A dose of kiwi inspiration: International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge

Written by Rachael Frear.

Hosted by New Zealand Business Women’s Network & Kea New Zealand.
Review by Rachael Frear

What an amazing night hearing from three of New Zealand’s greatest female success stories - chef Monica Galetti, London Bridge Hospital CEO Janene Madden and fashion designer Emilia Wickstead during this year’s International Women’s Day event to discuss the theme: Choose To Challenge.


My top highlights:
1. Kiwis have a phenomenal reputation in the UK for our “roll up your sleeves, get on with it attitude”
When I made the move from NZ to the UK, I had heard about the reputation of our Kiwi predecessors, speaking to our can-do attitude, work ethic and resilience. All these values shined throughout when hearing Monica, Janene and Emilia speak about their upbringing, careers and lives.

The panelists came from very different professions; however, all discussed this similar kiwi nature when facing challenges too, with Emilia explaining “we have that roll up your sleeves, get on with it attitude and I think that was something that was instilled in me from a very young age from my mum”. Throughout the event, you could feel the love and admiration Emilia has for her mum as one of her biggest inspirations and supporters.

Next, Janene provided inspiration and encouragement around hard work paying off. By moving up the career ladder from a physiotherapist to now the CEO of London Bridge Hospital, she credits the reputation many New Zealanders have built in the UK, as part of her success.
“You are hired based on your merit and your predecessors, as kiwis in the UK have a phenomenal reputation for hard work, being resilient, getting on with everybody, and treating everyone equally”.

2. “Sometimes our directness comes across as being blunt at times and uncaring when that is so far from the truth.”
I remember being asked in an interview for my first job in London: how would your previous colleagues describe you? I started to describe how I often am straight to the point in meetings which can often come across as blunt.
This exact moment flashed in my mind when MC Emma Keeling asked Janene if she has had to adapt her work style to fit in here in the UK, “sometimes our directness comes across as being blunt at times and uncaring when that is so far from the truth”.
Another trait that is slightly different is our sense of humor and phrases, with Monica still saying the NZ phrase “you’re an egg” with sometimes looks of confusion when in the kitchen at work here in the UK. And they also didn’t always get the NZ sarcastic humor.
This led me to have a new felt confidence that while some personality traits are good to adapt at work, everyone should be their authentic self, whether that is your directness or sense of humor.

3. Behind each wonder woman, there are supportive families, teams, and friends.
Despite the panel all being wonderwomen, they each shared the importance of the support they get from their family, friends, and work team.
Monica highlighted “the realisation that you are ok to get help” and seek advice from her team, which played a critical part in solving their challenges when they pivoted to home deliveries.
Janene also credited her husband’s support throughout the pandemic, “My husband has worked from home, had four kids homeschooled, he has been an absolute star during this”.

4. Women do not need to choose between a career and their family
With each of these women raising a family and leading a successful career they encouraged others they can too, with Janene discussing “They can have kids and have a career too. Their kids will still love them, they will still turn out well and hopefully they will be motivated by what their mothers have achieved”.
Emilia also attributed the role her mum played throughout her life and how this is one of the best gifts you can give to your daughter. “When I had these dreams and aspirations or I was trying to do anything, it was my mother all the way helping me to do that and pushing me and giving me the confidence and I think that’s the best thing you can give to a child”.

5. Finally, each panelist provided us with the following advice:
Monica: Build confidence in the next generation of females, allowing them to grow up believing they can achieve anything.
Emilia: The importance of acknowledging and rewarding women’s achievements in the workplace, this really goes a long way.
Janene: Wait until the next morning to send that angry email.

By the end of the event, I had laughed over MC Emma Keeling’s jokes, gained inspiration from all three amazing women and felt passionate about going forward with my #ChoosetoChallenge of inspiring the next generation of females that jobs are not defined by your gender.

What more could you want from an event? New Zealand Business Women’s Network then surprised us with our own Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sharing a special message to finish the night. Thank you to Bronwen Horton, the NZBWN team and Kea New Zealand.

Celebrating International Women’s Day is a great chance to reflect, however it is what we do with the remaining 364 days that counts. How will you continue to #ChooseToChallenge?