Situation vacant: Female city councillor

Published first in Hamilton News 30 November 2018

Situation Vacant: Hamilton City Councillor.  Fixed term role starts October 2019.  Remuneration starts at $71,638.  Job description:  To represent and lead the community, set policies, make regulatory decisions and review council performance.  Preference: Female.

Women hold a mere 25% of the seats in our current city council.  Did you notice?  Probably not.  We’ve become used to our local government lacking diversity in gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.  But, imagine how different the dynamics and decision-making process of a council that truly represented our city would be.  I’m not asking for quotas to achieve diversity, we don’t need them – but we do need to support more women to put their name forward for next year’s local elections.  Will you join me?

Are we lacking strong female community leaders?  Are we short on ambitious, strategic professional women?  Would Mums with young families prefer to stay in the home?  Heck no, definitely not and no thanks.

The under-representation of women in our council was the topic of a kōrero I initiated last week.  I was interested in barriers to women standing and what other women could offer them to help.  The experiences of women are different, but in general we are reluctant to stand for family reasons, financial reasons and because, rather sadly we don’t back ourselves enough.  Women ponder over a longer set of criteria than males before considering themselves ‘qualified’ enough to stand.  Basically, women don’t rate themselves as highly as a similarly or even lesser ‘qualified’ male would. Go figure.

The shining beacon of hope from that kōrero was that a group of strong, capable and passionate women have offered experience, skill, creativity and knowledge to support other women to stand next year.  This is exciting, encouraging and could be transformational for how public service looks going forward.

So today, I’m asking the women of Kirikiriroa Hamilton to consider themselves worthy of representing our city and to know that there is support for them to do this.  If it’s not your cup of tea, make sure you shoulder tap an inspirational wāhine to put themselves forward and then join us in supporting them to succeed.

Episode #108 – Waikato Women’s Fund and Femininera

 
9min “So much for the summer” from Cheshire Grimm
15:24m Melissa about Waikato Women’s Fund
23:07m “Dedicated” from The Changing Same
27:15m XXSSY about Femininera
38:02m “Ataraxia” from XXSSY
41:45m My Top 5 ish local events for the week
49m “Let the games begin” The Recently Deceived
54:21m “Thompson is in trouble” The Scones.
 
Huge thanks again to Hamilton Taxi’s the sponsor of this Free FM show.
 

Episode #106 – A sustainable path to politics – Paula Southgate

Listen to this week’s podcast.

6m “One eye open” – Albi & The Wolves
10m INTERVIEW with Paula Southgate Hamilton City
28:30m “It ain’t easy” Albi & The Wolves
30:45m INTERVIEW continued
48:32m “Don’t blink” Cartoon Villain
50:30m Local events
54.30m “Mayday” The Recently Deceived

We’re joined by Hamilton East City Councillor, and current chair of the Community services and environment committee Paula Southgate Hamilton City  She shares her journey from kindergarten committee to Hamilton City Councillor – as we talk about some of the barriers to entering politics when you have a young family.

She explains what the ‘Local indigenous biodiversity pilot’ is and why she’s ‘speaking for the bats’.  Sometimes its hard to reconcile growth of cities with environmental protection – and this is a current concern with the plans for Peacocke.  It seems the best way to ensure that the environment is not forgotten is to make sure the Councillors know it is a priority for you.  Paula was with the Waikato Regional Council for 15 years so is well versed in environmental issues – which is a win for us as she understands the interconnections.

We discuss how we might improve feedback to council, and encourage more residents to have their say on the issues.   She shared advice on encouraging some of the skilled and passionate leaders in our community to campaign for a seat at the council table next year.  (Interview starts at 10min).

Podcast link here. 

So, have you thought about running in next year’s local elections yet?

*Coffee kōrero happening on Thursday the 22nd for potential female candidates and / or supporters.  Please get in touch with me directly for more information*

I don’t know about you, but there are times that I can’t even go to the toilet without someone needing something.  I can be interrupted mid-shower because someone’s hungry. (The someone is a 7 year old daughter by the way).  So is it any wonder pursuing goals outside the house is put aside until our children are old enough to at least babysit themselves?  I’ve been thinking a lot about why we have so few local female political leaders.  25% in Hamilton City Council.  20% of our countries Mayors.  I’ve talked to two of our city councillors about it it – and despite seeing all the reasons why we aren’t better represented, there is a way forward.

In the lead up to the 2016 local elections I was set on running as a Hamilton West Councillor.  I was sure I could do it if I worked hard enough.  I was sure I could offer a viewpoint I felt they needed in there, and I felt I had enough support form my husband to go through with the campaign.  But, that didn’t stop me backing out days before filling in a nomination form.  I just couldn’t do it.  I made excuses like, I can’t afford to do this (it’s easier to boost name recognition when you have money), Public speaking is terrifying.  I don’t want people looking at me all the time.  I really really struggled to do an elevator pitch on why someone should vote for me.  The person I had to be in campaign mode, when I’m naturally self deprecating and introverted is so far outside my comfort zone that it was causing anxiety.  I felt that so many people like myself, were switched off to local politics, that I wouldn’t have the base of voters needed to get in.  Why put myself through it?  Why put my family through it?

(Add >> quick acknowledgement that politics can be hard on the families of male councillors too).

And, I was extremely disappointed at the outcome of the 2016 elections.  The candidates I thought would be a community focused, progressive, environmentally focused and status-quo changing candidates weren’t elected.  Instead we have a conservative – Council which lacks diversity on many fronts.  Including females around the table.  Did I regret not standing?  No.

Is there any wonder women don’t run for council when we have less financial resources, can’t justify time away from the family and under-value our own skills and experience.

We’ve heard regular complaints about conduct in the chamber.  Slurs, disrespect, lewd jokes and bad language.  Not everyone wants to hear that all day.  That’s not to mention the tight 5, group think, old boy’s club, exclusion and political jestering that we associate with being in the game.

However, earlier I mentioned that there is a way forward, and it starts now.  Back in 2016 when I considered running as a candidate, I approached Angela O’Leary to talk about “the job”.  What it entails, and why campaigning is like.  She shared her background into the role and the support that exists for women in politics.  She has mentioned a willingness to mentor others to the role.  (She’s been a Hamilton city councillor for four terms so knows the job).  Last month she reinforced the need for us to shoulder tap people we know, to consider standing in next years election.  (Link to My most recent interview with Angela).

angela

These messages were reinforced again yesterday when I spoke to Paula Southgate.  She discussed her background to entering the governance roles she has had including 15 years at the Waikato Regional Council.  I felt that her advice about women with young families, taking on school board roles and kindy committees to gain helpful experience was a practical step for those who might be interested in the future. Of course governance isn’t the only pathway.  However she too mentioned being willing to mentor someone.  We discussed the calibre of existing female leaders in our city, and the need for everyone to ‘shoulder tap’ someone we think would represent the city well.  (Link to My most recent interview with Paula).

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There will be conduct issues, though no doubt, they will decrease as more females enter the arena.  There will be the need to turn a blind eye to criticism about needing to leave a meeting at 5pm.  There will be no more midnight meetings.  That’s not good for anyone.

So we have two experienced leaders interested in mentoring females into the role.  We have the talent already out in our community  It’s time to have those conversations with our friends, whanau and networks, and break down the barriers so that in 2019 we can vote in a more representative council.

Heads up to SAVE THE DATE for the evening of International Women’s Day 2019, for an evening dedicated to celebrating great leaders and supporting more.

**Note.  This piece stands separate to many many other conversations that need to be had if we are genuinely wanting a representative democracy.  It doesn’t include voting decisions, ethnic representation and doesn’t include the evidence showing the benefits of diversity in decision making. I’m not telling you to vote for women, because they are women.  I’m not implying they make better decisions – I’m suggesting to empower everyone to feel valued in society they have to feel they can participate.  Today’s conversation was based on barriers to women standing.  Next time, will be a different focus.  Feel free to contribute now.  I think ultimately we want the same – and that is to influence the world around us positively – in all the flavours that that might entail.

Conversations around the water cooler

“She’s in childcare from 7.30-5.30pm … but it’s good for her to be socialising with other babies and it’ll give her a head start for school”.

“What did you get up to over the long weekend?”  “Oh you know, just caught up with jobs around the house.  The cars needed washed, lawns mowed – that sort of thing”.  “True, Never enough hours in the day eh?” “Nah, especially with the commute”.

“40 hour week? Good one, I’m pushing 70 hours trying to meet those deadlines. I’m lucky I can work from home so the Mrs doesn’t have a go at me”.

“What are you doing with your kids over the holidays?”  “Oh god, I don’t even want to think about it, we can’t afford the holiday program this year and I don’t have any leave left”.

“The Board says we have to tighten our belts, so HR will be looking at workloads and restructuring – it’ll mean a loss in jobs…  Don’t panic, we’ll make sure we honour our contractual obligations in the event of redundancy”.

“Are you coming to the gym later?” “Nah, I can’t.  I have to work late to make up for taking time off to take Mum to hospital last week”.

“I had a chat to the Manager about the role they’re advertising” “Oh yeah, what did he say?” “He reckons I can get it but I’ll have to go full time if I want it”. “Yeah, the good jobs are always full time”.

While Labour day is just a day off to most of us, it commemorates normalisation of an 8 hour working day.  The idea is that it would give us a fair work life balance, 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of sleep.  Nice in theory.  It seems we still have a long way to go for fair and progressive employment conditions which reflect society in 2018.  If you had to work on Monday the 22nd, Labour day check out your employer obligations

Wendy Ganley: 1960’s Fashion Designer

The story of a 21 year old Hamiltonian, opening her own fashion boutique on Victoria street, caught my attention.  That it happened back in the 1960’s, fascinated me even more for the vision, gumption, passion and dedication it would have taken to succeed.  It was a privilege to hear Wendy Hall nee Ganley of Elle boutique talk about her early career during an event at the Waikato Museum / Te Whare Taonga o Waikato on Sunday.  The exhibition showcasing her work, “Elle & the Youthquake” was curated with the New Zealand Fashion Museum and runs until the 14th of October.

Take a sneak peek here…

A visit to the exhibition will take some of you back in time… and for the retro-curious like me, have you swooning over the display of 1960’s clothing we spend hours scouring op-shops for today.  I’ve got a little collection of dresses in the mod style which I’ve collected over the years – it’s difficult to find them in my size, but I find the shape flattering and the colour and patterns fun.

Sunday’s conversation was facilitated by Doris de Pont, a fellow designer and Director of the New Zealand Fashion Museum in front of over 40 people.

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Wendy started out by making clothes for dolls, herself and friends.  After finishing school she contemplated what might be next; and while peers may have followed a path in nursing or teaching she decided to follow her love of design, textiles and colour.  The decision was fortunate for Hamilton, which could have been forgotten as a trend setter for fashion in those days.  Because trend setter she was!  Hems were getting higher, she was cutting holes out of the midriff, using crochet loops to make her version of a fur coat and combining colours not previous paired.

She shared her love of colour, showing off the bright orange lining on the inside of her cream wedding suit – which is in the exhibition (bottom left of the photo above).  Orange has been her favourite colour though points out it doesn’t look as good on her as it used to… I’m not sure if I believe this, I get the sense when looking at her that she would still get away with it – as stylish as she has remained.

Society was changing in the 1960’s.  Youth were no longer restricted by pre-war conservatism and more women were in the workforce, giving many of us discretionary income for the first time.   In fact, one member of the audience and one of Wendy’s first customers, an ex-nurse, recalls spending “all her pay” in Elle boutique, while other’s nodded in familiarity at lay-buying their latest desires. Many of these items still hang in their wardrobes.

Another theme, coming from stories of Wendy’s early career was the industry support given to her by fellow designers and given to others in return.  Wendy learnt couture from Babs Radon in Auckland, and mentored Marilyn Sainty in return here in Hamilton.  It was through working with Barbara Penberthy of Babs Radon that she was able to see how balancing motherhood and a career could work; through setting up a space for ‘the babies’ in her Frankton workshop.

Wendy was able to share her original sample books with the audience, which showed the textile swatches she had to choose from – and the designs and combinations used to make her clothing and accessories.  I was really surprised each item was a one off – she explained there wasn’t the same awareness of economies of scale; customers wouldn’t want to be seen at the races in the same outfit as someone else and besides, it wouldn’t have been fun mass producing them that way anyway!

Before trade was opened up in the 1980’s New Zealand wasn’t inundated by cheap imported clothing; or “fast fashion” as we are now.  Buyers consumed fashion under the kaupapa of “Buy once, Buy well”.  Quality over Quantity.  These garments were often one of a kind, hand made and of high quality, particularly with New Zealand wool a common textile to use.   Collectors like myself can attest to this enduring quality – with it not being uncommon to find an immaculate 1960s dress or suit in an opshop (they obviously knew how to follow “care instructions” unlike me).

Inevitably it got me thinking about how different things are now, and most notably in comparison to fast fashion.  Will there ever be a resurgence of NZ made clothing? Will we look back some time in the future and pin point the time when we started to “Buy once, Buy well” rather than base a decision on low cost and quantity.  Will we look back in 50 years and know who our local designers were?

We are not paying “The True Cost” #fashionrevolution

The Waikato Museum / Te Whare Taonga o Waikato has booklets about the exhibition available in their shop for $15.