AFQY Women inaugural event on International Women's Day

03/19/2021

AFQY inaugural women's event: Don't stop us now

The discussion at the inaugural AFQY WOMEN's event was flowing with passion for change. The openness of sharing, the vulnerability in the stories, and the power of the support of the collective had an energy and wairua that will live on beyond that hour, that day, and the moments which you will read about below.

Over 80 people joined us on Zoom, some having breakfast, some of us wearing dressing gowns, all keen to hear from inspiring people. We split into several breakout rooms to talk about the issues that get us going, and the events, people and organisations that challenge us to do better.

Although Covid shook up the way we met, it didn't stop us celebrating wāhine. Spanning just over an hour in the morning, we had roarsome kōrero about the changes we want to see - and how we can make them happen together.

This event was motivated by Lesley Chevin-Whyte, and inspired by my grandmother and mother who were both activists. Grandma famously was the first woman to wear men's trousers and ride a motorbike into town when it simply wasn't allowed - or so the mayor tried to tell her. Mum created an IT system that was adopted by the world via the New Zealand government, despite being told she didn't know what she was doing because she was a woman.

Now you know about the background and motivation behind the event, let's launch into the top ten themes we discussed:

  • SUPERPOWERS

"We asked: What are our superpowers? How women bring these into leadership and the power when we own those things and stand in the truth."

This breakout room talked about the superpowers of love, being a Māori woman, and intuition. They went deep real fast said Shelly.

  • CHALLENGING CONFERENCE ORGANISERS TO UP THEIR GAME

"A friend was disgusted there were no female keynotes. She challenged the conference organisers. Five years ago, she founded her own conference series where all speakers are female."

This initiative is called the Women in Data Science and this year they chased the sun around the world with a 24-hour virtual, global event on International Women's Day, said Dr. Rosalind Archer.

  • SPORTS: WHERE'S OUR MONEY ACTUALLY GOING?

"As a group of people on this call, we can all make a choice and question our contribution. Ask: where is this going? Is this going to be spread equally?"

Some of us were shocked to hear where sports funding goes. For others it was a reality they knew all too well. It was definitely a wake-up call to hear how uneven the split is. For every dollar of community funding, 80c of sports funding goes into men/boys' sports and 20c goes to women/girls' sports.

We also heard how vital it is to keep collecting data to drive objective decision making in this area.

We spoke to Gail from Downer who said that, while we are seeing progress in sports funding, there's still huge disparity. Something has to be done about the community funding split of - 80% v 20% (Class 4).

  • BEING JUDGED AND TAKING ON TOO MUCH

"It took me by surprise: her dad had to say to her you will be judged because of the colour of your skin; because you're Māori."

Even though Sue's PhD was on women's participation in the workplace, she was shocked to hear of Kylie's experience and being told that this is how you are going to be treated because of your ethnicity and gender.

Sue also talked about the tendency to pick up more of the emotional baggage and workload than her male counterparts. She warned that women can fall into the trap of putting their hands up to do too many things.

  • A THREE KING HIT: Being Māori, a woman, and knowing stuff they didn't know about tech and AI

"It's okay to be smarter."

Donnamaree talked about how she was seen as a big threat in a male-dominated tech firm, and, because she was a smarter mana wāhine, they tried to push her out immediately. She left to do bigger, better things when she started her own artificial intelligence tech firm.

  • TAKING PROACTIVE ACTION AND LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS

"We focused on proactive solutions to move the narrative forward. A call to action to everyone here, before the next IWD, to actively do something."

We were inspired by Kylie's group about how we can be the change. Kylie talked about getting behind initiatives like apprenticeships, scholarships and partnering with schools. We heard how important it is that young people have good role models and that it's not enough to talk, we've got to get involved and so something - that's what leads to more diversity in the workplace.

And as much as we love LinkedIn, we've got to reach the young people where they're at. It's about inspiring the future Aotearoa and being seen on the right social media platforms.

  • SUMMER OF TECH - ENCOURAGING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT

"You've got to lead by example. Don't be the change you've rebelled against."

We were encouraged by Bronnie from the Summer of Tech who supports uni students from anywhere in the country from first years to PhD level.

Bronnie is encouraged that 40.7% of the students in the programme identify as non-male. The programme doesn't exclude or marginalise anyone - students just get to focus on solving a tech problem through boot camps and hackathons. It's really encouraging to watch uni students in that space feel like they're not held back because of their gender, Bronnie said.

  • ALLIES: MEN SPEAKING UP AND SUPPORTING US

"You can't talk like that."

We also discussed the role men play in smashing gendered stereotypes and calling out what's wrong at work. Paul took a stand when one of his employees complained about sexual harassment by listening and supporting her through this tough time. Men, or non-females, play a strong role in stamping out gender discrimination and sexist behaviour and comments.

  • FEMALE LEADERS VS. FEMININE LEADERSHIP TRAITS & MENTAL HEALTH

"Feminine leadership traits - like empathy, people leadership and listening - are valuable whatever your gender is."

As well as championing feminine leadership traits, Sasha brought up imposter syndrome and mental health. She mentioned that we can still put people in a box and label them as strong or not strong, but that we risk losing something special when people don't share their truth.

Sasha also talked about imposter syndrome and the benefit of giving it a name and drawing it. She suggested getting specific about the voice, and how they act, to put some space between yourself and the imposter syndrome, so as not to get completely lost in it.

  • STRONG ROLE MODELS AND THE POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE

"How powerful we can be as a collective together to champion change in this area."

We heard from one attendee that she didn't have strong female role models when she was growing up and she was often told she was too loud. She said it wasn't until she was in her forties that she felt she found her voice.

We also heard from Lisa who has worked with at-risk youth and speaks openly about her life experiences - of domestic violence, and how much stronger we are when we do things together. She also hadn't had many women role models, but has been in a unique position where men have championed her. She mentioned how much she appreciated that. As a mother of a wee boy, she champions women every day and believes that everyone, regardless of their gender, can champion women and be the change they want to see in the world.

Make a stand and speak out each and every day.

Before I let you go, I want to remind us all that the fight for equality and making a difference is a daily one. It's not something we just talk about on International Women's Day and forget. So, I challenge all of us to take positive steps and remember:

  • We all have a role to play to effect positive and lasting change, whatever our gender and background.
  • Look out for role models and be role models. Speak up for what is right and call out what is wrong.
  • Harness your superpowers and see the strength in being real and open about your challenges.
  • Create distance between your imposter syndrome and unhelpful thoughts. Give it a name and a funny voice, so that you don't take it too seriously!
  • Challenge people in positions of power. Call them out when there's not enough diversity.
  • If the platforms are not already out there, create them.
  • Talking is great, but it's not enough. Get out there, partner with schools, be a mentor.

About A Few Quiet Yarns: AFQY

AFQY is a cause driven organisation. Having been raised by strong women, gender equality is close to my heart.

My mum and grandma showed them back in the day. Now we are going to show people every day, at every event, and with every story. And we won't stop until there is no marginalisation towards women in the workplace or anywhere else.

Stay tuned and get involved.

We have a special edition YARN LIVE with Spark's CEO Jolie Hodson and Chair Justine Smyth speaking together on 31st March 2021, and regular in-person events. So, stay tuned and get involved!

We will continue the series with a range of women in tech, the following event is YARN LIVE with Yvonne Day speaking April 16th 10am