Jo takes us through her career journey from family law to Principal Policy Advisor at Auckland Council and how she plans to implement her knowledge, experience and passion for gender equality for all wāhine.
What brought you to a career in the public service?
I began my career as a family lawyer in private practice, then moved to the UK and worked as an in-house child protection lawyer in local government for a decade. I found that I enjoyed and was motivated by the ethos of serving communities. Back in New Zealand, I worked at YouthLaw as a children’s lawyer, then at the Human Rights Commission, a Crown Entity. I now work as a Principal Policy Advisor in the Community & Social Policy Unit at Auckland Council. I feel passionately that as public servants we can work towards an Aotearoa where all people and communities can thrive.
Have you experienced any challenges during your career and how did you overcome them?
I’ve experienced high pressure roles where the work can be distressing, particularly as a lawyer acting for victims of family violence or to protect children suffering from neglect and abuse. I’d be left physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. I try to prioritise my mental and physical health through self-care techniques such as meditation, daily exercise and firm boundaries around work and family time. This can be hard, as I’m a recovering people pleaser, and my first instinct is to say yes. I’ve learnt to be realistic about what I can achieve without encroaching on family-time or endangering my health. This is a work in progress, and a common issue for many women!
What motivated you to join Te Aka Wāhine o Tāmaki Komiti?
At the Human Rights Commission (HRC) I worked closely with two Equal Employment Opportunities and Women’s Rights Commissioners Dr Jackie Blue, and Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo. During my four years there I attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (the UN’s annual gathering to progress gender equality) and worked on issues such as closing the gender and ethnic pay gaps and equality for women. I joined Te Aka Wāhine o Tāmaki when I started at Auckland Council in 2020. I wanted to volunteer my time, expertise and connections and continue working for gender equality in the public service. There are still large pay gaps for Māori and Pacific women, and ethnic minority groups. Working towards closing those gaps and having all levels of the public service reflect our communities is a huge motivator for me.
As Co-chair of Auckland GWN, what key things do you hope to achieve in this role?
I love the diverse group of women from across the public service that belong to AGWN and make up the AGWN Komiti. I’m excited about the launch of our Māori and Pacific Women’s Strategy in 2022 and hope to keep the conversation alive through our events about career progression for women in the public service. I’m looking forward to building relationships across the wider Employee Led Networks within the public service so we can offer support and collaborate on common goals.
What can network members do to make the most out of belonging to Te Aka Wāhine o Tāmaki?
Take advantage of our in-person events to network and make connections. I found the speakers and workshops at the 2021 Auckland Women in Public Service Summit both inspiring and useful. I would encourage members to attend the Summit this year on 19 September. Hearing from and speaking to other women can build confidence and encourage women to apply for that promotion, ask to go on that course, negotiate a pay-rise and have the confidence to take the next step in their careers.