Today is International Women’s Day and as only the second woman to lead the Pacific Business Trust as CEO I ought to have something really meaningful to say.
I feel that I should have something that really resonates and has gravitas up my sleeve, but for the life of me I keep drawing a blank. All I have is what I have lived…So far.
The Trust will turn 33 this year and we have only ever had two women CEOs. Just two! I feel the weight of that history and the responsibility that brings to not only to my Pasifika sisters, but also to our community daily.
Honestly, it’s a lot…this has been the hardest role I’ve ever had, because it’s such a personal journey for me. So I feel conscious of all the things that place me slightly outside of our communities: what it is to be a Pacific woman; traditional ideas about leadership in general; and, to be honest gender is a biggie.
I have existed in between worlds for most of my life, but the one constant has been my gender. I am a woman. People have always demanded that I clarify my ethnicity in terms of percentages and after a lifetime of this my answer is pretty well practised: I am not half this or a quarter that, but I am a complete human being. I am the child of a Feminist Papa’a mother and Cook Island father and I am an ambitious and successful woman. I own my power.
This is controversial in our Pacific communities AND in mainstream. To hold an unshakeable belief in my own power as a woman has been tough and to commit to this path has often been very lonely. I wish that I could say that in times of self-doubt, crisis & failure the sisterhood carried me through, but that hasn’t always been the case. This isn’t because of a lack of female champions. It is because leadership is a lonely road and leadership as a woman is a lonelier one.
I have felt selfish and guilty about my drive to achieve, leave a legacy and to live with meaning and impact. I have agonised over the sacrifices I have made and I felt a failure for not being able to be a fully present partner, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I have felt the weight of community scrutiny and judgement when I desperately needed to feel embraced. I felt that it was it was unforgivable to want to achieve it all and to have it all and so I didn’t ask for what I needed to carry me through and to make the road less lonely. I made myself crazy but kept pushing on. Eventually, following a great many failures and much self-doubt, some semblance of clarity came, or rather it crept up on me slowly….
It’s ok to be driven to be the best you can.
It’s perfectly acceptable and reasonable to be ambitious and to want success and to pursue those goals with everything you have.
It’s necessary to ask for what you need and you have a right to expect help, in fact you deserve it.
Forgive yourself for the sacrifices you have made, the people who love you will.
Accept that you will learn to live with your guilt.
It’s important to own your power as woman.
And finally, share your story of struggle and success so the road is less lonely for the sisters who start the same journey later.