How can women influence the shape of New Zealand over the next decade?

Posted 2 July 2013

400x255 Rachel Taulelei

Rachel Taulelei is a Member of the Global Women’s network and founder of the Yellow Brick Road, a company demonstrably invested in New Zealand’s food culture.

The last couple of decades of my life have been a whirlwind: a trans-Atlantic voyage on a tall ship, a law degree, a marathon, Trade Commissioner at 25, established three businesses, built an oyster truck, entered the world of governance, co-hosted a radio programme, became a Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader, joined the insanely impressive Global Women’s network, married and had my beautiful daughter.

I love it, but seriously, whose life this is?! On occasion I have paralytic mental moments that resemble the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, where at any moment the gig could be up and someone might query whether I really do have my collective act together! I laughed out loud when I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’ as it turns out I’m not the only one – most women feel like this, and often! You’ve no idea of the relief I felt when reading those words.

Reading ‘Lean In’ coincided with my speaking at a women’s conference alongside incredible women like entrepreneur Melissa Clark-Reynolds, Untouched World’s Peri Drysdale, and Jana Rangooni of Radio Live. The power, positivity, and momentum in the room was palpable. If it could have been harnessed, I feel sure it would have powered a city.

It’s with this in mind that I believe with great conviction that women unequivocally have the ability to not only shape, but transform New Zealand in the next decade. We are the most underutilized and as yet largely untapped intellectual and creative resource at our economy’s disposal. But the capacity for us to be that compelling force, to produce effects on the actions, behaviors and opinions of others won’t happen without significantly greater self-awareness.

Women have to participate with gusto. We need to say yes, even if it means building the tracks while the train is on them. We have to be visible, and surround ourselves with greatness. We absolutely must acknowledge the inherent gender differences, and then play to our innumerable strengths.

Women have to exude authentic confidence. Without it we won’t get off the starting blocks. We have to trust our instincts. We have to tell people when we do well – it is okay say you’re fabulous. Imagine the strength garnered from a culturally diverse, empowered, motivated, intelligent, articulate and mobilized sect of society.

Indeed, as a young Maori woman, it goes further. The responsibility to role model in the intergenerational, cultural space plays on my mind. Not in an onerous way, but as an opportunity to demonstrate and encourage value-based leadership and diversity of thought.

There are of course a phenomenal number of women, who have and are, shaping New Zealand and I have been privileged to meet many of them – women such as Olympian and Pacific business leader Beatrice Faumuina, venture capitalist Jenny Morel, Sir Peter Blake Trust CEO Shelley Campbell, and one in particular who has propelled my career, the inimitable Fran Wilde.

New Zealand needs these women and more like them. Part of the puzzle is to know who they are – we need to hear their stories so as to be inspired and motivated.

I’m the first to admit that it doesn’t go right all of the time and it takes a lot to get it right – work, commitment, the ability to reach out for help when you need it, energy and self-belief, but when it does, it’s a beautiful thing. And trust me when I tell you the Emperor’s clothes really are there.