Nominations are now open for the 2015 Women of Influence Awards, recognising and celebrating women from all walks of life who make a difference to everyday Kiwis.
Presented by Fairfax Media and Westpac, the WOI programme is committed to increasing the visibility of women’s leadership in New Zealand, highlighting the important contribution women make in creating a bold and diverse future for New Zealand.
REDnews spoke to 2 of the awards’ judges to get their take on the current state of leadership and what they’ll look for in an outstanding WOI nomination.
The judge: Dame Rosanne Meo
Dame Rosanne was the first female president of the Employers' Federation and in her time as a public director, has chaired Television New Zealand, and sat on the board of Mercury Energy, Sky TV, Ports of Auckland, Forestry Corporation, and Baycorp.
She currently chairs Briscoes and the Real Estate Institute, AMP Staff Superannuation Scheme, and is a Director of Overland Footwear.
New Zealand recently ranked 10th in the world for numbers of women on boards with 17.5%. While progress is being made, there is still a long way to go. Where do you think we should be focussing our attention to improve our global standing?
We have had a great track record in New Zealand with 2 women Prime Ministers, we had, and still do have, a woman Chief Justice, we had 2 women Governor Generals, and the Chief Executive of one of our largest companies, Telecom, was a woman. We had a pretty exemplary rate, but we haven’t kept with the pace.
Whether we got a little comfortable with that I don’t know, but we have slowed down, and not just at the board table.
I read some Australian research, and imagine it’s similar in New Zealand, that 50% of participants at university are women, but only 14% were professors.
So while there is good work being done, don’t let us take our eye off all the other areas where we should be looking for more recognition of women.
What personal traits are required to become an influential woman today?
I don’t know if the word “today” belongs in that question.
About 2-3 months ago, Sue Foley from Westpac (Director Corporate Affairs), Kathryn Wilson the shoe designer, Penelope Peebles from senior recruitment firm John Peebles Associates Ltd, and I took part in a panel discussion and talked about what’s changed and what hasn’t.
Even with us being in 4 different age brackets, the same themes that kept coming through: it was women that demonstrated commitment, integrity, self-belief, being brave.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the course of your career in regards to women leaders?
The integration that women have achieved between careers and motherhood is the thing that stands out the most.
In my generation, we did this crazy balancing act between motherhood and careers. It was all pretty informal and relied on family an enormous amount. Today it is much more structured.
It’s still very, very demanding of women to combine high level careers and motherhood, but it is more achievable. I love the fact that you’re not having to make a decision like ‘Will I go into a career, or will I have children?’ That question seems to me to have largely gone and I’m thrilled about that.
What are the first things you look for in a woman of influence nomination? What does it take to stand out from the pack?
It does differ a bit between the categories, but it always comes back to issues of integrity, selflessness, and commitment.
You don’t want the people that are doing it to be showy. You look back at someone like Lesley Elliott last year, who amidst all her incredible tragedy was still brave enough and selfless enough to go out there and spread the message to avoid what she and Sophie had been through happening to other young women, and to other mothers.
The judge: Peter Tennent
Peter served on the New Plymouth District Council for 15 years, 3 of which he was Deputy Mayor, and then for 9 years as Mayor. Under his leadership New Plymouth was transformed, and recognised in 2008 by being voted the ‘Best small city in the world’ and New Plymouth’s iconic coastal walkway was named as the world's best environmentally sustainable project for 2008.
Peter now drives a number of family companies with his wife Rosemary, and is involved in a number of trusts and organisations in various capacities.
What does influence mean to you?
Everybody has influence. Everybody we come into contact with; every decision we make; every comment we make; every action we take.
We all must make a conscious decision whether that influence is to be positive or negative. We all must make a conscious decision the impact we will have on others.
These awards recognise women of extraordinary positive influence. Women whose influence lifts the lives and aspirations of others, shatter glass ceilings, and show that anything is possible. That’s influence that deserves to be celebrated and applauded.
How would you describe your style of influence?
The positive differences I’ve been associated with are a direct result of the people who surrounded me. Too often without the accolades they deserve.
I have been fortunate in my political, my business, and my family life to be surrounded by good people who are focussed on making good things happen.
If a family, a club, a community, or a country can all be focussed on a common goal or vision, anything is achievable.
Who’s the most impressive women you’ve ever worked with, and what was it about her that made her stand out?
I’ve been privileged to work with many impressive women, including many past winners of these awards.
But the most impressive woman I've worked with is my wife, Rosemary.
Rosemary is one of those unique individuals that lifts all the people who come into contact with her. As well as being a devoted and loving wife, mother, and daughter, she’s a strategic thinker in business and has absolute commitment to community.
Rosemary is a true example of a woman of huge influence, who draws people to a common vision and motivates them to get behind that vision, but she is also an example of someone that shies away from the spotlight.
What are the first things you look for in a Woman of Influence nomination?
Making a positive difference
Being a positive role model for others, particularly women
Intestinal fortitude to make things happen
The WOI Awards showcase some amazing women. What does it take for a nomination to stand out from the pack?
It needs someone, or some organisation, to send it in! We all know incredibly influential women. These awards are an opportunity to see the positive difference they make to be recognised.
But for that to happen, they need to be nominated. Now is the time to do just that.
Women of Influence 2015
Are you, or someone you know, a bold, energetic woman who is helping shape New Zealand’s future? Westpac have partnered with Fairfax Media to bring you the Women of Influence awards, celebrating the contribution made by women at a local, regional, and national level.
For all the information, including how to nominate yourself or someone you know, visit Women of Influence section of Westpac’s website.