Suf­frage vi­tal to EIT’s women

Napier Courier - - NEWS -

It is widely ac­cepted that Hawke’s Bay would not have its ter­tiary in­sti­tute if it was not for the fore­sight of Mar­garet Het­ley, a firm ad­vo­cate of higher ed­u­ca­tion for women.

It was fit­ting that Eastern In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (EIT) held a short cel­e­bra­tion to of­fi­cially mark Suf­frage 125 on Septem­ber 19, at its Het­ley Build­ing. One of EIT’s ear­li­est build­ings, it is named in hon­our of Mar­garet and her hus­band Ar­naud, and her be­quest of her es­tate, now EIT Hawke’s Bay cam­pus.

Re­search pro­fes­sor Kay Mor­ris Matthews spoke to stu­dents and staff, a num­ber re­splen­dent in green and pur­ple suf­frage colours. A white camel­lia was planted — the sym­bol of those who sup­ported women’s suf­frage — by Geral­dine Travers, the first woman chair of the EIT coun­cil.

Kay told the gath­er­ing that both Ma¯ ori and Pa¯ keha¯ women were very ac­tive in the Hawke’s Bay suf­frage move­ment. Their ef­forts to can­vas the mainly ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to gain 1799 sig­na­tures on the 1893 suf­frage pe­ti­tion “rather as­tounded” Kate Shep­herd, leader of the New Zealand Suf­frage move­ment.

“We should be ex­tremely proud those women helped cre­ate his­tory, that New Zealand Aotearoa was the first coun­try in the world to give the vote to women (over 21), in­clud­ing Ma¯ ori women.” One in four women signed the 1893 suf­frage pe­ti­tion in Septem­ber. and the suf­frag­ists man­aged to get two out of three women, 90,000 in to­tal, onto the elec­toral roll in time for the Novem­ber 1893 elec­tion.

“Our fe­male fore­bears fought for the ba­sic tenet and right that if they were to be ruled by laws, they should con­trib­ute to the mak­ing of those laws.”

EIT had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ed­u­cate around is­sues of so­cial im­por­tance.

Be­ing ap­pointed as the coun­cil chair was some­thing Geral­dine Travers says she took for granted.

“My ca­reer has been in ed­u­ca­tion and hav­ing spent five sixths of that in girls’ schools, and be­ing prin­ci­pal in my last two schools, I have an ex­pec­ta­tion of fe­male lead­er­ship. And be­ing in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced pay par­ity my whole ca­reer.”

Geral­dine sees ed­u­ca­tion and suf­frage as be­ing in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked.

“It was ed­u­cated women who drove the move for women’s vot­ing rights in New Zealand. They worked the length and breadth of the coun­try to make it hap­pen.”

She also ob­serves that in to­day’s world, women ed­u­cated at ter­tiary level have more op­por­tu­nity to have greater par­ity with their male col­leagues. Al­though the num­ber of fe­male part­ners in pro­fes­sional ser­vices, firms and around board ta­bles is still not re­flec­tive of equal­ity, she be­lieves women still have a way to go in over­rid­ing gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“We are mak­ing progress but we’re not there yet. There have been at­ti­tu­di­nal changes in my ca­reer span. Once mar­ried women could not be a school prin­ci­pal and nurses had to leave the work­force when they got mar­ried. And my own fa­ther couldn’t see why girls needed a ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion be­cause they would just get mar­ried.”

Geral­dine says she is proud of the cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment at EIT and points to the makeup of the coun­cil as an ex­am­ple. Half of the eight mem­bers are fe­male and there is a va­ri­ety of eth­nic­i­ties and ages rep­re­sented.

“We are mod­el­ling an in­clu­sive en­vi­ron­ment.”

When EIT stu­dent, Robyn Salt­marsh dis­cov­ered she was one of three fe­males en­rolled for a Level 3 NZ Cer­tifi­cate in Con­struc­tion Trade Skills (Car­pen­try) she was thrilled. She ex­pected to be the only one.

A South African who moved to New Zealand two and half years ago, Robyn has been sur­prised at the num­ber of Kiwi women in the trades. It’s not at all known in South Africa es­pe­cially not in schools, says the 17 year old.

Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of her trades­man fa­ther would not have been at all easy had the fam­ily not em­i­grated, and for Robyn work­ing in car­pen­try is her pas­sion.

She says she bat­tled sex­ism in her trades class at a lo­cal sec­ondary school but sings the praises of the EIT trades school en­vi­ron­ment.

“It’s very in­clu­sive and the trades teach­ing staff are all re­ally pos­i­tive and very keen to help.”

She does note though that she’d like to see fe­males por­trayed in EIT trades pro­mo­tions and that male work wear is not par­tic­u­larly flat­ter­ing while tool belts are not fit for pur­pose for her fe­male form.

“I still like to feel feminine even though I can be do­ing dirty and phys­i­cal work.”

In re­search­ing the EIT op­tions, Robyn was im­pressed that the 2017 Trades Stu­dent of the Year was Casey Aranui, a 32 year old mother of four.

“I want to be a role model like her. I’d like to en­cour­age other women who have a pas­sion for the trades to not be put off by what oth­ers think and to press on. We are equal and we need to make a stand.”

It is off cam­pus that Robyn has ex­pe­ri­enced prej­u­dice for her gen­der. Mostly though it is pos­i­tive dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“Some­times when some­thing is heavy to lift, my co-work­ers of­fer to help me, which I do ap­pre­ci­ate as men are phys­i­cally stronger than women. The com­pany I am work­ing for treats me with re­spect,” she says.

Along with ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sex­ual in­nu­en­dos, at one build­ing site she had to leave ev­ery time she needed a bath­room. She also bat­tles the mis­guided im­pres­sion from some work­mates that she “needs a hand” with the heavy stuff.

“Women are not in­ca­pable or weak. We work out ways of do­ing things. We don’t want to of­fend some­one of­fer­ing help but re­ally we need to learn by do­ing,” she says.

In Taryn Wil­son’s NZ Diploma in Tourism and Travel pro­gramme, there are three males, again an­other gen­der dis­crep­ancy. The 21 year old moved from Palmer­ston North af­ter a gap year spent in Lon­don, to un­der­take the two years of EIT study that will ul­ti­mately have her work­ing in her dream job.

“I love trav­el­ling. I can see my­self work­ing in out­door ad­ven­ture tourism some­where in the world.”

Taryn says she has had no per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in her life to date.

“I work part time at a restau­rant in Napier and there’s a mix­ture of both sexes and it seems to me that ev­ery­one just gets on and gets things done.”

EIT coun­cil chair Geral­dine Travers, plants a white camel­lia to mark Suf­frage 125 as part of cel­e­bra­tions at EIT.

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