Women of Influence Forum Significance in leadership
Young people are frustrated that gender disparity continues to exist in 2017 former prime minister Helen Clark told the Women of Influence Forum on Thursday.
Clark highlighted the significant contribution women were making towards New Zealand's growth and development.
She said she faced gender bias and sexism throughout her various leadership roles, especially during her time as prime minister when her hair or clothes became points of national discussion.
She said it was up to the younger generation to take action and fight for the right to have gender equity not just in New Zealand, but also for women around the world that were subject to abuse and injustice.
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"Don't get mad, get organised," Clark said.
Human Rights commissioner Dame Susan Devoy called on the importance of fostering inclusivity and embracing New Zealand's unique cultural diversity.
"New Zealand today is completely different to the one I grew up in," Devoy said.
She said that Kiwis had to take a stand in solidarity against racist rhetoric and recognise unconscious bias to use diversity as a strength.
Head of consumer products for Westpac NZ Jo McGregor said there had to be a shift in employers' mindsets to encourage greater flexibility and greater productivity.
An Ernst & Young report found that women in flexible work were the most productive members of the workforce.
Zespri director Teresa Ciprian said influential women had helped her throughout her career, and she was returning the favour for the next generation.
Leaving the ladder down for future female leadership was a critical step towards creating a more gender balanced environment in workplaces, she said.
The youngest member in the audience, 11-year-old Jaskiran Kaur Rahi was recognised as a future woman of influence.
Kaur Rahi told the audience of more than 600 women, of her goal to start a social enterprise that empowered young girls to feel comfortable pursuing careers in subjects that lack female participation.
The Women of Influence Awards will be held on Thursday night.