Women rock! We celebrate some of ours, on International Women's Day.

International Women's Day falls on 8 March 2021, and this year the theme is #BreakTheBias.

Of course at Barfoot & Thompson we know that women all around the world do remarkable things every day, and as such should be championed and acknowledged. However this particular event marks a time and space for us to honour women, celebrate their achievements, and talk about the big issues, such as what we can do to accelerate gender equality.

We’re lucky to have so many creative, intelligent, inspiring and inventive women on our team (something we’re grateful for, and never take for granted). Here, we talk to four of them about what they think about International Women's Day, how being female has shaped their careers and and what their best advice to women paving the way to gender equality would be!

Pam Means
Frontline Trainer, Talent Development at Support Centre

“If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. Find something you enjoy.”

I think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day, as—much like a birthday—it gives you the chance to stand still for minute; to look back and reflect on how far you’ve come. I began my career in 1979, and things were very different back then. I worked for a finance company where there were ‘pink’ jobs and ‘blue’ jobs. It was impossible for women to cross over or advance (unless you left the company for another job), so that glass ceiling was well and truly in place, only it was made of concrete!

Fortunately, the last of the ‘old school’ are starting to fade - they are either dropping off or realising that’s just not how we do things these days. I have to say, I am so grateful for Barfoot & Thompson. I started with the firm in 2008 following a marriage break up - and the job really saved me, it gave me a new start in life. One of my earlier female managers was particularly inspiring. She’d say, “you need to do this” and then she’d leave me alone to find out how to do it. I learned so much, working with her. And I always remember the advice she gave me: “If you’re trying to get someone to do something, think about what’s in it for them, and that’s how you frame it.” She was so right!

Having faced adversity in the past, it’s so good to know that you CAN get out from under, you CAN do something different. There are no limits. Being made the first ever ‘Frontline Manager’ at Barfoot & Thompson was a career highlight for me - it was a brand new position, and it was all mine!

If there was a message I’d like to send out for International Women’s Day, it would be if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. If you’re miserable, you’re not in the right job. Find something you enjoy.

Nadine Fowler
Branch Manager, Ellerslie

“Don’t be afraid to be the first, don’t be limited by your job title and don’t be afraid to be scared.”

I think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day, as we tend to get hung up in our day to day world, and focus on our own path of what do we need to do, to get where we want to go. International Women’s Day is about raising awareness of and celebrating the value of women from all walks of life in the workplace, about learning from the success and adversity of others.

In my career, I have definitely been in a situation where I’ve had to actively take steps to prove myself more than a male colleague, because the competence of the male colleague was perceived to be innate. Whilst this was gutting, there’s not much I could do about it in the moment other than use the bias as fuel for motivation to operate at my best.

Even though I’ve experienced bias, I’ve also been fortunate to work for some progressive leaders, both men and women. The people who have inspired me are those that don’t conform to the traditional notion of what makes a good leader. It’s no surprise these people have a genuine interest in developing the value in their workforce regardless of gender. It’s also no surprise these sorts of leaders are those that have the strength to acknowledge their own mistakes or vulnerabilities.

The most important piece of advice I’ve ever given was from a former male manager when he was explaining that it’s better to ask questions, seek advice and front up when you don’t know something. He said ‘those trying to maintain a veneer [of success] won’t last. Veneers crack.’ He taught me even the most experienced people still ask questions and still seek advice.

My message to the world for International Women’s Day is this: don’t be afraid to be the first, don’t be limited by your job title and don’t be afraid to be scared. If you’re feeling scared, you’re operating outside of your comfort zone and that’s how you move forward.

Ria Hothi
Head of Property Management, Ōtāhuhu branch

“We have two lives and the second begins when we realise we only have one.”

I think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day, as it’s important to recognise the journey it took to get to today. The women that challenged the societal norms, stood their ground and persevered - they need to be honoured.

I am a confident and independent woman. I do not take it for granted. A day like this is a reminder to stay courageous and challenge the societal norms so that future generations can enjoy the equality, independence and this euphoric feeling of freedom.

In my personal opinion, I feel we have come a long way on the gender bias front. Luckily I have never felt disadvantaged due to being a woman. At work or at home, especially being an Indian woman - I was brought up with equal opportunities as my brother.

I am surrounded by strong women, and I am inspired every day when I see them winning, breaking barriers without fear—and when fear creeps in—pushing past and persevering. The best advice I have been given is that I can achieve anything I want. Think big and achieve big. Don’t let small thinking limit life. Last year I was hired as a Business Development Manager and was given a 6 month target to sign up 50 new listings - I nailed it in 4 months. This lead to a promotion as Head of Property Management and earned me the Number 1 Property Manager award for South Auckland.

If there is a message I’d like to send out to the world for International Women’s Day, I’d quote Confucius – “we have two lives and the second begins when we realise we only have one”. Grab all the opportunities that come your way. Do not doubt yourself. Make time for yourself. You can be a daughter, sister, wife, mother and you can be YOU. Don’t ever let anyone tell you to choose. You don’t have to. YOU ARE THE BEST IN THIS ENTIRE WORLD.

Phoebe Xue
Senior Business Analyst and Product Owner, IT at Support Centre

“You’re unstoppable. You never know what you can achieve – where your skills and ability can take you – until you give it a go!”

I think it’s just as important to celebrate International Women’s Day as it is to celebrate any other day, for any other unique group. By nature, women have their own special qualities. We are caring, strong and nurturing. We are good communicators and very resilient. These are all beautiful characteristics, worth celebrating!

Choosing a career in IT, I’ve been used to a male-dominated industry. While I haven’t experienced gender bias as such, I did feel that being female, and taking time off to have my children was a bit of a setback. After three years of continuous maternity leave, it felt like I had pressed ‘pause’ on my career. When I returned to work, my colleagues had progressed and I hadn’t. I didn’t let that stop me though, I just made up my mind to keep going. That’s all you can do!

Do I think sufficient progress has been made to erode gender bias? I guess it depends on the context. In some countries, definitely not. At the end of the day, I think the only way to improve things like the gender gap and lack of equality is to take personal responsibility for changing the attitudes. It’s how we parent, and what we tell the next generation that’s important.

So many people have inspired me throughout my professional and personal life. Both men and women. Colleagues, friends, my kids and husband. Every day I learn so much from the people around me. If I was going to offer some of my own advice, and send some inspiration to the world on International Women’s Day, it would be that ‘you’re unstoppable’. You never know what you can achieve – where your skills and ability can take you – until you give it a go.