There’s been a lot of talk about gender equality over the last year, with some positive steps made, but still a lot more work to be done. To mark International Women’s Day, we hear from some ace Kiwi ladies about how they think we’ll get there!

This year’s theme #PressForProgress, calls on people from all backgrounds to press forward and progress gender parity. So, as a way to mark such a poignant day, we wanted to profile these bad-ass boss ladies and get their thoughts on how we’ll reach gender parity, together.

 

Vanisa Dhiru

Vanisa Dhiru is president of the National Council of Women of NZ and spokesperson for Gender Equal NZ. She speaks regularly on gender issues in NZ.

What do you do for work?
I work for a non-profit advocacy agency in my day job. My substantive volunteer work is for National Council of Women, where I represent the organisation in forums, meetings and media, talking about gender equality issues for Aotearoa. 

What do you do for fun/what fills your soul?
I eat cheese with my friends, and go to inspiring talks and events, generally in the world of equality. 

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken that’s paid off?
Telling lots of people, when I was 25, that I wanted to be a CEO for a charity, and achieving that when I was 30.

Biggest life lesson to date?
Looking after my health.

Best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I ever received was to have coffee with somebody new every week.

What does it mean to be a woman in 2018?
To be a woman means to be strong, powerful, sassy, truthful and believe that all genders together can make a difference.

What’s the future of women in NZ?
I hope that women in NZ will be treated as equals – in terms of pay equity, leadership roles, safety, access to health and education opportunities.

Why do you do what you do?
There are so many causes that create progress towards peace and one of those is gender equality. I think if we can solve some of the issues across all of our genders, we will get to live in a peaceful world, where all of us can be who we want to be.

What does gender equality look like to you? How do you think we can get there?
A gender equal New Zealand is one where everyone has the freedom and opportunity to determine their own future. Where we can pursue any hobby, career or lifestyle. Where we can see diverse role models in our community, media and workplaces, and where we receive equal pay for work of equal value. It’s a country where there’s a low rate, or no rate, of violence against women. Where NZ is the number one country for gender equality internationally. This year’s theme is #PressForProgress, in a year that New Zealand celebrates 125 years of suffrage. We need, as a country, to continue to press for progress towards seeing equality for all.

 

Urzila Carlson

Urzila Carlson talks to Flick Electric Co. about gender equality

Urzila Carlson is a multi award winning Stand Up comedian who appears regularly on NZ television, including 7 Days, Super City and Road Madness.

What do you do for work?
Tell some jokes.

What do you do for fun/what fills your soul?
My soul is already filled to the brim because I love what I do and it’s already fun and doesn’t feel like work. But if I have to pick a thing that makes me happiest, it’s staying at home and spending time with my family.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken that’s paid off?
Moving to NZ for one; and two, starting comedy and giving up a career to follow a dream with no security.

Biggest life lesson to date?
Believe in yourself and always wear good comfortable undies.

Best advice you’ve been given?
A high school teacher told me that there’s no greater waste of time than regret. It changed my life and made me braver.

What does it mean to be a woman in 2018?
To be stronger than you ever thought you could be and to speak up for yourself and other women. To care.

What’s the future of women in NZ?
It’s bright and beautiful, because we have strong women not only in power, but who have strong voices in our world.

What does it mean to be a NZ woman?
Making sure you get what you deserve and not tolerating less.

Why do you do what you do?
Because it makes my heart happy. I get to make people forget about their problems for an hour or so and just have a laugh!

What does gender equality look like to you?
Not ever seeing that question in an interview again. Where it’s a total non issue.

How do you think we can get there?
By not accepting less.

 

Lillian Grace

Lillian Grace is founder and CEO of Figure NZ, a charity committed to getting all folks using data about New Zealand. It gathers data about our public sector, private sector and academic data and houses this information on a website in a way that is both easy to use and accessible for everyday people. 

What do you do for work?
I am the founder and CEO of Figure NZ. Our mission is to make numbers a language that people can use, because we believe our best future is one where everyone can participate in decisions that are being made.

What do you do for fun/what fills your soul?
I listen to the universe, to the world, to people and what’s moving around me. I find that you hear and feel things when you stop to listen, and that fills my soul. I’m also learning Te Reo Māori and it makes me feel like I’m learning to see my country through a different lens. For fun, I love being with people who I enjoy spending time with like my partner, friends and family – drinking wine and talking about everything from how awesome cheese is, to artificial intelligence!

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken that’s paid off?
The biggest risk was getting divorced when I was 27. On paper, everything [about the relationship] looked awesome but it wasn’t right for any of us – neither of us could be the best version of ourselves. Going through that process with neither of us having anything on the other side was the hardest things I have ever done, but it led to me figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I’m so grateful for that extremely soul torturous time and following that instinct even though everything looked perfect on paper!

Biggest life lesson to date?
The importance of considering others’ experience line. By that, I mean you could be in the same place at the same time as someone else, but their whole experience to get there/receiving words you are saying can be completely different. We often assume that we all have the same experience – being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes/experience line and having the ability to hold multiple experience lines when making decisions is super important.

Best advice you’ve been given?
The thing that has the biggest impact is when people make you feel awesome – when people who are around me identify things they like about me or are proud of – it has the biggest impact on my ability to do stuff. Lift people up. When you make people feel awesome about themselves, that’s when they fly.

What does it mean to be a woman in 2018?
I think it means a combination of confusion and excitement. We can see that there are rising opportunities and recognition of women’s place and involvement, but we also don’t have a template to follow, so that can be confusing – can I do all of these things? Am I allowed to do all of these things?!

What’s the future of women in NZ?
I think that the world, and Aotearoa, need a shift to more feminine leadership traits at all levels. We have some massive problems to solve – how we connect our communities together well and evolve our education, and we also need a different style. We need to recognise the importance of true collaborative partnership, and that is going to underpin how we think and behave in society.

What does it mean to be a NZ woman?
One of the more unique things about our country is we are small and advanced –  our ability to affect change, be involved in things and create a shift is quite high. Whilst there are lots of hard roads and challenges ahead, I feel like we have an awesome opportunity to work together through all communities because of our size. NZ women can help demonstrate what is possible in the world.

Why do you do what you do?
I care. I am completely driven by love and I don’t believe information should be a currency – it’s so important for our lives. I grew up in a very small community and wasn’t exposed to a lot of information growing up, and it drove me on a journey to learn lots, be exposed to incredible thinkers and realise how important it is that everyone has access to information.

We have never been able to share information like we can now. I care heaps about using information and technology as an incredible force for bringing us all together, to learn and grow together.

What does gender equality look like to you? How do you think we can get there?
Gender equality is the embracing of people of all genders, with opportunities no longer defined by gender.

Most people, especially in a business world, when we start noticing the language we use by default, is describing the world as if it’s run by men. We’re reinforcing the role that men play. We need to be really conscious and careful about our language e.g. “I met this awesome woman who runs this business’ or ‘this guy who is the CEO of x’ and instead say ‘I met this awesome person’ so it’s not defined by a gender trait unless required! Something that we can try and adopt to change the mental model that is around us.

 

Samantha Jones 

Samantha Jones of Little Yellow Bird

Samantha Jones is the founder of Little Yellow Bird, a Wellington-based clothing company that produces sustainably made and organically produced uniforms, and was named Young Innovator of the Year at the NZ Innovation Awards.

What do you do for work?
I’m the founder of Little Yellow Bird, a company that makes 
organic cotton apparel and uniforms for corporates. We have complete traceability of our products and raw materials right back to farming level, and we re-invest profits into community development projects in these areas. A big part of my work is around educating people about the importance of sustainable fashion, so this year we launched a sustainable fashion conference, which is happening next month.

What do you do for fun/what fills your soul?
The work I do actually fills 
my soul, which is why I do it. In particular, I love working and helping other people in the sector (be that fashion or social enterprise) to come up with creative ideas and take those first steps in building a company.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken that’s paid off?
In the early days 
of Little Yellow Bird, before we were making any money, I got a really good job offer that I very nearly took. A few days before I was due to start, I pulled out and decided to go all in with Little Yellow Bird. It was a big gamble at the time, but I’m super thankful I trusted my gut and took the risk.

Biggest life lesson to date?
Not everyone is going to like you or what you’re doing, and that’s okay. Some good parental advice was “those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.”

Best advice you’ve been given?
Another bit of parental advice I was given was, “You might not be able to help everyone, but you certainly can help someone.”

What does it mean to be a woman in 2018?
I think it means recognising that 
progress has been made, but also understanding that there is still a long way to go and to not become complacent about this.

What’s the future of women in NZ?
I’m optimistic about this because I see 
so many incredible women, and equally a lot of amazing men, that are committed to making changes toward gender equality. I still think we have a lot of work to do, but I do think the younger generation is instinctively a lot more collaborative and aware of the positive impact that this way of thinking generates.

What does it mean to be a NZ woman?
I recognise that I live a very privileged 
life here in NZ and I’m super conscious and grateful for that. As a NZ woman in this position, I think it’s important that I do my part for supporting other NZ women, but also women globally. I think it’s really important that when we choose to support women in NZ, we don’t do it at the expense of women elsewhere. Clothing is a really good example of this because the majority of clothes are made my women and children, many of whom are exploited to make the products we buy.

Why do you do what you do?
I love the eco-fashion space because I know it’s 
an area where a lot of things need to change, but equally that every individual person can make a real tangible difference simply by choosing where (and how many/what type) of clothes they purchase.

 

Elisha Watson

Elisha Watson, Founder, Nisa

Elisha Watson is the founder of Nisa, an underwear label that aims to help refugee women from the bottom up by giving them meaningful and interesting paid work, while at the same time making kick-ass undies.

What do you do for work? 
I am the founder of Nisa, an underwear brand with a mission. We employ women from refugee backgrounds to sew our beautiful undies.

What do you do for fun/what fills your soul?
I love rock climbing, but alas now my job gets somewhat in the way of leading an active lifestyle. Cooking is another passion.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken that’s paid off?
Starting this business!  I won’t be able to say whether it has paid off until we have been operating successfully for at least a year – that’s the goal at this point!

Biggest life lesson to date?
Act on instinct and don’t be afraid.  Back yourself!

Best advice you’ve been given?
That life is long. There’s enough time to pursue all your passions if you are patient.

What does it mean to be a woman in 2018?
It means kicking ass on a daily basis.

What’s the future of women in NZ?
Running more businesses and being in more positions of power.

What does it mean to be a NZ woman?
It means we have loads of opportunities because NZ is such a small pond. Perfect for crazy experiments and doing things differently.

What does gender equality look like to you? How do you think we can get there?
Men and women taking on equal responsibilities, including in the home.

 

Courtney Durr

Meet Courtney Durr of Body Love NZ

Courtney is a co-founder of Body Love NZ, a community of women that runs workshops & events, challenging stereotypes of health & beauty and helping women feel truly confident in themselves.

What do you do for work?
I’m a personal trainer by trade and the mama of Body Love NZ (running bootcamps, facilitating workshops around self love, and providing a rad community where women can go for hikes and brunch and wines).

What do you do for fun/what fills your soul?
Love this question! Gets me pumped! Well I love being outdoors, travelling, going on spontaneous adventures, lifting heavy ass weights, anything active, anything near or in the ocean. Sunshine. Reading a book with a decent coffee (long black with a side of pouring cream) at an aesthetically pleasing cafe also really gets me going haha.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken that’s paid off?
It would have to be quitting my full time, secure job at Les Mills, working as a personal trainer. I could have managed working both as a personal trainer and running Body Love NZ, but I didn’t just want to “manage” and fill every second of my day working. I wanted to open up space to allow for new opportunities and magic that was more in line with where I want to go. As much as it has been a financial struggle from time to time and as much I have doubted myself — I have never been happier or prouder of myself for pursuing my passion.

Biggest life lesson to date?
Biggest life lesson to date is that the higher power (God, the Universe, life, whatever you want to name it) knows what you need, and sometimes what you need is not always what you want. You may think you’re with the love of your life and you’ll never find someone like them — WHHHBANG — life slaps you in the face and shows you in a really challenging way that he/she is not the one for you and that what you need right now is to explore more of who you are on your own. Or perhaps you get fired, which upsets you and brings on an overwhelming sense of shame, you think it can’t get much worse than this, and so you are forced to look within and decide that now is the time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do — turns out you needed to be shoved out of your job so you could finally get on the right path and into a job that actually fulfils you. Yes, life may be a bitch sometimes, but she knows what’s up and she always has our best interests at heart.

Best advice you’ve been given?
One of the best pieces of advice that I try to stick by would have to be that you can’t please everyone, and so you should stop trying. Stop wasting your energy trying to orchestrate your life based around what pleases others and instead do the things, wear the things, and be the things that light you up and that make you happy. Because at the end of the day, no one has to live your life but YOU. 

What does it mean to be a woman in 2018?
OMG!!!! The word that comes to mind is PRIDE. I do not see myself as a minority when it comes to my gender; I actually feel like I hit the life jackpot being a woman in this generation. Thanks to so many courageous females standing up and standing out, women are finally starting to see the incredible power they’ve always had and are unlocking it left, right, and centre!!

What’s the future of women in NZ?
With strong female leaders, female role models, and mothers leading the way, the future is bright. I feel proud to be a woman, but I also feel proud to be from New Zealand. A country that goes against the grain to society’s norms and expectations, and gives everyone a voice.

Why do you do what you do?
Because I was sick and tired of being fed an unrealistic and false view of health and beauty. I worked in the fitness industry and I was surrounded by personal trainers, influencers, and marketing that were all sharing a filtered view of their lives and bodies. I was led to believe that in order to be respected and to sell my services I had to portray perfection — be the leanest and fittest, know everything, never make mistakes — it was toxic and it was exhausting. I started this business from the strong desire I had for women to see how f****** awesome they are!! I want women to place more importance on their character and their mental health, rather than placing it all on what their surface looks like and what other people think of them. Women are powerful creatures, given the space and education, and once they unlock their power they will go on to do great things.

What does gender equality look like to you? How do you think we can get there?
Gender equality looks like mutual love and respect for one another. Acknowledging that we all have a part to play and we all deserve to be here. I believe through self-analysis we can get closer to equality. When we realise that it is our pain, our insecurities, and our egos that are holding us back, only then can we start to break down walls that separate us from them. Only then can we respond with compassion and a mutual desire to make this world a better place. We are all born, we all die — no one, NO ONE, is above or below anyone.

 

Lizzy Tuala

Meet Liz from Flick!

Lizzy is part of our Flick family, working in our Field & Switch team. A loving mum of four tamariki, Liz’s positive Aloha spirit, kindness and positivity has made her a true role model for our entire team.

What do you do for work?
I work for Flick Electric in the Field and Switching team. 

What do you do for fun/what fills your soul?
I love to paint, make 3D art. I love culture, and myths & legends from all different continents. 

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken that’s paid off?
Travelling all over America for 4 years.

Biggest life lesson to date?
Be prepared when travelling with kids!

Best advice you’ve been given?
From my nana: when you cook, cook from the heart, always.

What does it mean to be a woman in 2018?
It means equality, independence, speaking up, knowing your worth and living your truth.

What’s the future of women in NZ?
We’ve been leading the way since 1893 with Kate Sheppard’s voice and NZ being the first to give women the right to vote. There’s more work to do in terms of pay equity, but we’re making bold moves each day. 

What does it mean to be a NZ woman?
It means everything. We’re nurturers and CEOs. We’re educated, we are mothers and daughters, nieces and aunties – it’s a great time to be a woman in New Zealand.

Why do you do what you do?
I love what I do! I find joy in working for a company I believe in. I love being creative, I love art and I love people.

What does gender equality look like to you? How do you think we can get there?
We’ll get there by making it a top discussion piece. We’ll get there by sharing our journey and getting our voice heard. We’ll share via social media, television, radio – creating conversation and knowing women work equally as hard as our male counterparts.

 

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