Auckland University Alumni talk women in leadership

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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A table for 10: Auckland University alumni talk women in leadership over lunch with Deputy Vice Chancellor, Jenny Dixon (second from left).

A table for 10: Auckland University alumni talk women in leadership over lunch with Deputy Vice Chancellor, Jenny Dixon (second from left).

The Deputy Vice Chancellor of Auckland University, Jenny Dixon, hosted a luncheon to bring together female student alumni at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel yesterday.

As one of the final events for the Auckland University delegation in Samoa this week, Ms. Dixon said this was an important step in strengthening their university alumni group in Samoa and also to get an idea of how the university can continue to support their female alumni in their professional careers.

The purpose of the luncheon was to engage their women alumni in Samoa in conversations to ascertain what sort of challenges they face in their respective roles as leaders in their work and communities. 

“We are interested to hear from our women alumni in particular about the sort of things that might be at the top of your minds in terms of women in leadership in Samoa,” said Ms. Dixon. “We’re interested because we are thinking of ways we can work with our alumni. It may be well things that we are already working on in the university and could be helpful.

“Alumni engagement is very important. In my international role, I lead a group in our big network, which is called Association of Pacific Women in Universities. 

Over 50 leading research universities across the Pacific rim. The focus is how to help women get over barriers in terms of promotion and equipment and all those things within their respective institutions so it could be for a university purpose for academic and professional women.”

Currently the Auckland University is conducting a major survey among 70 universities around the world to find out if the gender ratios are from academic women, academics and professionals right up to the position of Vice Chancellor have improved.

“We understand that in a huge international level, there are different cultural attitudes towards women and promotion and it’s particularly tough in countries such as China and Japan especially women at my level and they are very keen to progress and they have some good advocates.”

Ms. Dixon praised Samoa for the high number of C.E.Os who are females saying that there is still a need for New Zealand to improve the number of women in executive roles. “One of things that have impressed all of us on this visit to Samoa is the number of C.E.Os who are females in Samoa. It really does stand out and there’s a lot of room for improvement in New Zealand I have to say in relation to the number of C.E.Os who are female and particularly improving the number of women on Boards, both state and private sector boards.”

Alumni member and General Manager of Pacific Line Forum, Teuila Eteuati said to the Samoa Observer that she was very pleased that a major effort has been made to formally connect all the Auckland University alumni on the island.

“This is the first Auckland alumni function I’ve been to and I would love to see more of these happen in the future,” said Eteuati. “I’ve lived here for 20 years and I’ve watched Waikato, Victoria and Otago University have their get-togethers here in Samoa for their alumni and I’m thinking, when is Auckland going to have something?  So it’s just great to be able to come together like this and formalise it.

“I’ve seen some good progress here in Samoa in regards to women in leadership and networking plays a big part in that success. Some of the women here I didn’t even know they went to Auckland University but having that in common creates that connection that can spark things off.”

Some of the themes that were discussed were the challenges dealing with existing intergenerational attitudes around traditional professions that young Samoans are expected to pursue, also challenges around the treatment of women Matai and their lack of inclusion in decision making at village fono as well as why women do not pursue careers in Parliament. 

Auckland University is looking to establish an official alumni body in Samoa in the coming months.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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