Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. In our regular Business Chat special, Simon Pound speaks with Maria Slade, business editor at The Spinoff, and Karyn Scherer, senior copywriter at Callaghan Innovation, about the business stories making the news this month.
Simon Pound: We’re 125 years since being a pioneering country with women’s suffrage, but looking around business, after it did look like we were doing quite well with Theresa Gattung and other high profile women in leadership roles, we’ve gone right backwards to having one of the top NZX 50 leaders being a woman and something like 12 or 13% of directors being women. Are there signs of hope and what’s going on?
Maria Slade: Some days you feel like banging your head against a brick wall. It was interesting that the governor general Dame Patsy Reddy, who is a lawyer, came and spoke at the Women of Influence Awards the other night and said that in her generation they put up with a lot of egregious behaviour, but thought that the way to deal with it was just to put their heads down and work hard and things would change.
She said we now know we were wrong and disruption is the only way it’s going to happen and that’s what’s happening with the Me Too movement. Women are just tired of having to put up with that kind of bad behaviour, at whatever end of the scale it is, the rude comments at one end, the pornography on the wall of the workshop at the other end.
Women for too long have thought oh, boys will be boys, we’re just going to have to make a joke about it or get past it, but now I think it’s swung right round and people are calling out the bad behaviour. We need to push forward.
Simon: And it’s not necessarily being lessons learnt quickly, if you look at prominent law firms that are finding themselves back in trouble for similar issues to previous high-profile troubles.
Karyn Scherer: Yeah but isn’t it fantastic that women now feel empowered and safe enough to speak out against this, they don’t feel that the power imbalance is so bad that they have to put up with it. I think it’s amazing now that women actually feel that they can expose this and I’m sure a lot of men are feeling a lot more careful about how they act.
As a fairly recent development I think it’s going to have massive implications for all kinds of places.
Simon: I loved Helen Clark’s quote, paraphrasing that there isn’t so much a glass ceiling as there is a thick layer of men, or as some people have put it, a layer of thick men.