Move over Helen Clark - New Zealand has a new champion of gender equality, and she is still only 18.

Latayvia Tualasea Tautai, a final-year student at St Dominic's College in Henderson, challenged civic leaders at a Suffrage Day event in Auckland today to examine their own prejudices about the roles that females and males were expected to fill.

"In order to inch closer to equality, we need first to evaluate the self. To unlearn the stereotypes ingrained in our society and to judge others based solely on who they are as a person," she said.

Latayvia, who won a speech competition run by the National Council of Women, was wildly applauded after her speech at the Suffrage Memorial steps that were built in front of the Auckland Art Gallery for the 1993 centenary of women winning the vote.

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After 123 years, women still make up only 33 per cent of city councillors elected at the last local body elections in 2013, 32 per cent of Parliament, 22 per cent of mayors and council chairs, 15 per cent of directors of the top 100 listed companies - and not one of the chief executives of our largest 50 listed companies.

The average woman earned $27.37 an hour in June, 13 per cent lower than the average man.

"We as women have been pushed into a room with this glass ceiling," Latayvia said.

"We can see male privilege; it is right in front or should I say above us - yet when we scream at the injustice and beat at the ceiling with all our might, it remains unscathed."

Even though young women are now doing better than young men educationally, Latayvia said young men still had a sense of superiority.

"I've been to debating competitions where you see young men my age and you feel a bit intimidated by the boys," she said.

"I have been to student leader events that are co-ed and you can hear the sense of judgment if you speak out, you can see where there are differences and how one gender is compared to the other, and it's not really talked about.

"You see it when people encourage you to go for certain jobs, and when they are surprised at how you speak and how confidently you speak. Would they be surprised if I was a boy speaking confidently?"

She told the crowd that women were still "objectified" in the media and were blamed if men assaulted them.

"A friend of mine told me about one time after her sports training a boy approached her and tried to touch her," she said.

"She was saying, 'I shouldn't have been wearing short shorts, I should have got picked up from school.'

"I told her, 'No, you were at a sports training, you should be able to wear what you like, what you feel comfortable in.'"

She called for a world where males and females were not constrained by traditional roles.

"I hope to live in a world where a man can stay home and look after his own children without being emasculated. A world where men are not told to 'man up,'" she said.

""Because there are no emotional prerequisites for being a man. Because gender is not something you earn. And equality is the right of all."

Latayvia Tualasea Tautai with Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse (left) and National Council of Women Auckland president Carol Beaumont (right) at Auckland's Suffrage Memorial. Photo / Simon Collins
Latayvia Tualasea Tautai with Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse (left) and National Council of Women Auckland president Carol Beaumont (right) at Auckland's Suffrage Memorial. Photo / Simon Collins