roles.
I urge you to take a copy of the paper and apply its insights.
Organisations that plan for greater diversity and broader leadership capability will reap the rewards. These will be the truly successful organisations of the future.
Kate Sheppard and her contemporaries challenged New Zealand to take a bold leadership step 120 years ago. New Zealand responded superbly. Let us continue to meet the challenge and make room for more women at our leadership tables.
We need to ask ourselves today this question: “How much more can we do to ensure that New Zealand is a nation renowned for utilising the talents of women fully and, in doing so, continues to lead the world?”
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.