Watch Women Win: in NZ and the Pacific

Antonia Watson

The role of women in leadership is slowly becoming accepted in our society, but the pace of this acceptance leaves much to be desired. And both men and women are partly to blame for that.

That was the view of ANZ New Zealand CEO Antonia Watson, who gave a special lecture at the University of Fiji this week.

Watson said: “We launched the ‘Watch Women Win’ report because we were concerned that there was a lack of confidence, a fear of failure, and judgement holding back a lot of young women.”

She continued: “Winning means different things to different people, whether it’s becoming a CEO, Prime Minister, gold medallist, or partner in a firm. Irrespective of what it is, it always seems to be harder if you’re a girl, woman, or minority to achieve your dreams.”

The Watch Women Win ANZ research report indicated that 42% of men attributed their success to luck versus 33% of women. This suggests that women believe they need to work harder to achieve their desired roles.

Watson believes women need the support of their colleagues, friends, and family, saying women are bad at self-promotion. “Women tend to think if they can do 80% of the job, they are not sure if they qualify.”

ANZ has set up policies to improve, encourage and empower women to apply for roles in the organisation. “So the old boys network helped set up policies in ANZ so that we have to meet a gender balance quota when hiring,” Watson explained.

“It does bring in more women, and it trains people’s minds not to discriminate when hiring.”

However, the research report still shows a difference in opinions between men and women, with 66% of the men surveyed feeling that women are given equal opportunities, while only 44% of women agreed.

This figure is not surprising for those living in the Pacific. Present at the event was the President of the Fiji Women Lawyers Association, Mele Rakai, who shared her experience of the slow progress of women in her field of work, for example, in the representation of magistrates throughout Fiji.

“We see one or two female magistrates [per division]. We’ve seen slight improvements. They may be very slight improvements for us, but for a young practitioner like myself with about 15 years of admission experience, that is quite encouraging, ” said Rakai.

“When I was doing practise in 2007, there was only one female magistrate. I don’t see much difference in the appointment of female high court judges, but the additional appointment of one female judge in the High Court of Fiji means we’re making improvements,” she said.

“But let’s encourage ourselves and we want to watch women in all different divisions and scopes of work win,” she concluded.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Fiji, Professor Shaista Shameem, highlighted the importance of this subject, particularly at a time when two women were buried for different reasons.

Shameem said: “In the case of Queen Elizabeth II, it is only after her passing that people point out that the greatest stateman in the world was a woman, and in the case of Mahsa Amini, who was murdered by Iran’s morality police for her ‘improper’ hijab.

“In Mahsa’s case, no matter what a woman does in some countries, she just can’t win.”