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Why do we need an International Women's Day?


Nikki Howell

Head of People & Capability, AA Insurance

New Zealand is the first to welcome each new day, which means today we’re also first to welcome in International Women’s Day. 

There will be those muttering why do we need an International Women’s Day at all? and you would have thought by 2018 it should be a moot point and unnecessary. But here’s the thing, International Women’s Day is not only meant to recognise women for their achievements - whether social, economic, cultural or political - it’s also meant to mark a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Certainly, the noise for pay parity has become louder in the New Zealand media, as well as globally, and is long overdue.  There should be no reason for someone to be paid differently because of their gender. This has been a policy we’ve practiced for a really, really long time at AA Insurance, but we sense checked it a year ago, and, tick, no discrimination around pay. 

So, we’re ok, but why is it that inequity persists? Why is harassment a dark undertow in the waters of the television and film industries, as well as other big institutions? It seems to stem from systemic practices and power. Power, which is used and abused for personal gain or gratification. 

I joined the navy in the late eighties and if ever you had the potential for power, abuse and harassment then the military would be it. There were times when it was not a nice place to be but I was lucky that, on the odd occasion when I was in that situation, I was fortunate to have people near me who would back me. 

You would think the Commandos would have the potential to embody the negative stereotype, but they rallied when I needed them. 

I was the only female officer on an operational tour of duty, when someone from an Army Regiment taking over, came into my room in the middle of the night. Luckily, some sixth sense woke me and I was in the process of sitting up in my bed when he unlocked the door and came in. I had Royal Marine officers sleeping on either side of my room and knew I could scream and they would come running. I told the man to leave in a short exchange of words and he did. I locked and barricaded the door, heart pounding, feeling sick. The next morning, I told my commander and within a few hours the intruder was flown back to base to face an enquiry. His commander, who was there as part of the handover, apologised. 

When I left the navy after almost 10 years there had of course been issues although, with over 50,000 people in the organisation at that time, it had cleaned up its act for the most part. 

Fast forward to 2018, and scandals in different industries are being uncovered almost daily, showing that there is yet to be parity in how people are treated. Sometimes you can’t speak out as the abuser is in a position to make your life uncomfortable. Individuals are then forced to put up with the abuse or walk away, and that’s tough when you need to pay the bills. 

As our Chief Executive, Chris Curtin, mentioned in his blog a couple of months ago, we have worked hard to have a healthy and safe culture here at AA Insurance, and give people the ability to speak out if they need to. I for one, am proud of this, not only because of my role, but also my previous experience. Everyone should be able to work in a culture where they feel safe, respected and heard, regardless of their gender. 

So, do we need to continue to highlight women’s achievements and focus on gaining gender parity with International Women’s Day? Yes, we do!  


About AA Insurance

AA Insurance is an independently operated, New Zealand-based joint venture between the New Zealand Automobile Association (NZAA) and Suncorp Group. We have demonstrated trusted expertise in home, contents and car insurance in New Zealand since 1994. We underwrite our own policies and sell direct to New Zealanders. Our more than 700 staff look after nearly 375,000 customers with over 710,000 policies.

We proudly partner with Eden Park, support youth charity Blue Light, and have been consistently recognised by: Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brands (since 2011), NZ Insurance Industry Awards (since 2012), IBM Kenexa Best Workplaces Survey (since 2008), Canstar Blue Most Satisfied Customers (2011-2016), and the Colmar Brunton Corporate Reputation Index (since 2015) that recognises New Zealand’s most successful companies.

AA Insurance has an A+ (Strong) Insurer Financial Strength Rating given by Standard and Poor’s (Australia) Pty Ltd. For further information visit

For more information please contact:

Nicole Steven, Botica Butler Raudon Partners, (09) 303 3867, 021 025 31886 or email

Amanda Fifield, AA Insurance Limited, (09) 927 2085 or email

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Amanda Fifield
Corporate Communications Specialist (Public Relations), AA Insurance

DDI: (09) 927 2085
Mobile: 021 406 1787

Lizzie Furnell
Corporate Communications Specialist (Corporate Affairs), AA Insurance

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Nicole Steven
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DDI: (09) 303 3867
Mobile: 021 025 31886

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