Opinion: Why TEDxWellingtonWomen is important, and how I found my groove

Even though we live in a country where women are more respected and protected than in other parts of the world, New Zealand still has a long way to go towards gender equality, says TEDxWellingtonWomen director Natalia Albert.

As a woman, part of feeling like I am on an even playing field with men is knowing that I can find my ‘groove’: that I am supported and unrestricted by the world around me, free to do what feels right for me.

I grew up in Mexico City and moved around a lot as a child. My mother was a single parent and a diplomat, which meant I spent a lot of time either alone, with babysitters, au pairs, neighbours, mum’s secretary, nannies or family friends. The older I get, the more I appreciate how hard it must have been for my mother to do what she did. She told me every day that she loved me, which keeps me grounded, kind and grateful. No matter how hard life was she gave me a global, open-minded education.

Every woman has her own groove. Finding it means being really true to yourself, feeling like you are building momentum. However, it isn’t always easy to find the right rhythm. We need stop asking women to act, talk and behave more like men.

This happens in a very subtle, often subconscious way. It happens to most of us in day-to-day activities. In so many contexts, men are over-represented and women under-represented. We are constantly being asked to be less emotional, more assertive, less apologetic, less animated, more linear, to talk less, to soften our tone, the list goes on.

The most insidious way this happens daily is in politics and the media. On television, it happens with passive aggressive comments from commentators to their female counterparts. Public figures Mike Hosking and Paul Henry both make appalling comments about women. Veitchy On Sport has nearly four times the number of likes on Facebook than Women’s Refuge New Zealand. By keeping these men on the air, we are encouraging their derogatory views and failing to support women. In a recent report, Parliament’s commerce committee told the government owned broadcaster TVNZ it needs to take women more seriously.

The number of women in leadership roles in New Zealand is declining. Only 14.8% of directors of companies on the NZX 100 are female. New Zealand has dropped to 28th place in the Grant Thornton International Business Report league table of 35 countries measuring the proportion of women in leadership roles, compared with a ranking of 15th in 2014 and 3rd in 2004. The gender pay gap is worsening according to the World Economic Forum, where New Zealand’s ranking fell from seventh place in 2013 to 13th in 2014.

We need to shine the light on women. TEDxWellingtonWomen is important to me because I feel it is a grain of sand in the worldwide movement towards this cause.

Our event is a day where four inspiring female speakers, one male speaker (we invite all men to join us!) and two awesome lady MCs will present ideas worth spreading alongside rhythm-inspired performances.   Curated by a female team, TEDxWellingtonWomen will give attendees a deep sense of community.  It includes a simulcast of TEDWomen in California.  With 250 related TED events around the world happening at the same time, it will be a powerful thing to be a part of.

I want to make sure that Wellington roars when it comes to putting women at the forefront of initiatives to get more women on boards, in tech, in leadership roles, at the table, shaping our world, and being part of the team that calls the shots. I want more women to find their groove, and hopefully attending our TEDx event will help.

My mother managed to find her groove as a single parent who also had a demanding career. When I’m not working on TEDxWellingtonWomen, I bike, a lot. I own three bicycles and on the weekend, my partner and I enjoy mountain biking I do mountain biking around the Makara tracks. During the week, I love to take my road bike out at dawn to see the sun come up when there are no cars, no noise, just me and the sunrise. Not only do I feel it is it a great way to keep fit, but it is my way of contributing towards a sustainable environment, plus it is cheaper than a car. Being true to myself by living in a way that supports my beliefs means I am in my groove.

For me, doing the things that uphold the values I want to see in the world, like community, health, education, justice, compassion and kindness help me find my groove. It takes courage, it takes practice, and it takes heart. But hopefully all the ways I spend my time, money and effort are contributing towards building these things in my life and in the world around me.

Finding your groove is a daily exercise. It can be tiny movements, even a small crawl sometimes, just focusing on the little things. It all counts. I try to find my groove every day in whatever I am doing whether it is biking, studying, working on TEDx, being around friends and family. 

Keep moving, even if it is at a slow pace, until you find your groove to build momentum and inspire change.

Natalia Albert is the director of TEDxWellingtonWomen. She was also the director of the only other female-focused TED talks event in New Zealand, TEDxHomeBushRdWomen in 2013. She lives in Wellington and works as a project manager.