Chief executive of Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce, Ali Boswijk. Photo: Tim Cuff.

Women’s growing strength in workforce


Recently released figures by Statistics New Zealand show, for the first-time, women make up almost half the country’s workforce. Nelson Weekly’s Sara Hollyman spoke to three local women to find out how things have changed for them in the workplace.

Kellie Todd, Bayley’s senior licensed sales consultant

My job is very time-consuming and I’m on the job all day, every day, because I’m in real-estate. Having a young family and being in this industry does restrict me to a particular volume of work if I want to have a balanced home/work lifestyle. If I wanted to increase that volume, which I would because I love the job, but this would most definitely affect family time. At times it can be a struggle. Those times when your family need you or want you … but you have to work. My industry, historically, has been a male-driven environment. But I have always felt valued, respected and taken just as seriously as my male colleagues. I don’t feel this can be said for all women in the workforce, I feel other industries aren’t quite there yet.

Ali Boswijk, chief executive of Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce

I think that for women with children it can sometimes be a challenge to work full-time. For quite a few years we both worked part-time so that we could share childcare, I realise that I was fortunate we could do that – although financially it was much harder. I think that for most women family will come first and so you do have to make difficult decisions. There were certainly opportunities that I did not take any further because it would have meant being away from home for even more than I was. I am very fortunate in that my partner and I have always tried to share the load. I have certainly witnessed times when women are not taken seriously and talked over in meetings, and have definitely experienced that myself. I have worked with some very strong, brilliant, entrepreneurial women, in fact for the last seven years I have worked in organisations that are almost 100% women.

I think that my biggest professional accomplishment is that I have managed to do work I love – and live in Nelson. That is not always easy and, while things are certainly vastly improving in terms of opportunities, it definitely was not the case when I arrived here 23 years ago. I can see that Nelson is full of clever, passionate people who put themselves on the line every day to build exciting businesses and create employment.

Chris Dunn, NMIT curriculum manager of health and fitness

Unfortunately, I think barriers do still exist. Child care hours often do not cover the hours worked. This is especially true in my profession – nursing. A day shift starts at 7am or ends at 11.30pm. Not many employers support child-friendly work hours, nor have tolerance to child sick days or taking holidays during the school breaks. If the woman is the major caregiver this limits one’s ability to work full time. I have changed roles to accommodate my family. Family first and job second. I feel women have a valuable role in the workforce. I have always worked in female-dominated, caring professions, where women are valued, so I feel very fortunate. In some roles, jobs and professions women are not valued at all. I do believe there is a glass ceiling and males would be promoted far more frequently than their female counterparts. But I do believe the times are changing and equality prevails, though I feel women work harder to prove themselves.