On September 19 Aotearoa New Zealand celebrates 129 years of suffrage. Canvas interviewed women from around the world, from actors, activists, and authors, who stand for change.
'I still can't look in the mirror and feel anything other than aggrieved'
Dame Emma Thompson is an award-winning actor and activist who is challenging unrealistic body standards after filming a nude scene for her film "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande"
"I've always felt a responsibility towards women, but also a great passion and an unyielding rage about their place in the world. As with all movements and human development, things move forward and then are pulled sharply back. We have to redefine human rights every generation because we repeat our mistakes, sometimes in the most doleful ways.
"As a young woman I felt encumbered to be smaller and thinner, and on certain jobs I would just stop eating and be so exhausted I couldn't even work. I'm too old to sustain that kind of behaviour now, and it wouldn't really matter what I do to my body, it would still be 63 years old. So, one is free of that pressure to a certain degree. But I still can't look in the mirror and feel anything other than aggrieved, and I fully blame the brainwashing of my youth.
"The iconography surrounding women is largely contained in advertising and magazines. It is very destructive and creates dissatisfaction. But that's what capitalism is based on — if you make people unhappy, they'll buy things. Even when I was 19 I was outraged at the diet industry, and the fact that just as women gained entry into the world of work where they could earn their own money, they were encouraged to spend it on 'improving themselves'.
"I work with young women a lot and I've encountered really little girls as young as 8 who are saying they don't like their thighs or the way their body looks. There are epidemic proportions of anorexia and bulimia and a tragic number of young people aspiring to something they can never ever achieve. It therefore absolutely behoves every artist under the sun to make sure that they work to reverse that feeling and to normalise human bodies as they actually are.
"It is encouraging to see some advertising campaigns include real bodies and different shaped models. But then look at social media — we're even aspirational in our personal representation of ourselves. Wouldn't it be better if social media were used to show ourselves as we really are? Individually, I think we can only try to be the changes that we want to see.
"But real change does have to occur at a systems level, and we need proportional representation [in Britain] because look at the bulls*** that is going down. I feel very anxious about climate change because I don't think we are legislating fast enough. Every global catastrophe hits women harder because they are poorer and generally speaking have less agency. Human beings are extraordinary and we can pull it together sometimes, but we're not going to do it without the help of all our women.
"What we don't talk about very much is how unbelievably expensive it is to be a politician. Politics is for men who already have money. To get behind women has always been my guiding force, so my area of activism at the moment is to help sponsor women at the grassroots level who want to be in the political system but who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to go into politics. Love is a strength, and kindness is a muscle that needs to be exercised. And women need to be included in public life."
As told to Rachel Judkins
'It's powerful to recognise the path those before you have walked'
Zoe Bell, New Zealand stuntwoman and actor, quite literally kicks arse in the film industry.
"I don't recall the first time I voted. What I do remember is being told that there was a time woman COULDN'T vote. At first, I was perplexed. Then I was outraged. Then, the profound realisation of just how fortunate I and my generation of women were to grow up in the time we did. And, just how hard previous generations that came before us must have fought.
What I'd most urgently like to see change in the world is a world that embraces the differences in genders and the qualities, strengths AND vulnerabilities that come with each.
The message I have for New Zealanders - especially women and girls - on this anniversary of being the first to give women the vote: It's powerful to recognise the path those before you have walked, mistakes made, and obstacles overcome. It's equally important to not be bound by it."
'Women who are not offered a seat at the table are building their own empires'
A wildly successful country singer/songwriter, Tami Neilson's latest album "Kingmaker" calls out the patriarchy.
"I recently wrote and performed a show called "The F-word – Songs of Feminism in Country Music" telling the stories of incredible musicians from Mother Maybelle Carter through to Dolly Parton and the obstacles they faced to achieve success in a genre that intentionally excludes women and people of colour. The show starts in the 1930s and the audience react to how ridiculous it used to be in the "olden days". But then we start talking about today, and I see the shock on their faces when they realise that not a lot has changed.
"In 2021, only 13 per cent of country music radio across the US was made up of women. It's really sobering and quite frankly upsetting, but it also feeds the fire - it's the fuel in my tank to fight for equality. Ugly things only survive in the dark, so I use my platform to continually bring it up.
"The country music industry up until now has been run by men - managers, agents and label heads - that are used to using and abusing their power. There's almost an expectation that as a female you will be sexually harassed, assaulted or exploited. It's not a safe space. But these "kingmakers" are quickly becoming dinosaurs and I'm looking forward to the day that those antiquated ways of running things crumble and women understand the power they hold.
"I remember having the realisation that it's not their names putting bums on seats. It's not their hard work that is selling my albums. We can now reach our audience directly and bypass all of those gatekeepers. Women who are not offered a seat at the table are building their own empires.
"I think there is no better way to deliver a message than through song. People always tell me my music is so fun and it's only after a few listens that they realise there's something serious going on in the lyrics. Medicine goes down easier when it's served with some honey – love, joy and a little bit of humour. When I sing songs challenging misogyny, women tell me they feel empowered and inspired.
"Some people ask me why my music is so political. That always makes me chuckle because I think it's only political if it's not your lived experience. My music is about my story as a woman in a world that intentionally tries to make us smaller. Taking up space in an industry that doesn't want you is an act of protest. But it's not political, it's personal!
"I've never been hit by such a wave of sexism as when I when I dared to think that I could keep being a musician after becoming a mother. But the way we continue to make change is by modelling it for the next generation.
"My two boys (aged 8 and 10) ask me what my songs are about. There's one called 'Ain't My Job' that goes 'You make me an offer that makes me want to want to holler, 20 cents less on every damned dollar' and I explain the gender pay gap to them. By raising our children to recognise the injustice in the world means they will continue to try to fix that imbalance. It's beautiful to see young people are not taking any bulls***."
As Told to Rachel Judkins
'Being a mana wāhine Māori means standing in your power '
Pania Newton (Ngāpuhi, Waikato, Ngāti Mahuta and Ngāti Maniapoto) is the lawyer and activist who led the fight for Ihumātao in Māngere that began in 2015.
"When I reflect back on Ihumātao, I'm filled with all sorts of emotions. We were criticised right from the get go. We were called young, dumb, naive and inexperienced just because we were wāhine. People thought we weren't able to achieve the things that we had set out to achieve.
"There were a lot of sacrifices. We had to give up time with our families and our friends. We gave up things that we love doing like traveling, partying, knitting, reading. But we knew we had a responsibility to our whānau and our whenua and the next generation to continue this mahi so that's what inspired us to keep going. We were so passionate. We were building a better Aotearoa for future generations to come. The seven years that we've been in this campaign, really were only seven minutes in the history of oppression and injustice that our whānau and iwi Māori have endured over the last 180 years.
"I feel really uncomfortable and awkward being called a leader because I don't see myself as a leader. I just felt proud that everyone was coming to Ihumātao to support us. All those who came to the protest were coming to support the kaupapa, they were coming because the whenua called them to action. They heeded the karanga of our whānau and of the whenua and so that's why what I believe drew them here. Maybe I was a vehicle and the face at the time but the whenua was the main reason they came.
"We're really fortunate as Māori to be able to draw on past successful Māori political movements and learn from the philosophies, the principles and strategies that they employed and applied them to our kaupapa. Knowing that we have that whakapapa and legacy inspired us to continue to go forward even though there were extremely adversities and challenges that we faced.
"I found comfort in knowing that what we were putting up with was nothing in comparison to what our tīpuna put up with. Eva Rickard's arm was broken at the ninth hole at the Raglan golf course protest and her whenua was spat on. There were many other rangatira who have been abused. We've not had to go through things like that in this campaign. We're very fortunate we stand on the shoulders of those political giants and rangatira who have enabled us to experience the privilege of standing for our whenua and our rights today.
"There's the poem 'Still I Rise', by Maya Angelou. That has stuck with me since I was year nine. I always remember that poem. Still I Rise, Still I rise. It inspires me to keep going. Being a mana wāhine Māori means standing in your power and being grounded in your reo and your tikanga and your kawa and our mātauranga Māori. By drawing on those lenses, we have a deeper understanding of the issues Māori woman face and through that we're able to reclaim and reassert our mana wāhinetanga. Having beautiful kaupapa Māori values helps me to be authentic, to have integrity and to be tika and pono in everything I say and do.
"I'm filled with pride when I walk outside the door of the homestead at Ihumātao and I see the whenua green. There's no housing, no development, no machinery. I'm proud of what our whānau has been able to achieve, proud of what my cousin's have done during the campaign, and proud of all those people who came to support this kaupapa. Because the whenua wouldn't be where it is today without them. As told to Shilo Kino
'We could do with a bit of a shakeup'
Mel C, aka Sporty Spice, pop star and author.
"It was such a fight to get the vote and quite often now we feel like our vote isn't worth anything. I don't always speak that much politically. Here in the UK there is so much apathy politically because we feel so let down by our government. We could do with a little bit of a shakeup. It's difficult to be inspired by some of the people we have in power."
"Who I Am", by Melanie Chisholm (Welbeck Publishing, $35), is out
on September 20.
'I am banned from Russia for life, but I'll take that as a point of pride!'
Admiral Rachel Levine is the US Assistant Secretary for Health, and the nation's highest-ranking openly transgender official.
"I tend to view the world from a positive viewpoint, so I think that we have a lot to celebrate as women.
"Over the course of my lifetime of almost 65 years, we have come a long way in our quest for equality. But there are challenges. Progress is never just consistent and straightforward so we're bound to have setbacks. The recent Supreme Court's decision in terms of abortion services was a big one. It is leading to a lot of chaos here in the United States and I think it's going to take a long time to overcome that.
"But we have a president and a vice-president who are the biggest supporters that women could possibly have, so we currently have a very robust voice at the White House and an increasing voice in Congress. I think it is absolutely critical to celebrate women's suffrage. It gave us a chance to be represented and enabled women to be in government. It wasn't too long ago that women couldn't participate in democracy so it is something that needs to be nurtured and protected.
"We have also made a lot of progress for transgender people. I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me, both known and unknown. Some people had to live and work in the shadows, and I stand on their shoulders. When I was a child, there was no language to even talk about what I was feeling. There was no way to explore it or to understand it. I think for young people now there is the concept of gender non-binary and gender fluid, and much more tolerance and acceptance.
"At the same time in certain places in the world there's regression and vulnerable transgender individuals and their families are being targeted for political purposes. I am banned from Russia for life, but I'll take that as a point of pride!
"Some people ask me how I stay optimistic in the face of some of the pushbacks I've had, but to me it's a choice. I will not give in to hate and fear. I think that people often fear what they don't understand and fear can lead to anger, hate and acts of discrimination. I'm really grateful for the opportunities that I've had, and as a transgender woman working in public health I try to educate people and hopefully dispel fear, which can lead to a more welcoming world.
"I am particularly fortunate to have been completely accepted after my transition and celebrated for the perspective that I brought. I am such a fan of diversity in all its myriad and wonderful aspects. I think that it should be not just tolerated, but encouraged for the way that it enhances our lives and brings different viewpoints, opinions and experiences to any organisation and community. I am always advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion.
"I think it is very important for all women to empower and to affirm each other. We may have different adjectives — some of us are tall, some of us are short, some of us are cisgender women, some of us are transgender women. But we are all women, and we need to work together to make a brighter future possible. That's how we have more power."
As told to Rachel Judkins
'When we stand together, we are strong together'
Author, te reo advocate and youth forensic psychiatrist, Hinemoa Elder (Ngāti Kuri, Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, Ngāpuhi).
"Ko tētahi whainga o ēnei rangi, e ngāwari ake ana te kitea ngā tātauranga, ngā hua rangahau rānei a pā ana ki ngā pūnaha ngākau kino, ki te aukati ki a tātou, ngā wāhine, ki ngā whakaaro pērā o ētahi tāne ki a tātou nōki. Mārakerake ana te kitea, he mana tō te wānanga wāhine, e whakawhitiwhiti kōrero ana ki ngā pūrākau ā tā tātou ao, kia whakapakari ai, hei whakamahiti korou i tō tātou māramatanga ki a tātou wheako, whakatere ai tā tātou mātiro whakamua.
"One aspect of the current times, is that it is easier to find statistics or research results about the systems of discrimination and bias towards women, and discriminatory, sexist views of some men towards us. It is clear that getting together for wānanga and sharing our life stories is also vital, in order to strengthen our resolve, as a means to strengthen our understanding of our experiences in order to navigate our future direction.
"Ko tētahi whakataukī rōngonui o te ao, 'me aro koe ki te hā o Hineahuone.' He whakaaro rētō tērā, he hōhonu tērā. Ko Hineahuone te hunga tuatahi. Ko Hineahuone tō tātou tūpuna. He iho pūmanawa tēra ki a tātou, ngā wāhine o te ao.
"There is a famous whakataukī, 'me aro koe ki te hā o Hineahuone', 'pay heed to the dignity of women.' There is considerable depth to that saying. Hineahuone was the first human. Hineahuone is our ancestor. She is an exemplar to all women of the world.
"Ko te takere ō tōku waka ko tō mātou māmā tērā. Ahakoa kua ngaro i te tirohanga kanohi, e kore rawa e ngaro i te pūmahara. He wahine marae ia, hei manaaki, hei tautoko, hei whāngai ki te whānau, ki te hapori. Aē mārika, he wahine marae.
"The woman I look up to the most is our mother. Despite having passed on she is never forgotten. She is what we call a "wāhine marae". Caring, supportive, nourishing to all. Yes indeed, a wahine marae.
"Ko tētahi kitenga i roto i tā mātou mahi, e mōhio pū ana mātou he ngākau kino ki ngā wāhine e hapū ana, ngā wāhine e pā ana ki te mate hinengāro nōki. Mārama ana mātou ki te mate whakamōmori o ngā wāhine Māori e toru ngā aituātanga pērā o Ngāi Māori ki te mea kōtahi o Ngāi Pākehā. Ehara i te aurukōwhao, he takerehāia! Mā te māramatanga ka puta te haepapa nui, ka panoni tātou ki ngā whainga kia tū anō ai te oranga tōnutanga. Ahakoa, he wā whakangahau o nga wāhine, me ū tonu tātou ki ngā kitenga piere nuku o ngā wāhine Māori ki tēnei whenua o Aotearoa.
"One of the findings in our work is that we are very well aware of the biases towards pregnant Māori women also affected by mental distress and illness. We understand that the suicide rates are 3 times as high for our pregnant wāhine compared to Pākehā. This is a grave situation! From this understanding comes serious responsibility, we will change this situation in order to reestablish ongoing wellbeing. Even though it's a celebration of women on the anniversary of the suffrage, we must hold fast to the most difficult findings related to Māori women here in Aotearoa.
"Ko tētahi whainga i roto i a tātou, ngā wāhine, kei te tino whakamārama, me pēhea te whakapakari, te whakakaha tātou ki a tātou anō? Ko tētahi whakaaro, he aha te whakaaweawetia e Hina a tātou? He aha te whakaaweawe o ngā tai, o ngā hau, o te taiao, o Papatūanuku, o Hinemoana ki a tātou katoa? Me pēhea te māramatanga e haere mai ana tētahi āhuatanga. He tino rongoā tērā, ko te maramataka ki a tātou.
"One goal for us as women is to understand how to strengthen and empower our experiences in the world as wāhine? What is Hina's influence on us? What are the influences of the tides, the winds, the natural world, of Papatūānuku, of Hinemoana, on us all? How do we know something special is happening? The Okoro, the Maramataka is a source of understanding for us.
"Kia kaha, wāhine mā. Waihoki, nā Kingi Tāwhiao te whakatauākī i puta atu. 'Ki te kotahi te kākaho, ka whati, ki te kāpuia, e kore e whati.' He tino kōrero tērā ki a tātou, ngā wāhine. Kia whakapuia, kia whakakaha tātou ki a tātou anō.
"Be strong. In the same vein, there is a proverb from Kingi Tāwhiao, "If a reed stands alone, it can be broken; if it is in a group, it cannot," or "When we stand alone we are vulnerable, but together we are unbreakable." It is an important message for us as women. When we stand together, we are strong together."
As told to Shilo Kino
'I want young women to see us doing cool s*** and feel like they can too'
Lucy Blakiston, 24, is co-founder of "S*** You Should Care About" an online media platform with a fun approach to news and a huge global following.
"When I was younger, I was a massive fan of the boy band One Direction and my brother was a sports fan. For some reason it was cool when he watched the Tour de France in the middle of the night, but when I got up to watch a new music video, it was embarrassing. But women shouldn't be looked down on for having hobbies that seem feminine. We shouldn't be told we are more obsessive or hysterical, because there are men rioting outside of football games!
"S*** You Should Care About (SYSCA) is a women-led team. Liv, Rubes and I have been best friends since we were 15. We learnt about feminism together as kids, so that naturally lends itself to our platform. We're very value-driven and we work through things with an empathetic lens. We were raised with the internet and through our hobbies we learnt how to build a website, edit pictures in Photoshop, and write fan fiction. We didn't feel like we could put all these valid skills on our CVs, but now they are the basis for our company. I want young women to see us doing cool s*** and feel like they can too.
"SYSCA is a mix of news, pop culture and fandom. We tell the news, but surround it with things that won't make you feel like s***, and try to be one of the shining lights on the internet. In the beginning, we would get a lot of men saying that we weren't legitimate because we also posted about singer Harry Styles. But we're all multi-faceted people and our platform is about giving our readers many different things that they could care about and letting them decide what resonates.
"I almost get the opposite of imposter syndrome, where I quite like being underestimated. I'm 5 foot 4 [1.62m], wear pink, and look like this unassuming young woman who maybe doesn't know what's up. But once you talk to me, I convey that I mean business. I almost thrive on people being surprised by what we do and the audience that we have.
"We grew up in a very girl boss era where women were told they could do everything (#SheEO). It was a sort of extreme one-dimensional hustle culture. But the 'you have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce' narrative didn't take into consideration that we all come from different backgrounds and there are life factors that make it harder for some women to succeed than others. It's great that we are moving into a world where we are a lot more cognisant that some people need more of a leg up."
As told to Rachel Judkins
'I want to make the working world better for women in a way that makes it better for everyone.'
Business consultant and former army officer Ellen Nelson is the founder of the #workschoolhours movement and spearheaded a complex mission to bring 563 Afghan evacuees to New Zealand after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in 2021.
"In 2010-2011, I spent seven months in Afghanistan managing a construction team of five Kiwi soldiers and 16 local men, working on projects in the community — building hospitals, schools, roading and bridges. Every time I left the base, I was in body armour, with a helmet and my rifle, so there was a level of risk, but the place and the people really touched me.
"I left the army nine years ago but we'd all seen on the news what was happening in Afghanistan and the US withdrawal was devastating. One of the locals in my team who had already moved to New Zealand got in contact, begging me to help his cousin. In a matter of days, it went from one family to all the families of New Zealand Defence Force allies, their wives and children. So I suddenly found myself advocating for hundreds of people. [NZDF evacuation plans were abandoned after a suicide bombing at Kabul Airport in August 2021.]
"I spent night after night on the phone to Afghanistan. It was harrowing. I was still breastfeeding my son, who was almost 1 at that time, and it was very emotional talking to another mother who was absolutely beside herself because she might not be able to protect her baby. I cannot fathom how terrifying it must have been, to be in hiding, fearing for your life and not having any food for your children.
"I took this on because I knew the men who'd worked in my team but very quickly it became about the women and children. The men probably would have been executed, but many women and teenage girls are forced to marry Taliban soldiers. They'd be raped by their husbands and not allowed to go to school or leave the house without a male family member; basically sentenced to prison. That would be their future.
"In a great example of collaboration between the government and private citizens, we came up with solutions to overcome every single barrier — and there were so many barriers. The first family arrived in November. Now, very single one of the 563 people I helped get a visa for are safely in New Zealand. Every single one of them.
"I did my PhD on the experience of women in the workforce, using the NZ Army as a case study. I loved the army and so did the women I spoke to, but there was a recurring theme of gender-based challenges. Sexual harm is far more prevalent than it should be, balancing family with military life is really difficult, and there was some basic stuff like not always having proper-fitting uniforms or equipment for women's bodies.
"I started the #workschoolhours movement because my underlying passion is that I want to make the working world better for women in a way that makes it better for everyone. It's not about cutting pay or catching up on hours later. It's not about extending the school day, either, but aligning our timetables with children. If we had a clean slate right now and thought about the structure of how we do work and how we do school, I don't think any moron would say, 'Let's do them differently.' And when you focus on output, the question of hours goes out the window."
As told to Joanna Wane
'Things and changes happen because we create them.'
In Mexico, a country gripped by violence, there is an epidemic within an epidemic: 11 women and girls are murdered a day. Femicide, or the "intentional murder of women because they are women," is one of Mexico's most pressing issues. Maria Garcia leads the Mentoring Walk in Monterrey, Mexico. It started in 2017 and in 2020 it has become the second biggest movement in the world, helping women to gain power and a voice.
"I was born in Monterrey, Mexico and I grew up here in my city. My mom and dad gave me three brothers (no sisters — sadface) so since I was a child I learned the 'guys' rules' — the way to talk to, complain, negotiate, and much more. I grew up in a traditional Mexican family: I had duties to clean the house meanwhile my brothers played, or I didn't get the same permissions as them, things like that. I always asked my parents: 'Why do my brothers and I not have the same activities?' And I'm still waiting for their answer — lol. Since then I really believe that all people deserve the same opportunities in life.
"In 2017, I raised my hand and led the initiative in my city, which is named Mentoring Walk Monterrey Mexico.
"Women in Mexico — and Latino America — have several challenges: chauvinism (or machismo) is one of them, which make so difficult to change the traditional gender roles for us. Women in STEAM (Technology, Science, Art) reveals a huge gap as well as among Women CEOs where there are not enough women. Equal pay is another issue. And let's talk about women in politics: the law just recently changed requesting that public positions must be held by 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men. But even with that, the biggest positions are not occupied by women.
"Mentoring Walk MTY provides networks and strategic connections, young people can meet and learn from CEOs, political leaders, Academics, and social leaders too. Mentoring Walk provides job opportunities and also improves entrepreneurship.
"In Mexico, it's kind of difficult to lead gender movements or actions, as I said before, because of machismo. It's hard to deal with Official Institutions or Governments because most of them don't have an agenda for diversity and gender perspectives, and they don't know how the world could improve if we include diversity in all public decisions.
"So, for me, it's so important to walk together, no matter gender, age, or profession. Diversity gives strength and creativity.
"Things and changes happen because we create them. I have learned to trust in myself, to ask for what I want, to walk with many people, and share with them my dreams, decisions and actions.
"The pandemic showed us that our present and future are technological, women need to be involved and know how to use the technology for anything we want to do. We need to improve our self-confidence, develop critical thinking, to be strategical in our relationships, but also we need to be flexible and think out of the box, and of course, be collaborative and emphatic with others."
As told to Sarah Daniell
Influential women from around the world share what person has changed the world for them, what work still needs to be done, and what message they have for women and girls in Aotearoa. Compiled by Sarah Daniell
'Believe in yourself and be proud of who you are'
Lydia Ko is the youngest player of either gender to be ranked No. 1 in professional golf.
"My mum changed the world for me. She has helped me to become the person I am today and she motivates and inspires me to continue to grow and become the best person I can possibly be
"Where we need more work? Continuous growth of women empowerment and equality between men and women.
"I say to the women and girls of Aotearoa: always believe in yourself and be proud of who you are. We are all special and beautiful in our way."
'Having a deeper purpose is a tremendous force and motivator'
In September of 2021, Emma Lewisham's circular-designed business model was certified as the world's first certified climate-positive beauty brand.
"As someone who has dedicated more than 60 years of her life to protecting and conserving our natural world, Dr Jane Goodall has been a massive influence in my life; even as a child, I picked her to do school projects on. Her resilience and determination have helped guide me on my career trajectory. Jane offered her personal endorsement for our pioneering efforts in the sustainable space. Getting the opportunity to speak to Jane personally and having her support has been one of my proudest moments.
"A powerful quote by Sheila Watt-Cloutier has really stuck with me and underpins why being a business that is helping solve the world's problems and not create them is: "You can't separate human trauma and planet trauma; they are one and the same."
"Climate change and gender equality may seem at first glance to be unrelated, but they are actually intertwined, and although climate change will impact everyone, it will disproportionately impact women. That's because women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights like the ability to freely move and acquire land, and are more likely to be negatively affected by environmental policies such as carbon pricing or taxes. These factors and many more mean women will struggle the most as climate change intensifies, which flows into other impacts on their children and their communities. The Paris Climate Agreement includes specific provisions to ensure women receive support to cope with the hazards of climate change. It is such a serious, urgent call to action to spotlight climate change as a human rights issue.
"Having a deeper purpose in what we do as people makes our lives more complete, which is a tremendous force and motivator. Do what you truly believe in, dream big and never let anyone tell you something isn't possible. "
'I love science but science is sexist.'
Alex James is a scientist who works in mathematical, Covid-19 and biological modelling, Alex has shown how the gender pay gap in New Zealand academia won't fix itself unless universities proactively do something about it.
"I've worked for a few years on gender equity in academia. I mainly use data from universities and it helps this is an environment I know well but women and the work problems they face don't change much regardless of where they are. In many ways universities are a much more enlightened work environment than some, for example family-friendly work hours and paid parental leave are common but in other ways, like the competitive research culture, we can learn a lot from other work places.
"I love science but science is sexist. Without science and engineering we wouldn't have got where we are today; things like vaccines, the internet, antibiotics and bicycles are amazing. But hundreds of years of white male domination have left a lot to be desired. Female heart attack symptoms are judged atypical, male-proportioned crash test dummies leave us more likely to die in car crashes, female engineers like Hedy Lamarr and mathematicians like Katherine Johnson get overlooked. There are many ways that science can help women but even more that women can help science. We just need to change the system so it will listen to us.
"Locally I have a lot of female colleagues and students who are amazing. They are the ones that help me out when I wonder if I'm in the right job and remind me that I do love what I do even if sometimes things are crap. Globally I look to women that are changing the world despite the world not wanting to be changed — for example Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez never ceases to amaze me as she continues to stand up for women in the mad world of American politics and Malala Yousafzai's activism fighting for girls' education rights.
"I'd like equal education opportunities for all girls and women across the world. There are large parts of the world where educating girls is a luxury rather than a basic human right. For example, the recent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has destroyed the lives of millions of girls barring them from school after primary education. If this continues it effectively bars Afghani women from almost any contribution to society outside the home."
'Girls on Ice broadens girls' ability to engage with science'
Dr Lauren Vargo is a glaciologist whose research focuses on better understanding how and why glaciers are changing. She's also passionate about increasing access to science and glaciology, including as the co-founder of Girls on Ice Aotearoa/New Zealand.
"Growing up, I loved observing and exploring the wilderness (at least what felt like wilderness to me, being only 35km from the centre of a major US city). I remember looking for tadpoles in the creek behind my home, building snow shelters in the woods, and climbing up rock formations. Back then, I had no idea jobs existed that involved being outdoors and asking questions about the world around me. But I'm not sure of my reaction if I had known about these jobs, because I don't remember feeling especially encouraged to pursue science, or even that science was something I could be good at.
"I don't know how much of my experience with science growing up was impacted by my gender. But I do know that gender inequities in science are evident, from children to academics. A 2020 New Zealand government report shows that the top 10 professions boys are interested in include scientist and engineer, while no STEM professions are in the top 10 list for girls. This trend continues through adulthood, with a 2016 government report finding that only 25 per cent of Earth Science researchers were female.
"Girls on Ice is a programme of 10-day expeditions to glacial environments with the goal of empowering teen girls (including girl-identifying and non-binary teens) through science, art, and outdoor exploration. For many teens, learning science happens in classrooms from teachers and textbooks. Girls on Ice broadens girls' ability to engage with science.
"But I also think about the importance of science being inclusive. With climate change, the future of so many communities will be impacted by scientific discoveries and innovation. We need to encourage everyone who is interested to be a part of these solutions, regardless of gender."
'We have a long way to go but beginning with the right to our own bodies is a good start'
Amber Basalaj is an advocate for body autonomy and positivity, and founder of Basalaj Beauty.
"I am inspired by all women who choose to walk new paths, there have been so many who have forged ahead tirelessly in tougher conditions than what we face today and for that I am extremely grateful. One woman that has always stood out throughout my life is Princess Diana. I never fully understood at the time the incredible courage and compassion she had for what she was achieving. I remember seeing pictures of her in Africa helping children affected by Aids, holding these children and loving them; or wearing vests while she walked through fields of landmines. As a princess, it was unheard of to do this, yet she wanted to to help others and bring these issues to the world in a deeply compassionate way. Her legacy will never be forgotten.
"Women have the right to choose how they move forward in this world without judgment from others. And yet here we are in 2022 still debating this very issue on so many different levels.
"The fact that body autonomy for women is debated at a political and personal level constantly upsets me and is profoundly sad. We have a long way to go but beginning with the right to our own bodies is a good start.
"Always exercise your right to vote, always use your platform to support other woman especially those that do not have the privilege and fortune to come from a country like ours and never be afraid of being who you are. Strength, empowerment and confidence are yours for the taking, so don't let anybody else ever stop you from having it."