The constant jibe that employers in government and private sector do just lip service in providing equal career opportunities and equal pay could find a lasting solution if a programme underway at the Massey University proves successful.
The ‘Young Women’s Leadership Programme’ is stated to be tracking well but it needs nationwide recognition, promotion and more importantly adoption in board rooms.
Professor Sarah Leberman, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Massey Business School and an expert on gender equality, diversity and other related matters sees a lack of women in leadership as a persistent problem.
She launched the ‘Young Women’s Leadership Programme,’ four years ago to reach young women before they leave school.
It brings together about 200 Year 12 students at Massey University’s three campuses to learn about leadership and build their confidence and networks.
“Traditionally, people identified as leaders in school environments are confident and get noticed – the prefects, head girls and sports team captains. I think that we lose a lot of potential leaders because we do not nurture the more naturally quiet pupils or those who do not fit in that box. This programme is aimed at young women who are not in leadership positions, but seek to exercise leadership,” Professor Leberman said.
The first part of the Programme focuses on leadership concepts, values, identifying passions, communication and self-awareness.
The second phase puts those skills into practice by requiring the participants to deliver a project that makes a difference to their local community.
Carmel College student Mackenzie O’Neill sought the Programme to understand better how to be a good leader and apply those learnings in her everyday life. Her community project is to organise a beach clean-up.
“I hope to build strong relationships with my project partners to create and deliver a strong message about the importance of creating a sustainable Earth,” she said.
Fellow participant, Kara-Jane Beckham from Bream Bay College said that she wanted to broaden her horizons and be inspired.
“In my school environment, I do not always get an opportunity to be part of such large- scale discussions. I have listened intently and appreciate all the new information and perspectives to which I am introduced,” she said.
The young women will return to Massey in May to report on their projects.
Professor Beckham’s Project also aims to encourage young people to accept the difference, an issue about which she has a strong opinion.
“Every person deserves to live through their own preference and perspective and I want to show these people that they are more than what people call them,” she said.
The Confidence gap
Professor Leberman said that while there are many organisational and societal reasons behind the relatively low number of women in leadership roles, the ‘Confidence Gap’ can be addressed at an individual level.
“That is the focus of the Young Women’s Leadership Programme. It is filling a need because the programme is always oversubscribed. When women go to the workplace, they get paid less and there are challenges that men do not seem to face. While there is still a pay gap one year out from university graduation, I think we have an issue,” Professor Leberman said.