International Womens Day 2014


E te iwi Mana Whenua - To the people of the land

E ngā  iwi o ngā  hau e whā - Those from the four  winds 

E ngā wāhine tuārangi - To our distinguished women  

Ngā mihinui o tēnei pō - Good evening


  • Your Excellency Vicki Treadell , British High Commissioner – and may I acknowledge that the UK has the highest number of registered International Women’s Day events in the world.
  • Hon Judith Collins, Minister of Justice, Ethnic Affairs & ACC
  • Belinda Bonzon-Liu, founder of Women’s Walk for Peace
  • Distinguished guests

Good evening

The 39th International Women’s Day is a great day to think of progress made and of the journey we must still walk.

Inspiring Change is a fitting theme and let us enjoy challenging the status quo.

The path is not toward equality just for our community, but for all communities in all countries and all cultures

You are in the right city to celebrate the role, impact and success of women in New Zealand. This Capital has seen huge progression of political equality. The Capital city is the place to effect national political change. And Wellington is also the most walkable city in Australasia.

Walking, women and Wellington go very well together.

New Zealand has a proud history of Women in politics, and we need only look at our ten dollar bills to be reminded of that.

But we have also had considerable successes in the local government sector. In 1893 the first ever female Mayor in the British Empire was elected when Elizabeth Yates won the election in Onehunga (Auckland).

We have enjoyed seeing a growth in representation, as women make up an increasing proportion of local government and parliament. Thirty-nine of 121 MPs are women, so New Zealand ranks 23rd of 150 surveyed nations, but at still only 32 percent, there is plenty of room to improve

It was disappointing that fewer women put their names forward for local government office in the local government elections last year.

Nationally, only 30 per cent of candidates were women, a number that has been the same since 2004 after dropping from a high of 32 per cent in 2001. Some might say that’s an improvement from just 3 per cent when records began in 1959 – a year in which no women were elected.

In Wellington City, the number of female candidates for councillor seats has fallen to 24 per cent, compared with 32 per cent in 2010. In the capital, where Kate Sheppard is an absolute icon, it's disappointing that there aren't more women standing.

Nevertheless they were disproportionately successful and 40 per cent of the Capital City’s elected members are women. Given most people stand for local government, and I was no exception, because they are asked, that means in this room we can encourage women to stand. To succeed in 2016, networks and policies need to be developed now!

It was a pleasure to see the recent one-pager in the Dominion Post about the future of public transport with myself, Fran Wilde, chair of the Regional Council and Jenny Chetwynd, regional director of the NZTA being quoted. However, two recent national working parties, one on water and one on aspects of transport, were 100 per cent male. Women would add value to the deliberations, questions and perspectives.

As the Capital, we are also home to the Diplomatic Corps. It’s been a pleasure to see so many countries putting women forward as their representatives to New Zealand. As well as the wonderful British High Commissioner, Vicki, we have the Poland, Cuba, South Africa, Mexico, Germany, Pakistan, Turkey, Fiji, Canada, Malaysia and The Philippines very well represented by female diplomats.

We must have more women in the boardroom of public and private companies.

The latest figures of our listed companies show only 8 per cent of directors are women. This is actually a reduction from the 2012 Census on Women's Participation which showed the percentage of women directors of the top listed 100 companies had risen to 14.75 per cent.

As Mayor, I have worked to increase the proportion of women directors of our Council Controlled Organisations. I remember a member of an appointments panel once said, of one candidate “But I don’t know her!” and I retorted, “That’s the point!”

Yesterday, a new report from Grant Thornton showed that, far from being world leaders in the advancement of women, we’ve slipped backwards.

Over the past 10 years the average proportion of women in senior roles in New Zealand businesses has been unchanged at 31 per cent, against a global average that has increased from 19 per cent to 24 per cent. The proportion of New Zealand businesses that have no women in senior management roles has increased from 26 per cent in 2012 to 32 per cent today. This was going against the global trend, where there had been a decrease from 34 per cent to 33 per cent

To quote Stacey Kirk, a Partner with Grant Thornton: “In 2004, New Zealand was ranked fourth in the world of the countries surveyed, whereas now we are 15th. That's a big fall.”

In a country that was the first to give all women suffrage, has had two female prime ministers, two female governors-general, and a female chief justice, so few women directors is disappointing and the trend is worrisome.

Given we are here to challenge the status quo, I will raise the matter of whose definition of success we are looking at. Is being a CEO the only measure of ambition? What about valuing collaboration and interdependence?

We need people to strengthen connections with the natural world, be inspiring teachers and value unpaid contribution too.

On that note, I’m pleased to refer to the DIA statistics that show women are 54% of the country’s volunteers. Well done, sisters!

Inspiring Change is a call to action. We must empower our girls with knowledge, with determination and with hope so that whatever career they choose, they know they can reach any position based on their skills and perseverance.

And we, who have some power, should seek out, encourage and appoint able women more frequently than has been done in the past decade.

Kia kaha, ngā wāhine o te motu nei, o te ao nei.