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Jo Cribb: Secrets to successful New Zealand women

originally published on NZ Herald online


Lace collars are everywhere as are memes of a physically slight but formidable woman with the quote "women belong in all the places where decisions are made".


Like many, when Instagram told me on Saturday afternoon that RBG had lost her hard-fought battle with cancer, a sadness descended over me.


Sad, yes, because the timing meant her death would become intensely political but far more because a woman who had committed most of her working life to bettering the lives of other women could do so no longer.


Too many of us have stories about how other women have bullied us, women who hold other women to impossible standards and have try to stop the elevator so others can't ascend. Sheryl Sandberg even gave these women a (polite) name: Queen Bees.


But for every act of sabotage, I have seen hundreds more of generosity.


That is what Rachel Petero and I banked on when we started the Take Your Space project.

We wanted to capture the advice and insights of a diverse group of women who are successful and make it widely available. Its about women helping women, especially given the latest employment data that shows women are wearing the brunt of Covid.


To be launched the first week of October, our book – Take Your Space: Successful Women Share their Secrets – is 176 pages of generosity.


Some key themes were common to all 14 of the women we interviewed.


Valuing yourself is critical to success, be it in business, art, or the sports field. For them, to take their space, they spent time connecting to their whakapapa, family history, their own experiences and could confidently tell their own story about who they were and what they stood for.


Getting in the know in the second theme that all identified. This means working out what you want and need. Whether it is understanding your employer's policies around flexible work and data around your organisation's gender pay gap, or what the going rate for your role is or whose hiring.


Information and knowledge means we can find choices and take action.


All women had some sort of a plan. Whether they were gathering the data needed to ask for a pay rise or promotion or finding a mentor who can open doors, or an opportunity to get some work experience, they all had a plan. Often, we can act without thinking about the best way of achieving what we are after. So having a plan puts us in the best space for being successful.


Asking for help is something all women had learnt to do. Sometimes we don't ask for help because it is seen as a sign of weakness or we are not coping, or we don't think people will help us. But all of these are usually wrong. Asking for help does not mean you are incompetent; it means you are more likely to be successful.


Lift up other women was the final theme. This can be a simple as making a space for another woman in a meeting, speaking well of a colleague or encouraging a friend. It's a theme that our social media posts are echoing this week as we celebrate the legacy of a remarkable woman who make it her lives work to lift other women up.


She said she "... would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability". Well she bloody well did. Thanks Ruth.

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