Videos from M2woman Journey To Excellence – February 15, 2019

What do we do about women who sabotage other women?

I’d like to say, it’s hard to know what’s going on in her world.  I think one of the things I realised, I work with a lot of younger female entrepreneurs and they’re amazing, they’re so amazing and they’re so accomplished at such a young age, you know, doing these things, and I had to check myself because I actually found I was in a situation with a number of them where they’re like ‘and now I want to do this and I want to do that’, and I’m thinking in the back of my mind sort of unconsciously, oh, that took me a really long time to get this, you know, I’m thinking maybe you’ve got to earn your stripes.  And I went hang on, Tui, actually you’re doing that thing holding back these… you know, and because I had this assumption that actually they had to earn their stripes, they had to go through the same hardships that I did.  Actually, those next generations coming through, maybe they’re leapfrogging me and actually that’s great, but it’s amazing how even when you feel that you are really dedicated to the course, you do still have to check yourself.

What have been your personal challenges or experiences with diversity throughout your stellar career?

I think really for me it was, you know, starting out in tech, pretty much a man’s world.  Nine times out of 10 I was the only woman in the room, and I think went through a long period of time thinking I had to fit in and that I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t.  Whether it meant partying until late in the night or putting up with inuendo or comments, most of it was sort of that imposter syndrome that’s been loud and clear with me for most of my life, feeling actually this is the way I do need to be.  And I think one of the greatest things that’s happened to me really in the last 10 years, is reaching out to more women, because I actually think that women just never support women enough and we seem to actually also compete with each other; where I felt when we started linking arms and going, actually, the power of what we can do collectively is really and truly what’s going to get us there—whether it’s talking to each other and being able to be completely open and empathetic with each other, but actually taking on what is primarily seen as what the boys can do.

What appointing on merit really means

Boards are being incredibly slow in New Zealand to adapt to the need for gender diversity, which I think is a pressing business issue for all of us.  It is down to sexism and nothing else.

I spoke this morning at an Institute of Directors breakfast.  I don’t always spend my life at luxury breakfasts and lunches [laughter] too much of the time, but I did down at the Northern Club, which I hasten to say I’m not a member of, and I talked a bit there about gender diversity.  It wasn’t the main topic, but I did talk about it a little bit, and nobody took any objection to what I was saying, but two people came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Yeah, very good Rob, it’s always very popular at these things but the truth is you can’t find women to do these jobs, can you?’

In some ways that was quite shocking because the point I had been making was exactly the opposite, and it is untrue, and there’s a new word which, if I can just warn you about, it’s not a new word but what is used now—watch for people who talk about appointment on merit, because it is the big trap that people fall into now.  They say, ‘Look, yeah, no, absolutely we should have gender diversity, but it has to be merit’.  But what they mean by merit is men.  What they mean by merit is the characteristics that male directors currently have.  If you challenge them to say what constitutes merit for what a business needs today, you will quickly be able to dis aggregate that and show that in fact what is being talked about is not merit but privilege

How do you juggle full time work and a family?

It’s incredibly difficult.  I think you live a life of compromise.  You know, I personally always feel that I’m compromising home, work…, trying to juggle it all.  It is very, very difficult and …  I am happy with it?  Oh, I live with it.  No, not really, but I love working.  I could never imagine not working.  I love being a mum.  Well, I can’t give them away so that’s…, although there are times where I really would like to.  Although they probably want to give me away at the moment, but anyway.  So I think, no, I think you learn to live with it, and you learn to live with what’s really important.  I’m quite disciplined around knowing what’s really important for me and the time with the kids, so I’m really good at blocking time out of the diary and I’m very open in saying I’m off to the school sports thing, I’m off to this, I’m out for the day, I’m going to pick the kids up.

What do you think of diversity programmes?

I’ve seen a huge amount of corporate investment go into organisations that run diversity programmes, and yet we still only have on female CEO in the NZX, we still have less than 20 percent female directors, and when you start looking at Māori and Pasifika or the LGBTI community, well that’s even worse.  So, I actually have come to the view it’s strongly about driving organisational culture and it’s creating a culture within an organisation where everyone can be successful and bring their best to work no matter what that is.  Because I think you can invest a lot of money in saying to people we’re gonna put you on a leadership programme, but then they come back into the workplace and the culture rejects them, the organisation rejects them and says, no, we don’t want change.  So, quite how you achieve that, I think, you know, I’m just starting to think about that now and we’re just going through a process of resetting our culture, but I think it has to be led by the communities, you have to empower those communities to put policies and to put practices in place within a culture that’s going to help them be successful and delegate that and say, well, you need to own this as this community and we’ll support you, but you need to create the ground swell within the culture, and then I think work practices, work structure, how you structure work, how you structure work in an environment and how we sit at desks, everything, is going to have to change to make work places a really very different and welcoming place.  And the one thing I would say, which I think is the biggest opportunity for all of us, is disability.  Twenty percent of people in New Zealand have a registered disability and they have the highest rate of unemployment in the country, so that is another community that really is quite ostracised.

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