As a woman who has been in local government politics for over 18 years, I am 100% behind the movement to get more women in council. This does not diminish the contribution of my male colleagues, it complements it.
In my time, I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of being a woman in this predominantly male-orientated career.
When I began, I had young children and faced the same expressed concerns as I hear on the campaign trail this time: “can you manage your family (children) and council?” Well, the answer was yes. I could and I did. My wonderful daughters inspire me to make a positive difference in my work and have never been left without love and support as I made my career in politics.
I have been at the end of unwanted and unhelpful comments from a few male colleagues: “she is just a school teacher, what would she know about business?”, “she won’t be tough enough to cope in Wellington!” Hmmm
But I have also had wonderful male colleagues and friends such as the late Mr Barry O’Connor (CE of the Airport and regional councillor) who told me and others very early on, I “was the new face of leadership” and encouraged me at every opportunity to aim high. And I did.
I will also add that not all female colleagues have been supportive on my journey. Politics comes, at times, with a fierce level of competition. But when supportive women and men work well together we can make positive progress.
I have become used to being a minority in some political forums but have developed resilience and confidence in my roles. I lean on some good and supportive women to keep me focused.
For over 10 years I have promoted local government as a great career choice for women and I sincerely hope some of the fabulous women who have put their hand up for election get support. There is some excellent talent, life experience and fresh perspective to be gained.
I am sure, like me, you will be considering skills and experience in the upcoming election, but also looking to act on the imbalance and give serious consideration to female candidates.
As I have said, this does not mean we don’t value the skills of men, but that we equally value the skills of women.