‘Feminist’ was not a term I used to describe myself growing up. I never felt the urge to burn my bra or carry a banner to demand equality for women. For me it was more about an inner awareness rather than a call to action.
In hindsight I understand that keeping my maiden name was my demonstration.
Pead is not an easy name to grow up with. Some kids were cruel with their schoolyard mocking, Deborah Pead… on the floor. Deborah Pead… in her pants. But – sticks and stones and all that and I wore the taunts as a badge of resilience which has served me well in life and career.
But the action that absolutely confirmed I was a feminist was shortly after I got married and I learned I was to lose one of the benefits of my executive level package. I was advised by Personnel Management that as I was now covered by my husband’s medical aid, I would no longer receive the company’s tax-free contribution to the group medical aid. “What? You are short-changing me of a benefit simply because I’m married.” The stroppy 25-year-old then suggested a fairer outcome was for the value of the contribution plus the tax payable on it to be added to my salary.
Meetings were held, the board was consulted and amazingly they agreed to change the policy, not only for me, but for all married women who qualified for the benefit. The company hired some 26,000 people in the mid-1980s so it was big decision.
It wasn’t until I started receiving random notes of thanks from other women in the business that I understood the impact of the action. From then on, I was introduced as the feminist in the organisation, in a kind way.
And living up to the label, I have always aimed to support women with equal rights, equal voice, and equal opportunities. Particularly in the workplace - the area where I have the most influence.
It’s no secret I favour women in the workplace. I say this with no disrespect to my amazing male colleagues, but I know how hard women must work to get the same opportunity and recognition.
In Aotearoa, one in three business owners are women. Yet they receive a mere 18% of angel investment.
And that is why Pead found it very easy to support Theresa Gattung all those years ago when she told us about her plans to launch, SheEO (now Coralus) into NZ. The idea of a radically generous community of women to create a perpetual fund to assist female led start-ups sat well with me and my business partners. Our pro bono support was a given.
And it was time, expertise and money well spent. In five years, the organisations have:
1. Built a sustainable Perpetual Fund of $1.3 million which will support five start-up ventures every year in perpetuity.
2. Supported 25 ventures, more than a third led by women of colour, to deliver revenue of$24.5M per annum.
3. Supported the ventures in creating more than 100 jobs.
4. Encouraged the request of almost 500 Venture applications and supported the Coralus community of 500 businesses in New Zealand with connections, advice, publicity and customers.
5. Rallied more than 700 generous Activators to donate the start-up seed funding.
So, on this International Women’s’ Day, I have three rounds of applause to give.
The first is to Coralus, its 25 Ventures, the 700 plus Activators and to Vicky Saunders who inspired and leads the global platform.
I also applaud my colleagues and partners at Pead for supporting my enthusiasm for Coralus.
And our loudest applause is for Theresa Gattung for always being such an amazing inspiration and help to women in business. Around Pead we fondly refer to Theresa as the Head Girl of NZ.
For those banks and lending institutions who still make it so hard for women to access start-up funds – I can barely muster a slow clap.
Maybe you need a few more feminists in your ranks.