Event recap: BWN Speaker Series – Day Two

After starting our series with a bang, there was much anticipation for Day Two of our Business Women’s Network (BWN) Speaker Series – especially with Dr Siouxsie Wiles headlining the day.

Once again, we welcomed nearly 280 women to Trinity Wharf’s conference room, where we enjoyed another great afternoon of inspirational speakers, business insights and connections made with local business women.

The highly anticipated Dr Siouxsie Wiles opened the event, immediately making an impression (and not just for her hair), and receiving a big cheer from the audience as she took to the stage.

She spoke about her fascinating journey to date, becoming one of the most famous communicators during the COVID-19 pandemic. As she says, distilling science into a language the masses can understand is an artform and Siouxsie has spent the last 10 years working that skill through her own blogs and content with her daughter Eve. Little did she know the pandemic would hit and suddenly she would be propelled into the public eye.

As great as this has been, achieving wonderful outcomes alongside The Spinoff’s Toby Morris, Siouxsie spoke about the flack she gets for being this figure, with other academics questioning why she gets this privileged role, particularly in the media.

As she says, it’s because she has honed that skill to explain science, she’s accessible to media and, above all this, it’s her area of expertise. Heartbreakingly, this attitude towards her skills and experience is not uncommon, and Siouxsie spoke about a certain individual who has gone to great lengths to discredit her PhD. Needless to say, she had two choice words for this man.

Of course, Siouxsie addressed her pink hair and why it is important for her to look this way, which is to help encourage other people who aren’t the ‘traditional’ look of a scientist to follow their passion and get into this fascinating field of work. An engaging, humorous speaker, you’d think Siouxsie did this for a job and it’s easy to forget she has a full-time job at the University of Auckland around her public engagements.

When asked before the event how she chooses where she goes, Siouxsie’s honest response was to first prioritise paying jobs, as all the money she earns from her speaking engagements goes back into her research at the University. She says funding is proving extremely difficult to get and speculates that her public persona has become somewhat of a hindrance to gaining funding – she’s recently been rejected three times for her current work. We’re proud to have hosted Siouxsie at our speaker series and to have help contribute towards her all-important scientific work!

Our next three speakers were from our local businesses and organisations. First was Fiona McTavish, CE of Toi Moana Regional Council. Fiona spoke about her why and shared some insights into how she has brought her why into the workplace. With huge empathy and support for her people, she calls it the ripple effect and demonstrated some ways in which it is being felt across the council – including giving people from all walks of life a chance to be involved in council through their Summer Experience programme.

Next was double act Gordy Lockhart (The Kollective) and Tania Wilson (Momenta, which is a tenant at The Kollective). Taking to the stage in his kilt (at event organiser Anne’s request), Gordy very quickly engaged the crowd with a group wave, which he filmed for social media. It was an easy way to demonstrate the power of collaboration, the central theme of The Kollective and its guiding principles. The unique co-working space has been established to (predominately) support not-for-profit organisations and community groups, reducing their overheads, helping them upskill and connect them to people that can help them achieve their goals.

One of those organisations is Momenta, which has been through phenomenal change over the past few years to realign its strategic direction, and rethink how they can empower and support those with disabilities into the workforce. Tania was frank and forthcoming about the changes experienced at Momenta (then Avalon), which included changing their Board and taking on new governance to help guide the organisation in a new direction.

Closing the afternoon was Brianne West from Ethique. Known globally as the world’s most sustainable beauty brand (which is all run out of Christchurch), Ethique has smashed numerous sustainability goals, including stopping 11m plastic bottles going to landfill. But while this is what grabs headline for Ethique, Brianne dug deeper in our session and explained how the whole process and supply chain are sustainable, from direct trade partnerships to source ingredients such as coconut, through to achieving climate positive status this March.  

After her presentation, the Chamber’s marketing & communications manager Laura conducted a Q&A with Brianne, to find out more about how to implement change in business sustainably, how to generate market cut-through and how ‘collaborative’ has been her process with investors and key stakeholders. Throughout the Q&A the theme of authenticity was apparent, with Brianne saying that knowing herself and her ethical goals for the business have been the key from day one, and while it can be hard not to compromise, it’s important to know you and your business’ value to make a real impact for the long term.

Another massive afternoon, and much discussion was had over afternoon tea and post-event bubbles. The theme of this two-day Speaker Series was The Changing Face of Business, and from both speakers and our attendees we’ve heard some amazing stories of how businesses are rethinking the traditional model to focus more on our people and our planet, as much as profit.

Thank you to everyone who attended and to our sponsors for helping make this event a success. We’re currently looking through attendee feedback with a view to bring this event back bigger and better in the future.

For now, we have a number of other BWN events coming up this year. You can view these here.

Thank you to Salina Galvan Photography for our event imagery.

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