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Liam Butler Interviews Global Women NZ Member Judith Collins

Liam Butler Interviews Global Women NZ Member Hon Judith Collins MP


Liam Butler

How does Global Women New Zealand achieve its objectives of supporting and encouraging those women who are already making an exceptional contribution to the New Zealand economy and creating a pipeline of next generation women leaders who through their competence and readiness can further expand the numbers of women at the top levels of governance, management and entrepreneurship and bring the economic, productivity and market responsiveness benefits to the NZ economy that gender balance brings?

Networks like Global Women provide women with the tools to support one another and to work towards increasing the numbers of women in senior leadership positions in New Zealand and around the world.

In New Zealand there are 210 women who are members of Global Women. They are senior leaders in their professions, business and politics and actively advocate for women, giving their time to develop and assure opportunities for emerging female leaders.

It's vital we continue making an active effort to support women to be leaders in their professions. In New Zealand we recently celebrated 120 years of suffrage - and we have come a long way since women won the right to vote - but there is still a lot we can do to improve opportunities for women.

Of the top NZX100 companies only 14.5 per cent have female directors, despite 64 per cent of our tertiary graduates being female.

There is a common misconception, in New Zealand and abroad, that there is only room for one woman at the table - whether that is the boardroom table, the Cabinet table or on a senior leadership team. This is simply not the case - and as women already at the table, we should be helping other women to find a seat.

That's why it is part of Global Women's philosophy is to encourage members to set up networks with their female colleagues. It encourages us to work together and help one another to succeed.

One of the networks I have set up is the Chick's Cabinet Club, where female Ministers get together once a sitting block and are able to talk about issues they might be having and provide support for one another.

In 1947 Mabel Howard became not only New Zealand's first female Cabinet Minister, but the first in any Commonwealth country. By the time I became a Minister over 60 years later there were six female Cabinet Ministers, and two female Ministers from support parties.

Women are still significantly outnumbered, not only in politics but in business and other governance roles. In 2013 only 28 per cent of senior management roles were held by women and the number of women in Parliament has been sitting at the early 30 per cent mark for some time.

This needs to change, and we can't sit around waiting for it to happen on its own. We have to be proactive and being a member of Global Women is part of that for me.

We are able to share knowledge, experiences and skills that we've gained as we have made our way to our current positions. This can then be shared with our colleagues, in our own networks and more informally.

It can be big ideas, or smaller, practical changes we can make to help women fully participate.

It's not uncommon in large meetings for women to give up their seat so someone else can sit at the table, while they sit around the edge of the room. We're naturally kind and selfless, and it seems like the polite thing to do.

But it's very important that women who want to be leaders in their fields stop doing this. In my office, there is always room for another chair to be added to the circle around the table.

Global Women also runs an intensive leadership programme, which runs over a year to enable participants to put what they learn into practice and let it become second nature. So far there have been 60 graduates of the programme who have come from senior management positions in large public and private companies and non-for-profit organisations,

I am proud to be one of these women and I hope my efforts will improve the opportunities available for the young female leaders climbing the ladder today.


ends

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