Anna Guenther takes Idealog to task on gender imbalance, and Idealog calls for inspirational women to send us their business wisdom

How Idealog's latest cover sparked PledgeMe's Anna Guenther to crowdsource a list of inspirational women. And why Idealog now wants them to write for us.

Media outlets are more used to being on the reporting end than the business end of news stories – we are normally reluctant participants in the news. But when Idealog’s latest magazine cover – more specifically the lack of gender balance in the leaders we profiled for our 10th anniversary issue – provoked PledgeMe CEO Anna Guenther and GoodSense managing director Kath Dewar to crowdsource a list of inspiring New Zealand business women available for media to interview, Idealog became part of a story around diversity in business. Nine hours after Guenther and Dewar launched the list, it had almost 350 names. It's now almost 450. 

“[We are] trying to make it easier for media to find a wide range of inspiring women to interview,” Guenther tweeted.

Add your name to the list here.

Never shy of a challenge, Idealog would love to hear the views of any of New Zealand’s inspirational business women, answering the same three questions that we asked our 10 after 10 business leaders for our magazine cover story. As Guenther puts it:

See here for the rules of engagement, and please send us your answers to editor@idealog.co.nz.

Idealog should not have been surprised at Guenther's (justifiable) outrage at the 7:4 male/female split in our cover story – her own contribution to the cover feature asks the question: "Why there is still an insidious gender imbalance in New Zealand companies?" Here is what she wrote in answer to our questions: 

Ten years ago I was 19. The only thing I was really concerned with was making sure I didn’t have any morning classes at uni, the price of Speights, and juggling my three part time jobs around writing essays on 19th century epistolary novels.

A lot has changed in the last ten years. Social media has changed the way we communicate, crowdfunding has changed the way we fund things, and mobile data means you know everything, all the time.

Has New Zealand changed enough? No. Inequality is getting worse, gender equality is on the back burner despite statistics painting a bleak picture, and we’ve got our heads buried in the sand on climate change. Like crowdfunding, these challenges are all-or-nothing. At the moment we’re veering towards failure on a monumental scale.

On the upside, I’m excited that more and more Kiwi tech companies are making it big.

Over the next 10 years I think we’re headed to a golden age for startups (and stay ups). There is a cohort of successful founders reinvesting money and time into the next generation of tech. New Zealand is seeing the rise of social enterprises — companies that want to see positive environmental and social impacts, as well as financial return. They’re popping up across the country and changing the way we do business.

The lack of women in business, tech, and governance worries me. There’s an insidious unconscious bias that “we’re just hiring the most skilled candidate” when the preconceived notion of skilled is often stale, pale, and male. We need to reshape how we hire, how we work, and what we value, if we’re going to have a more equitable country and more supportive ecosystem.

Traditionally women have found it hard to access funding to grow their companies, although interestingly at PledgeMe we’re seeing about half our campaigns led by women.

I’m also concerned about the focus on failing fast, rather than being resilient. We’re seeing a huge focus on the start of the pipeline, helping companies start — but we aren’t supporting them to stay up. The modern day hero’s journey is around a solo entrepreneur building an empire, and we gloss over the squiggly line they take to keep going, and the crowd that supported them along the way.

***

Idealog will publish more posts in response to our questions, as they come in, starting this week. Watch this space.