Women and leadership

The women’s network is trying to encourage more women to take up leadership roles in the PSA.

Gail Arthur

PSA Women's Committee member Gail Arthur

Women make up around two-thirds of the PSA’s membership which fairly accurately reflects the public sector workforce. But, as with most organisations from parliament down, most of the leadership positions are held by men.

Gail Arthur, who joined the women’s network committee two years ago, thinks there are a number of reasons why women don’t put their hand up.

“We know that women feel they have got to get every box ticked before they put in a job application or stand for a leadership position whereas guys seem to be more confident about the things they can do.

“Having other responsibilities also comes into it but I think the main reason women don’t stand for leadership positions is to do with confidence. We’re reluctant to push ourselves forward.

“I’m a working mother; I’ve got all those balls to juggle. You do wonder if you want to take on an extra responsibility. But I think we owe it to ourselves to say yes and get involved.”

Gail is an administration team leader in the IT services division at the University of Otago. She’s been inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In which has become something of a rallying call for women to become more assertive and take on leadership roles.

She has taken the advice to heart and faced down her worries about the extra work and whether she’d have anything to contribute. Now she’s almost surprised to find herself in leadership positions – the women’s network committee, the state sector committee and the national rūnanga committee.

“It’s reinforcing my belief that I can do these things. I’m learning something new every day and I’m finding it enjoyable and rewarding. I think my manager sees it as an investment in my professional development. After all, the PSA is the largest union and it really means something to be on one of these national committees.”

The women’s network is putting a remit to this year’s congress on women’s representation in the PSA.  “I don’t think we need a quota but we do need to make sure women are properly represented,” says Gail.

“I know it’s contentious but I think it’s very important that women are properly represented in the PSA.”


Women’s leadership workshops

The women’s network runs a programme of leadership workshops open to all PSA women. Members of the women’s network are given priority as applications usually exceed the number of available places.

The next workshops will be held in Auckland and in the Central North Island region in October. Expressions of interest will be called for nearer the time. 

 “The workshop gave me insights into behaviours and pressures that contribute to the shortage of women leaders. The session on supports and tools was very helpful.” – Catherine Weusten at Inland Revenue.


To join the women’s network, or if you have any questions, email women@psa.org.nz.

You can also like the PSA Women's Network page on Facebook.


This article is from the June 2014 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.