Five well-known Kiwi women have their say for International Women's Day.

Labour deputy leader Jacinda Ardern.
Labour deputy leader Jacinda Ardern.
Actor Lucy Lawless Photo/Doug Sherring
Actor Lucy Lawless Photo/Doug Sherring

Lucy Lawless

Who is your favourite heroine and why?

Wairaka. Being from Mt Albert, I would walk home from school over the mountain, Owairaka. She was on the plaque at the gate to the pa. Wairaka was a real life warrior princess who arrived in the Bay of Plenty at the time of The Great Migration from Hawaiki. She saved the women of her tribe by seizing the paddles of the adrift canoe, which was tapu to women, and steered them back to shore. The town of Whakatane, which means "act as a man" is named after her. She later settled in Tamaki Makaurau and as a kid, I felt inspired by her. She was valiant and free-thinking.

What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?
Universal suffrage.

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What issue most needs to be worked on?
Access to birth control and education about natural family planning in countries where birth control is not widely practicable for reasons sociological, religious and poverty related.

What is one instance you've encountered sexism in your own life?
I have five brothers and my mother said I didn't know I was a girl 'til age 8. I don't complain much about sexism. Probably it worked in reverse for me. My Kiwi bloke-ishness went against me in Hollywood. Not "feminine" enough.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?
Unbalanced. No need to be greedy. Fifty percent will do nicely. And it's gonna be great.

New Zealand Olympic shot putter Dame Valerie Adams. Photo/Jason Oxenham
New Zealand Olympic shot putter Dame Valerie Adams. Photo/Jason Oxenham

Dame Valerie Adams

Who is your favourite heroine and why?

My mum of course, she was one of the strongest women I know and is always an inspiration for me.

What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?
Freedom to vote, isn't it great that New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women this freedom?

What issue most needs to be worked on?
Continued equality in all areas of life.

What is one instance of sexism you've encountered in your own life?
There have been more than a few over the years, I've learned along the way how to deal with it.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?
Bloody fantastic!!! Things would get done!!

Entertainer and broadcaster Jaquie Brown. Photo/Supplied
Entertainer and broadcaster Jaquie Brown. Photo/Supplied

Jaquie Brown

Who is your favourite heroine and why?

Right now It's Lena Dunham. For putting her body out there, which has helped other women, myself included, feel more comfortable with my own beautifully-imperfect-but-actually-perfect-for-me-and-who-cares-really-anyway-I'm-alive-I-can-move-I'm-grateful form. I love the themes she addresses in

Girls

. She's brave, fearless and inspiring to me as a writer.

But also my own mum for instilling in me the belief that I could do whatever I wanted in life because, she'd say "you are so capable". Her belief in me, helped me have a belief in myself and it's something I intend to carry on with my own daughter.


What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?
Earning the right to vote of course but also critically, the invention of the Pill in the 60s. To give women the choice and power over their fertility and the ability to keep working and earning and not have to stop work and never work again once they have a baby.
Something I think we probably take for granted today.


What issue most needs to be worked on?
It's unacceptable that some women and girls in New Zealand can't afford tampons or pads and are forced to resort to homemade, unhygienic and uncomfortable methods.
Yes, removing tax from these products would be great, so would not turning a natural monthly occurrence into commerce and if you'll excuse the pun, bleeding me dry when I'm bleeding. Pads and tampons are not only costly, they are bad for the environment. I don't want to read about a sanitary pad getting lodged in an innocent dolphin's blowhole. There is another option for New Zealand women. I dismissed menstrual cups as something only hippies do, but turns out I am a hippie, and we all should be. Cups are great, they come in different colours and sizes but best of all you pay once and get a reusable cup that lasts for years, takes nothing from your body, nothing from the environment and saves you ripping pages from the phone book and shoving them down your pants.


What is one instance of sexism you've encountered in your own life?
Can't answer this one.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?
There are lots of different types of women, as there are men. ​Just because you are female doesn't mean you are better or worse than a man, whatever that means. I believe in equality and it goes both ways. But you can't deny women's innate ability to nurture and think ahead and around problems, to think globally, to be connectors and not be afraid to allow heart and emotion play a part in some decisions. So yeah, it would be better. Of course and I'd feel safer.

Sexual violence advocate Louise Nicholas.
Sexual violence advocate Louise Nicholas.

Louise Nicholas

Who is your favourite heroine and why?

My favourite heroine is Louise Crawford, the little 13-year-old who thought that taking her own life would take away the shame she carried when she "allowed" bad things to happen to her but lived to ensure that it was worthwhile living as her experiences have helped other survivors of sexual violence know they are not to blame for what has happened and no longer need to carry that shame.

What was the greatest victory of the women's rights movement?

The right for women to vote. That alone empowered women to stand up from there on in to ensure that women were heard loud and clear when it came to women's issues, such as in 1986 (I'm sure it was that year) when it became a crime for husbands to rape their wives - huge step forward for the safety of women.

What issue most needs to be worked on?

Equality, especially the gender pay gap that just shouldn't exist in this day and age. Women are just as competent and efficient as men in the working world and should be paid equally for the same work that men do.

What is one instance you've encountered sexism in your own life?

Interestingly nothing in my adult life but as a child I recall several instances at school where I wanted to play rugby but was always told by the boys that girls can't play rugby and when I and other girls complained to a male teacher who was also the coach he too told us girls aren't allowed to play rugby as they will get hurt because you don't know how to play the game. It frustrated us but then there was nothing we could do.

What do you think the world would be like if all the top positions were held by women?

I don't believe that if top positions were held by women that the world would be a better place. I believe that positions of power need to be held by people who are right for the job regardless of gender. Women and men need to work alongside each other and bounce off each others' capabilities as we all have something to offer. Women are not the weaker species: we are just as capable as men and it's time all doubters understood and accepted this.

International Women's Day

You could do a lot with $600,000.

Buy a house, travel the world, invest the cash and watch it grow.

But that's what Kiwi women miss out on in their lifetimes. A Human Rights Commission project, published today to mark International Women's Day, has found women earn $600,000 less on average than their male counterparts.

Women are overrepresented and on the wrong side of the gender pay gap, domestic violence and sexual assault, said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue. She said these problems stemmed from society valuing women less than men.

"Issues and human right abuses continue year after year. You need a day to reassess where we are and where we have to go.

"We know women across the board and in their own ethnic group are paid less than men.

"It's worse than I thought it was going to be, quite frankly. We can't put our heads in the sand."

Equal Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue. Photo/Martin Sykes
Equal Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue. Photo/Martin Sykes

Women in New Zealand can expect to be paid 12 per cent less on average than a man. For women with children the pay gap, dubbed the "motherhood penalty", is worse.

The government report Effect of Motherhood on Pay released last month showed that fathers are paid 17 per cent more than mothers. The pay gap is 5 per cent for people who are not parents.

Bias and perceptions of women in the workplace can account for 80 per cent of this difference. The rest is attributed to differences in education, the occupations and industries that men and women work in, or the fact that women are more likely to work part-time, stated the Ministry for Women.

Blue said that women often juggle multiple pressures from family and work, stereotyping and less investment in their upskilling from companies.

"If you want to be a mother, you're not serious about your job. But if you go back to work, you're not there for your baby.

"We have to really tackle [those biases] head on.

"Rather than get to the end of a woman's career it'll be much better to get young women to understand what they're facing now and how to address it."

The first reading of the Domestic Violence Victims' Protection Bill that could give the victims of domestic violence paid leave from work will commence today. The bill would give victims 10 days' paid leave to assist them to move house, attend court hearings and consult lawyers.

Blue said domestic violence was tied tightly to inequality because it was the effect of men having greater power over women.

"Violence of any form, physical, financial, emotional is a way of controlling women and keeping them in their place.

"I passionately believe to get gender equality in the society we need to start in the workplace. It's a controlled environment where you can ensure no bullying and clear, transparent pay and promotion pathways."

Despite obvious disparities Blue has hope. She believed the children of the baby boomers are the answer to equality.

"There's a lot of momentum there."

International Women's Day aims to create a more inclusive, gender-equal world for the world's 3.5 billion women.

This year's theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030. This references the United Nations agenda to end poverty, combat inequalities and promote prosperity while protecting the environment by 2030.


She Means Business
New Zealand is kickstarting a global celebration of women by hosting the first half-hour live stream.

Kiwi musician and feminist Lizzie Marvelly will launch the international event from Facebook's Auckland office, before women in different countries around the world go live on Facebook throughout the day.

Facebook is hosting the 36-hour live event to celebrate women as part of its #SheMeansBusiness programme.