E nga māreikura, koutou, wahine mā,
Nau mai haere mai ki Te Whare Kawana
Aku mihi nui ki a koutou katoa, i tēnei ra.
Kia ora tātou katoa.
I am delighted to host today’s reception celebrating SheEO.
I don’t know if SheEO has a theme song, but in my mind it should be Aretha Franklin’s wonderful soul anthem “Sisters are doing it for themselves”.
In fact, it’s not only for themselves. By developing a new model of radical generosity, SheEO is seeking to create a better world.
A 2018 Mastercard survey of female entrepreneurs across 28 countries, ranked New Zealand as having the fourth highest number of female-led businesses. That sounds good, but is it really such an impressive statistic?
When you drill down, around one third of start-up companies in New Zealand are led or owned by women. But that means men are still more than twice as likely to head up entrepreneurial businesses.
Female entrepreneurs say they value the opportunity to operate on their own terms, in their own time, and in line with their personal values. But let’s face it, discriminatory practices in the workplace are also a reason why women choose to go out on their own.
I am sure we would all like to see women running more than 33 percent of our businesses, and we know that one factor holding them back from doing so is access to capital.
Jackie Blue, our former Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, put it bluntly:
“Unless women are intentionally included, they will be unintentionally excluded”.
For whatever reason, women have been traditionally excluded from investment opportunities and access to capital, so we need initiatives like SheEO to even up the odds.
Women empowering women is a simple and appealing model, particularly to women of my generation, who didn’t have female role models or mentors when we started out.
It is a brilliant concept: the opportunity to help female entrepreneurs consolidate or expand their enterprises, and to share experiences of what it means to face setbacks, learn from mistakes, keep going against the odds and succeed.
Further, SheEO’s recognition of successful female enterprises enable their stories to inspire other women to follow their own dreams. The emphasis on enterprises that help to build stronger communities and a better world, resonates strongly with New Zealand women.
I congratulate this year’s finalists for the quality of their products and services. I’m delighted to see so many with a focus on healthy, sustainably produced and reusable items. And it’s impressive to learn of your commitments to social enterprise in parallel with your business focus. It will be a tough job to select the top five.
Theresa, thank you for bringing SheEO to New Zealand and for your commitment to so many initiatives that are devoted to female empowerment.
I am looking forward to hearing your update about SheEO’s progress – and to hearing from two of last year’s recipients as to how SheEO has helped them develop and implement their business plans.
Once again, thank you all for coming here today. Let’s all keep spreading the word about SheEO and its work, so that more New Zealand women can show just what female business acumen and tenacity can achieve, given the chance, and the seed funding, to do so.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui huihui tātou katoa