Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.
Distinguished guests, warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge:
Ministers of the Crown Hon Peeni Henare and Hon Ron Mark ;
former Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand;
Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral John Martin;
The Chairman of Sir Peter Blake Trust Selection Panel, Sir Chris Mace;
Sarah-Jane Blake and other members of the Blake family - tēnā koutou katoa.
I’m very pleased to be here this evening for this celebration of New Zealand leadership. As co-patron of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, I’m delighted to join you all in acknowledging the people who work so hard to make a real difference in our communities.
Sir Peter Blake was an inspirational man, who was greatly loved by New Zealanders. It’s wonderful that tonight’s event is being held on the water, a place where Sir Peter felt so at home and spent so much of his time. It’s doubly appropriate given that today is World Oceans Day, which focusses on honouring, protecting and conserving the world’s shared oceans.
It was Napoleon who said “A leader is a dealer in hope”. To be a change-maker, you must not only have a vision of a brighter future but have the ability to make others believe in and follow that vision.
The success or otherwise of our organisations, our communities and our country as a whole is a direct result of the calibre of our leaders, their talent and ideas. The New Zealand we know and love would not exist without the efforts of those who have worked towards building a better society.
Despite being a country that’s so small we’re occasionally left off world maps, we have often shown leadership on the international stage. This year we celebrate the 125th anniversary of one of those important moments – the signing of the 1893 Electoral Act which gave New Zealand women equal voting rights with men.
We are very proud of that achievement. It was a hard fought campaign that saw leaders like Kate Sheppard toiling endlessly to mobilise support all around New Zealand.
To be the first in the world to legislate that women should have an equal say in how the country they lived in was governed, was an extraordinary achievement. It was 9 years before another country extended suffrage to include women – that was Australia in 1902.
125 years ago, we were world leaders in gender equality. The free and equal society we live in today is a direct result of the leadership of women like Kate Sheppard and men like Sir John Hall, who supported the cause in Parliament.
But what has happened to that leadership position since? While we have made undoubted advances towards a more diverse and inclusive society, I suggest our progress towards gender equity has been relatively poor. Especially when you consider the leadership position we commanded 125 years ago.
Figures released earlier this year show that the proportion of women in leadership positions in New Zealand companies is the lowest it’s been since 2004. The 2018 Westpac New Zealand Diversity Dividend Report, found that only one in four of our companies thought they would reach gender parity in leadership within five years.
Further, the reduction in the gender pay gap, which had been closing, appears to have stalled. In particular, the pay gap for working mothers is significantly larger than for fathers.
This was found by Motu Economic Research Trust in a recently published working paper commissioned by the Ministry for Women. Motu pithily summarised their conclusion in this haiku verse:
Being a mother
Means decreased hours and wages
No such change for dads.
These and many other stories that have appeared in the media this year, show that our promising start is sputtering out.
Surely, it’s time that the leadership of our organisations, workplaces and institutions more accurately reflected the gender balance of our population. In the 125th anniversary year of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, I would like to see us move towards taking on that gender equity global leadership role once again.
Last year, Blake Medal recipient Sir Mason Durie charged the Blake Leader Alumni with leading the debate about what our society should look like in 2040. Gender equity needs to be part of these conversations. Of course I recognise that there are many other important challenges, such as ethnic and cultural diversity, that we must address before we can claim to be a truly diverse and inclusive society. But gender equality should be the easiest to achieve.
125 years from now, we don’t want to still be saying “Oh, but we were first in the world to give women the vote.” With your help, effort and support, it’s time to put in place some new gender equity milestones to be proud of.
The challenge is being laid down to be like Kate Sheppard and Sir Peter Blake and make a positive and lasting difference.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa