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.
Welcome to Government House.
In 1893, the white camellia was worn proudly by those campaigning for voting rights for women in New Zealand.
125 years on, this beautiful flower is still a powerful symbol for those wishing to show their support for gender equality.
Last year, I was honoured to host the White Camellia Awards at Government House in Wellington. This year the awards have moved from our capital city to our biggest city. However the intention remains the same - to recognise the New Zealand business community’s support for gender equity.
There is a certain resonance that in the year we celebrate New Zealand’s ground breaking electoral bill, voices for change are being raised again.
Movements like the Women’s Marches and Me Too have focussed attention on women’s issues. We’ve seen the effects of this here in New Zealand.
We like to think of ourselves as an egalitarian nation, one where people adhere to principles of fairness and equity. However the publicity about harassment and sexism in the legal sector and other areas of New Zealand business life has challenged those perceptions.
That’s a good thing. We cannot remain complacent and if we are to become a fair and equal society, we must not let bad behaviour continue to be normalised. It’s destructive for both women and men.
We have always been proud to be leaders in the women’s rights arena. The 58 companies who are signatories to the Women Empowerment Principles are playing their part in ensuring we remain so.
Committing to these principles is a statement about the importance of equality. It’s also a recognition that in societies where women flourish, everyone benefits.
Research backs up this assertion. As I mentioned last year, gender equal businesses are more likely to be more profitable and have a healthier workplace culture. I was also fascinated to read new research that has found that countries with women MPs have noticeably lower levels of corruption. There are tangible, measurable benefits that prove that gender equality is good for us and for the bottom line.
I’m looking forward to finding out more about this year’s White Camellia award winners. Congratulations to the winners and thank you all for the work you are doing to make our workplaces empowered and equal.
Kia ora huihui tatou katoa.