Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter is calling on women across the country to celebrate the 125th anniversary of New Zealand women getting the vote and to spark debate in their workplaces.

And she says the fact the anniversary falls in the same year as Jacinda Ardern's pregnancy is also a victory.

"I think it is incredible that it coincides with us having our youngest-ever female Prime Minister who is going to give birth in office," Genter said.

"I think that is a wonderful symbolic victory for women."


New Zealand women won the right to vote on September 19, 1893, the first country in the world, and they voted for the first time on November 28 that year.

She said this year should be more than just about women celebrating history.

It should also be looking to the future – "the importance of civic participation, empowering New Zealanders to become more engaged and active and empowering women through things like closing the gender pay gap and making workplaces free from sexual harassment."

While many private organisations had made progress in closing the gender pay gap, the NZX Top 50 lagged behinds in terms of women's governance and leadership.

"It's past time, and all organisations can benefit from having more diverse leadership," Genter said.

"It's a great opportunity to generate awareness of our history but also awareness of our present and what still needs to change – a great opportunity to spark a debate in your organisation about whether or you are doing the most you can to ensure that all people are treated fairly and that all people are having a say in important decisions."

The Government is working on ways to mark the anniversary but Genter says she wants celebrations to be community-led.

She says the Ministry for Women will be sharing information about events "so we can hopefully start to generate a real buzz around this incredible landmark here."


Genter, a Green MP and inveterate cyclist, said there was also a cross-over with her Associate Transport portfolio because bicycles were frequently used by women to collect signatures for several women's suffrage petitions presented to Parliament.

"It allowed them to travel much further," she said "and still in developing countries bicycles are huge for young girls being able to travel to school to study."