Women in leadership: Bridgette Munro - Tauranga Chamber of Commerce

Women in leadership: Bridgette Munro

Meet Bridgette Munro, chairperson of consultancy company Enspire.

Enspire was established to provide policy, planning, strategy, freshwater ecology and associated services throughout New Zealand.

Since graduating from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Social Science (Hons) in Resource and Environmental Planning (REP) and Geography, Bridgette has enjoyed a successful career, gaining invaluable knowledge and experience in consultant, corporate and local government planning roles.

We asked our Chamber member a quick Q&A to get to know her and find out about her career journey, plus get some top tips for supporting women into leadership roles.  

Tell us a bit about your career to date – what is the journey that led you to your current career?

In high school, I wanted to study law.  When it came time to go to University however, and in considering the papers that I wanted to take, and that interested me, I decided planning was the career for me. 

I did a variety of papers while at University, from geography to coastal geomorphology, politics, economics, marine sciences and biology, together with the other core planning papers.

I took a student role at the Gisborne District Council in my hometown during one of my University breaks, and in doing my honours project, I came across Turnpenny Associates – a private planning consultancy. I wrote to Bevan Turnpenny the owner / manager of the consultancy towards the end of my honours year, enquiring as to whether he needed a graduate planner and started at Turnpenny Associates shortly after I finished my honours papers. 

From there, I went on to the Gisborne District Council and tried my hand at consent processing and natural resource planning roles, then moved to Tauranga to pursue a career as a planning consultant again. 

I worked at Harrison Grierson, and then at Trustpower, meeting some inspiring people along the way. In 2008, I joined Gavin Kemble, who had been my manager at Trustpower, as he developed the planning arm of Ryder Consulting (which has since become Enspire) and have continued to work for the company as an associate, associate director, director and chairperson, doing a variety of different planning, management and governance tasks ever since. 

What does the role of chairperson at Enspire entail?

The role of chairperson involves setting the agenda for, organising and chairing the Board meetings that Enspire has, which are usually held every second month, but can be held monthly, depending on the necessity. 

In addition to this, the role entails acting as the face of the company, rolling out changes and Board outcomes to staff and working closely with the General Manager on various governance related tasks.

What are some aspects of the role that you enjoy the most?

I enjoy attending the Board meetings the most, asking questions, being part of Board discussion, and assisting to set the vision for, and plan for the future of the company – this has been particularly important over the past year as we have navigated the COVID-19 environment. 

Other aspects of my role that I really enjoy are undertaking new and challenging tasks, particularly looking at central and local government policy and assisting clients to shape policy so that it is both understandable, practical and workable. I also really enjoy managing and mentoring staff as I believe the people are what makes a business.

What are some of the challenges?

We have gone through both a demerger and a restructure during my time as chair; the restructure coming off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic. These have been challenging times, and have induced a fair bit of work outside of our normal daily tasks, but I believe that we have worked well through the challenges that we have faced, and have become a stronger, more adaptable company for it. 

Head shot of Bridgette Munro

What gets you up in the morning – the one thing that excites you about going to work?

The people. We have a great team at Enspire, who work hard, believe in producing quality products and in looking for the best solutions.

We work well together, and that is what I consider makes us a successful company. We have changed and adapted over the years, and in light of challenges and in particular, COVID-19, and we have formed some great working relationships and friendships along the way. Alongside our team, we have been lucky enough to have some great repeat clients. We get to know our clients and their businesses, so that we might act as an extension of the same. This sees us providing advice to assist them to achieve the best outcomes. It also sees us working on a variety of different, challenging, exciting and interesting tasks and continuing to learn along the way. No two days are ever the same and I have continued to learn throughout my career with Enspire.

How can we as a business community encourage women to get into senior leadership positions?

I think we can encourage women into senior leadership positions by identifying and providing mentoring and training for our ‘up and coming’ female employees and future leaders. We should encourage and build confidence, by allowing women to take lead roles on projects and supporting them to do so.

For women with families, I think that allowing flexible working arrangements can be key. Having a family should not be a barrier to professional development, thus we need to be aware of what life outside of the workplace may look like and provide family support and flexibility in the workplace for women and men – parents – to still be able to meet the needs of their families and as a parent.

What are some of the barriers they face?

There can be a number of different barriers to women getting into senior leadership positions, sometimes barriers can be institutional. Barriers can also be based on perception. Women can still be seen as the more gentle, emotional and empathetic of the sexes. This can sometimes lead to the perception that women cannot be strong, and readily make hard decisions.

Also, women that become mothers may take breaks from work while they have children and are often still the main caregiver bringing up their families outside of work, which can bring about the perception that they are not as focussed on their career. Juggling work commitments outside of hours can be more difficult as well.

What are some advantages of having women in senior positions? What perspectives do they bring to the table?

Women are good problem-solvers and known to be multi-taskers, because they often have to juggle family and work life. They can be focussed while at work and look to work as efficiently as they can in the time that they have (if having to work shorter hours to fit in with day-care and school drop-offs and pick-ups).

While women are considered to be more empathetic, I think that this can make them more powerful and in-tune with their staff, more readily able to identify when others are stressed and offer support, being empathetic can make women good mentors. 

What makes Enspire unique?

Enspire’s values are all about working as a team, with integrity, trust, ensuring exceptional quality while enjoying what we do. Everyone at Enspire is encouraged to ‘reach for the stars’. There are no glass ceilings and there is no gender bias. We encourage our team to learn and grow and look for the type of projects and work that they want to do. I think we are all constantly learning as the variety of work is broad. We work well as a team – fit is key to ensuring this, and we hire our staff according to the same. 

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