About 120 people attended the opening night of the Girls Strategies and Pathways Symposium last night, where Dame Jenny Shipley talked about girls navigating life in the 21st century.
Parents and teachers filled the school hall to hear Mrs Shipley speak of her desire for girls to be individuals and develop character, saying it is as important as any scholastic achievement.
Mrs Shipley encouraged parents to help their girls develop a strong sense of identity, not be afraid of taking risks and to be curious about the world around them. She said teaching girls to inform themselves and be opinionated is an important part of raising children in the 21st century.
''Encourage every young person to be informed on whatever it is they wish to be informed. I want to encourage you to nurture that curiosity amongst girls, it's a curiosity for learning , even if it's down to their interest in the internet, what are you reading that's really interesting, what do I need to know about as a parent, these are all areas where you might ignite curiosity and they might think they can teach you something.''
New Zealand's first female prime minister said she wished she had listened to her son, Benjamin, now in his 30s, when he advised her of a start-up company called Google that was selling ''really cheap shares''.
She also spoke of the joy of being a mother. ''People often think that people like me don't have ordinary lives. I have the greatest pleasure, and in fact, the greatest success in my career is having been a mother.''
Mrs Shipley said: ''I want girls to be proud of who they are and what they can do. If we can help girls look up and see their roles alongside theirmale colleagues then anything is possible in this nation.''
The Girls Symposium continues today at Woodford House in Havelock North.