I arrived to a cocktail party held a friends place – Jeff – one of the three mad professors of New York University Stern School of Business that I met in Singapore, February last year. Aline and Susan are the other two. Aline and Jeff share a brownstone – in Brooklyn. One of those traditional brown several story houses. Aline owns the downstairs and Jeff upstairs. You enter Aline’s place off of the street and downstairs to the basement. Jeff you enter off of the street and go upstairs one floor. We had lovely wine and nibbles – cheese, dips and bread. And my first taste of New York pizza, one of my work colleagues said I had to. He was right. They’re great. There were other academics there as well as a Finnish couple and we had a great night talking about political systems – US vs NZ. I stayed with Aline that night
Got up late – as you would expect having flown non-stop from Auckland, via the hideous LA airport and US immigration – and cruised in to the central city on the subway (my first subway experience) to Aline’s work (NYU). I wandered around the university and environs, got a charger for my phone and nosyed at the local shops. I popped my nose in to a tutorial and also tidied up my diary so I knew where I was going and what I was doing for the next busy 10 days. We went back to Aline’s house for dinner – had Chinese – way more variety than here and tastier. Susan borrowed Aline’s car and took me back to her apartment on the upper east side. New York at night, left hand drive – an interesting experience.
You either live in an apartment or a brownstone – and Susan’s apartment was on the 20th floor – one of hundreds of apartment buildings. Spacious living for a one-room apartment. I know why they go out for dinner now or get takeout – their kitchens are tiny. Susan had wifi – and every night I’d download my thoughts and put them on my Facebook page.
Thursday and Friday
BPW Presidents Seminar
This was a fantastic networking opportunity – I sat with the American Samoans, a Swiss and a German – sitting in an open square you only had the chance to talk in the short breaks with those closest to you. The women from Africa – some of the coolest women you’ll ever meet. The challenges they face as women in their countries puts a lot of things in to perspective. Every international meeting I’ve been to with these women they set up a stall – they bring clothes and jewellery they’ve made to sell. It helps them fund their trip. They’re incredibly warm, clever and elegant. The way they dress up for the evening functions is something not to miss.
As a group, we talked about successes and challenges and these were on posters and attached to the wall. The idea was that we were to list our names and federation under the topics and federations where a, we might be able to help or b, where we felt we needed help. A great system but not followed up. So even though we wrote our names up, no one called each other J
We talked about the finances and how international federation is coming to grips with them and the systems and how systems have been put in place so that continuity between presidents is facilitated. We also learnt that the international federation will be taking a remit to Congress to increase the dues and even though we asked what the increase might look like, we were not answered with an amount.
We went out for dinner on the Thursday evening – an Italian restaurant on 45th street was booked for us. . We needed to make our way there – either walking (30-45mins) or cab – or as I figured out, a trip on the subway – one station on one line then thru grand central to the other line and up in to Times Square and then down to the restaurant. Times Square is amazing – bright lights absolutely everywhere and whole buildings lit up as advertisements. And it had been snowing so was as cold as. We all made our way home after some great networking over dinner. The BPW New York team were there and they are doing really well, with some really switched on younger women in their club too – Veronique – one of the volunteers for the training seminar and an absolute godsend for a kiwi kid trying to nut out the subway home J
Friday – we met the women involved with the Women’s Empowerment Principles – UNIFEM and UN Global Impact.
The weekend – one incredible experience. The NGO Global Forum – meeting before CSW started. 750 women in the Salvation Army centre – at the other end of the island from where I was staying – and not far from Union Square – very pretty even covered in snow. The outcome of the meeting was a statement to the UN regarding the success/failure of the Beijing Platform for Action. There were panel discussions and then open mike for comments and/or questions. With so many women, you can imagine that there were quite a few who missed out and there were the odd one or two who spoke too long or Muslim women who stood up and said that women are well-respected and there were no issues for them. And 99% of the rest of us moaned at them and asked them to stand down. Apparently, they do it every time – there is a group of women that the govt pays to go and say how good it is for them! And then someone else who’ll stand up and say the opposite. We also had a regional meeting and I met more of the amazing women in our Asia-Pacific women. Us Pacific Islanders were very few and it was a shame as their voices were not heard. Australia and NZ have great respect for what we’ve done for our women and continue to do – see, most of them are struggling with basic human rights – so pay equity is not something they see as a priority. Climate change is and so I added my piece to this on behalf of the pacific nations – a rise in sea level is going to create environmental refugees and we need to add this to the statement. 15 years ago in Beijing, climate change wasn’t discussed – it wasn’t on most people’s agenda but now – we have two nations (Tuvalu and Kiribati) who have issues with salt in their ground water due to sea levels rising. their ground water due to sea levels rising. Women are the ones who collect and supply water for the family in the developing nations – those who are far worse off than us. Water is a basic human need and we have to understand how to deal with this in the future and we need to understand it is a woman’s issue.
I met up with and spent some time with other kiwi women there – Beverly Turner (UNIFEM), Jane Pritchard (ICW) and Louise Croot (President of International Graduate Women)
Saturday night – went to a cocktail function where Liz Benham from BPW International welcomed us all to New York. We were all in her room…almost like sardines. It was great to catch up with everyone who was there and we had a quick Oceania meeting. After the room started emptying, I made my way to the Met museum – and that’s another story.
Monday – mmm. The day where I register to attend CSW – get my United Nations security pass. O boy – over 6000 women were accredited to attend CSW and the debacle that was registering gave me the impression they weren’t expecting us. 6 tellers to take our papers and 4 photographers – yes, you can imagine. Standing in line is a great networking space! I got to know NZers Dr Judy McGregor (EEO Commissioner) and Sue O’Shea (Principal Analyst) really well. They are members of BPWNZ – and an Argentinean woman who teaches marketing and was in New York to help out with the seminars I was to attend that week. We waited 5 hours.
Then went for a pub lunch before heading to the BPW hosted parallel seminar – Putting diversity on the A-gender. This was a well-attended seminar – many BPW but many more that were not. I helped get the computer and datashow together and then sat back and enjoyed the panel – wowed by Dr Pam – she’s put a women’s parliament together in India and then inspired by the EU – they are actively working on having more women running the show – I like that.
Tuesday – president’s seminar.
BY now I was settled in to the YMCA – one block from the UN and should’ve been in my budget range at $US95 per night. A shoebox and a shared bathroom – I’m sorry but I won’t do that again. We can pay $95 per night for a motel in NZ. So, I’m saving for next year!
Presidents Seminar – facilitated by Antoinette Ruegg – a past International President and from Switzerland. I was asked, at the last minute, to help with the media session – as she was including Gisborne’s supplement in the programme. All of the women involved with the day met the night before to go over it and essentially, I left the session to the Canadians as they had a great project outline prepared and I added my wee bit about the media being the same but different as well as a summary of how to put a press release together and how to follow it up to get in to the media. As well as saying how well we do it here.
It was prepared for beginners and was a great little day of workshops. I went to the one on mentoring and this was a great presentation from the Swiss Federation – they’ve got a great process and ideas on how to make it work.
CSW – I took time out of the day to attend the workshop being co-hosted by our Minister of Women’s Affairs (Hon Pansy Wong) – Pacific Women Decision makers. One of the main things I took from this was that the Solomons for example had quite an egalitarian system before the missionaries came and the Westminster political system was instigated. This was a patriarchal system and hasn’t suited the women at all – as we all know.
Wednesday – I thought this might be my chance to try and see some other CSW events. The day started with Breakfast at the NZ Mission hosted by Hon Wong and it was quite a traditional New York start to the day – bagels, cream cheese and grape jelly. All of the kiwi NGO reps were invited and it was great to meet up again – most of us had been in contact via text, and it was great to meet up in the same place. It was the only chance we got to catch up with the NGO rep on the NZ delegation – Barbara Arnold of NCW! I talked with the Minister about the high level meetings she was having and congratulated her on the great work she was doing in lobbying for GEAR – the gender restructure of the UN. Countries changed their vote because of her discussions. We still have a lot of work to do on this though as we have to ensure that the financial commitments are secured. This is the next step.
After breakfast I headed off to the BPW International meeting regarding the changes to the constitution – held in a motel room J. Those of us interested in this went along and there was some interesting conversations with the Europeans and others on their ideas for Regional Coordinators and a fixed office space.
Jean Murray and I headed down to the UN to see what we could find. There’s a fair bit of construction going on down there and it was quite a trek around. We found a session where we could see the country names and where the seat of BPW is – it was about gender equity and a great panel including one from Catalyst – a private sector company that does a lot of research on women in work.
We headed back and I headed back to Susan’s for a wee rest before the next few days.
Thursday – the second BPW seminar and this one was more about emotional intelligence and how women are really good at it, it’s just that most of us don’t know how to describe it and therefore how to use it effectively to our advantage. I was quite tired by this stage and left about an hour early to go home for a rest as I knew that I would be up late for the Claire Fulcher dinner that night.
80th birthday celebrations – and what a great night. Gabriella had gone to a great deal of trouble creating a wonderful power point for each decade which included milestones for women in BPW and outside of the organization and the music related to women and the decade. Met some more wonderful women and from new parts of the world. It was ‘dress-up’ – 30’s and there were some great outfits – very, very elegant. A late night though and another early start the next day
Friday – my last day.
Started with another BPW International side event – this time on Equal Pay Day. A follow-up on the one from the year before and some presentations from Germany, Australia and questions and comments from the floor – including NZ J Also, some strategies and challenges for the year ahead.
I was then picked up by my friend Aline to be taken on a personal tour of Manhattan Island. As with most places in the winter, the trees were bare and snow drifts still hanging about it was quite bland colour wise. Fascinating place and yes, I saw Wall St, Ground Zero, a warship in the dock and a brief glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. And we had lunch at Katz’s – one of the best delis in town. I had a corned beef sandwich on rye. Corned beef, sauerkraut and cheese. Awesome!
Awesome, thank you.