“This is my home — I consider this my backyard”, was Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s opening line as she addressed a Women in Leadership event at Unitec yesterday. Unitec sits in the Mt. Albert electorate which has been responsible for producing three Labour Prime Ministers since its creation in 1946, including Ms. Ardern.
Following a welcome from Josie Keelan, Dean of Teaching and Learning, Matauranga Maori, the Prime Minister addressed a packed room of more than 150 women, including Council members, leadership team, Deans, Heads of Practice Pathways, lecturers, and representatives from across every department at Unitec.
“Just say 'yes', surround yourself with mentors who know what makes you tick and be yourself” was the Prime Minister’s advice to the group as she discussed growing up in a small town, doing her OE and what first got her started in politics which she knew she “wouldn’t treat as a job, but as a life of service”.
The Prime Minister also challenged the assumption that women have to be “tough” in order to take the top jobs. She encouraged the group to bring their own traits to their roles and not feel that they had to live up to any assumptions, but to carve their own paths. "I felt more comfortable just being who I am and seeing where it would take me. So that made it a little bit easier for me."
Following the Prime Minister's address, Head of Practice Pathway for Creative Industries, Dr Vanessa Byrnes hosted a question and answer session from the floor. The Prime Minister praised Unitec for the work it was doing in getting women into leadership roles but told the group to “always look at a room and ask who’s not there”, and to find ways to incentivise and support them to get there. She talked about her female role models, Annette King and Helen Clark; the huge influence that her parents had on her leadership style; and the fact that “work doesn’t feel like work. I feel privileged”.
And what does success look like for the Prime Minister? “Success for me means taking action on issues that are meaningful to others, whether it’s kids in poverty or climate change. That’s the legacy I’d like to leave behind”.
The Women in Leadership group meets every 6-8 weeks at Unitec and is headed by Kerry Kirkland, Head of Business Practice, Business Practice.
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