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A primer on Being Bold for Change (#BeBoldForChange)

A week out from International Women’s Day (#IWD2017) it’s great to see the ripples of energy the day generated still very much alive and pulsing along the cyber waves. 

Maybe I’m basing this on gut feel as much as anything, but this year’s International Women’s Day, more so than any other in recent times, really felt like a thing: the solidarity was (and is) palpable, and everywhere you looked – from Civic Square to Facebook – meaningful dialogue about gender equality was (and still is) taking place.

And – critically – this conversation is becoming increasingly inclusive, not ring-fenced to 51% of the population. Gut feel again, but what’s most heartening of all to me in all this is a strong sense of a growing awareness that gender equality isn’t a zero-sum game. That feminism is – maybe, just maybe – starting to shirk its weird stigma and being seen just for what it is: an unerring, ongoing quest for gender equality. And that we’re all part of this quest, and all stand to gain from it. (I’m a bit late to the party but this International Women’s Day I learnt about HeForShe. HeForShes are the best and – on a personal level – it’s amazing to be able to count so many of them amongst my cohort, in all facets of my life.) 

A week out and I’m still reflecting on the advice Lana West, BNZ’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, gave to a room full of Wellington women at an #IWD2017 lunch hosted by NZ Tech last week.

Lana paid special homage to our very own frontrunner for bold change, Kate Sheppard (admonishing us to ask ourselves: What would Kate think?); she channelled Dr Seuss, and – best of all – shared openly about her learnings and experiences in her role as BNZ’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion and from her observations from life in general. (Because, as Lana says, “It’s not about work/life balance. It’s just life, and work is a part of it.”)

Kate Sheppard

The state of things

Some stats Kate Sheppard might not be too impressed by:

  • The World Economic Forum predicts the gender pay gap won’t close entirely until 2186 (across the board women earn 85% of what men do)
  • In New Zealand we have one female CEO in the private sector
  • There’s also a paucity of women in board/director level positions – in 2016 only 17% of director roles within NZX-listed companies were held by women (source: Radio New Zealand)

And specific to New Zealand’s tech sector:

  • Women make up 22% of our tech sector
  • 3% (and no, that’s not a typo) of school-aged girls are interested in a career in ICT (thank heavens for initiatives like NZ Tech’s Shadow Tech Day)

The Economist’s annual Glass-Ceiling Index 2017 finds that “the long trend of improving conditions for working women has flatlined within the OECD”. (The index “combines data on higher education, workforce participation, pay, child-care costs, maternity and paternity rights, business-school applications and representation in senior jobs into a single measure of where women have the best—and worst—chances of equal treatment in the workplace.”) New Zealand sits in 10th place. Not terrible, comparatively, but we’re no Iceland and l can’t picture Kate Sheppard looking down on us and fist-pumping.

Lana’s four things for us to do to be the change

Know your who-ness

All too often in work contexts we frame and introduce ourselves according to the title on our business cards. But Lana reminded us that who we are is much more important than what we do. We need to find and live by our purpose, in and across all things, and remember that work and life aren’t a binary equation. That’s why work/life balance is a misnomer. There’s just life, and work is a part of it.

(These words came back to me last weekend during our Family Day as kids of all ages – from newborn to grandparents – took over the office with balloon animals, face painting and hula hooping…. And – no offence to any Intergenite diagram brainstormers intended – the whiteboard doors experienced a whole new level of creativity.)

Junior Intergenites bringing creativity to the workplace

What’s your next ‘first’?

Find it and go for it. Whether it’s aspiring to your first leadership role, managing your first project or speaking in public for the first time.

Network, network, network

Not only that, seek to surround yourself with people who are not like you (not always easy when we’re hardwired to huddle). True cultural curiosity is the key to diversity. The advent of EQ to the realm of work opened up a whole new view on the world and new ways of articulating what people can achieve together quite aside from the application of IQ. And CQ, when fully realised, will do the same and help us to “lose the mono”.

Give back

Who can you help? How can you make a difference?

Thank you Lana and the team at NZ Tech for hosting such a powerful and thought-provoking event.

A week out from International Women’s Day and the challenge to us all now is: what can we do – and keep doing – to be bold for change?

Intergenites at NZ Tech’s #IWD2017 lunch – clockwise from left: Lucy Bentley, Kahlier Hart, Katy Sweetman, Emma Barrett, Evelyn Johnson, Tamzin Beazley, Kat R
Intergenites at NZ Tech’s #IWD2017 lunch – clockwise from left: Lucy Bentley, Kahlier Hart, Katy Sweetman, Emma Barrett, Evelyn Johnson, Tamzin Beazley, Breanna Mudge, Kat Raureti

Posted by: Katy Sweetman, Marketing Director, Empired Group | 14 March 2017

Tags: BeBoldForChange

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