Support is the key for our female leaders

The Schtick . . . Waitaki District councillors (from left) Kelli Williams, Hana Halalele and Mel Tavendale.

Business Hive director Cara Tipping Smith shares some thoughts, following the second meeting of The Schtick — a collaboration between the Hive, Business South Waitaki and Belamour — running different events for North Otago women in business. Monday evening’s event was Women in Governance, with Waitaki District Councillors Melanie Tavendale, Hana Halalele and Kelli Williams, speaking to a full house at the Hive.

This district of ours is filled with smart, capable women who punch above their weight in their respective fields, often while juggling the demands of family.

This week, our three women councillors took up aninvitation from The Schtick to take part in a facilitated conversation about women in governance and leadership.

All are mums.

All have a bunch of firsts under their belts.

All had the courage to front up and generously open their hearts and minds to share their experience and insight as women who have stepped up for our wider community.

This is not about the coming elections.

This is about the unspoken and unenforceable contract that comes into play when we ask people to take on leadership roles. Our part of that contract is that we support them. We don’t have to agree with them. We absolutely must support them.

We ask women to step up over and over again.

Take a look at any committee, school board or volunteering group, and count the faces of women taking on leadership roles. Under-resourced and often unpaid, they achieve far beyond any reasonable expectation.

The sheer number of women actively representing in leadership and governance in our community is inspirational.

Until last month and when nominations closed, women were encouraging other women to stand for council positions, and most declined.

We’ve seen the media telling us how women get more abuse in leadership and governance roles.

We saw Finland’s Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, hauled over coals for the crime of dancing at a private party.

We saw Paula Penfold on the receiving end of death threats for doing her job – journalism.

On what planet are death threats a remotely reasonable response to words?

No matter who you think is right or wrong, you cannot think any form of abuse is a valid, adult or proportionate way of expressing disagreement.

In the room, at The Schtick, women asked questions, thought deeply, and modelled exceptional support. It was so easy.

The good old Kiwi BYO bottle or plate greased the conversation long after the formalities had finished. We left uplifted and inspired.

 As we go into the elections and share our opinions, we must model the behaviour we would want our daughters, our friends and even ourselves to receive — without exception.

Our conversation will be so much richer if we commit to lifting each other up in the debates to come.