Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei,
tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.
Kia ora tātou katoa
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
Thank you for inviting David and me to this prestigious awards dinner. We’re delighted to be here to help celebrate some of this country’s foremost female influencers.
Aotearoa New Zealand is fortunate to have had some phenomenal women leaders in the past.Kate Shepherd, Ettie Rout, Elizabeth McCombs, Princess Te Puea and Dame Whena Cooper are just some that spring to mind. All of them were dynamic women who helped shape our history.
It’s a formidable list of names and it’s one that gives inspiration to others who follow in their footsteps. Every day, all over the country, women leaders are getting to work. They’re organising their communities, they’re starting up or running businesses, they’re sitting on committees or boards. They’re out there getting the job done. They may not end up in the history books like Kate, Ettie and Whena but right here, right now, they’re making their own mark in their own ways.
The benefits of empowering women to participate fully and on equal terms in society are obvious. When a country empowers all of its people, it unlocks every bit of potential within its population. By encouraging and enabling women to take up leadership roles we are using all the resources at our disposal, not just some of them.
It’s now well proven that businesses that have greater gender diversity are more likely to reap the benefits of increased profitability and a healthier workplace culture.Initiatives like the Women of Influence programme play an important role in supporting our current leaders and encouraging other women to believe that they can take on leadership roles too.
New Zealand is currently one of the 10 most gender equal countries in the world. But we all know that this isn’t good enough. We still have a long way to go to be number one.There was some good news this week with the announcement that the gender pay gap in this country has dropped to a five-year low.It now stands at 9.4 percent, nearly three percent down on this time last year.However, while this is a positive sign, the fact that the pay gap still exists at all is simply unacceptable.
Much of the research around the gender pay gap currently focuses on issues of unconscious bias. The conversations we are having about recognising unconscious bias and how to eliminate it are challenging, but it’s important that they take place.
All of us have a role to play. We can all act as influencers. Whether we’re male or female, the Chief Executive of a company or just starting in the workforce, we can all speak out, challenge pre-conceptions and, most importantly, we women can act to empower other women.
To me, that’s what influence is all about. It’s not exercising power – it’s giving power. It’s not demanding – it’s showing the way.Influence can be many things but used as a force for good, it can change the world.
It was suggested to me that I might like to talk about an influential woman who has made an impression on me. That’s not an easy task as there have been many!
But one woman who has made a great impression on me throughout my life and who, last year, I finally got a chance to meet, is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Her mana is immense, her care and concern for others is obvious and her commitment to her role, for the more than 65 years of her reign, has been unwavering.
She’s earned the respect and loyalty of millions and while she has changed with the times, she has remained true to her core values.
She’s one of the most famous women in the world, yet she doesn’t give media interviews and we know very little about her private life. I feel very privileged to have met her and observed her quiet dignity, grace and charm.
Although she was born into a position of fame and influence, over the years, through many turbulent and challenging world events, she has built on that position to represent a sense of continuity and enduring values for all people within her realm.
It’s the Queen’s own personality and sense of duty that have set the tone for her reign and it’s a reminder to all of us that it’s what we offer in terms of our strengths and attributes that will make us successful leaders.
My warmest congratulations to all the finalists and award winners tonight. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your achievements as the evening progresses.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa