Be bold for change

International Women’s Day is about acknowledging the progress we have made toward achieving equality as well as focusing on the future.

In the spirit of this year’s theme we invited five inspiring female leaders to share with us what ‘Being Bold for Change’ means to them.

Cherise Barrie, Sovereign Chief Financial Officer

“I encourage every woman to believe they can have it all – and have it all at the same time. It’s hard but I’m doing it myself. We all make different choices about our destination, there is no right or wrong as to where the destination is.”

 Sharron-Moana Botica, Sovereign Chief Customer Officer

“In 2009, I was the only woman on Sovereign’s leadership team and there was a significant pay gap. I was the noise at the table who would consistently say – that’s not good enough. It didn’t always make me popular but that’s ok, it needed to be done. My war wounds made me stronger. I’m proud to say that Sovereign has now achieved gender balance across all levels of the organisation and closed the gender pay gap. In fact last year we were recognised as a gold finalist at the YWCA Pay awards.”

Brianna Hill, Youthline Marketing and Information Services Manager

“Being bold is making lots of little decisions every day that add up.”

“It is important the young men and women I work with understand and hear that I am comfortable and confident in my own skin, that visibility might help them be comfortable in theirs.”

 Nicola Smith, healthy living expert and director of

“We have a lot of information thrown at us all of the time and we can get paralysed. You’ve got to come back to basics. Being bold could be putting yourself first. You will boost your confidence when you balance your wellbeing – make small changes that build overall wellness.”

Clare O’Higgins, Look Good Feel Better CEO

“Look Good Feel Better exists to provide a wonderful, non-medical day for women who are undergoing treatment for cancer. These are women who just want to feel normal and it’s our job to make it the best day ever. So, for me it is simple – I need to be bold for them.”

“The charity sector is heavily female orientated – so we actively seek diversity of voices from husbands, brothers and other family members. If you only ever hear one voice you could miss an opportunity. You need to be bold and face your fear of what others might say.”

How to help someone who is dying

We asked Sweet Louise support coordinator Sarah Thomson to provide some tips that could assist anyone who is supporting a terminally ill person, whether it’s a family member, friend or customer. This is what she said.

People living with a terminal illness are often at very different places on the health spectrum. At one end are those who can still look after themselves, get out and enjoy experiences. However, at the other end of the scale, termed as “end of life”, the person may be unable to carry out any activities of daily living and need full nursing care.

It is always really good to remember people who have a terminal illness often have a changed perspective of what is important to them. They will let you know their concerns because it is really important that they try to fix things in the time they have left.

They will most likely have regular hospital and other health appointments. This means they can be difficult to get hold of and are not as available as they used to be.

They may be feeling a range of emotions. It can be quite common that they are angry about being ill and if this comes across do not take it personally.

These are some of the ways you can assist a terminally ill person.  

  • Ask them what it is that is causing their main concern right now and how can you help?
  • Offer to take them to appointments or errands as it can be hard to concentrate on simple things like driving when you have so much going on in your mind.
  • A common issue for those living with a terminal illness is the extreme ongoing tiredness that may either be constant or come in waves throughout the day. Providing a meal or baking is a great way of reaching out or just a bit of housework can make a huge difference to someone who is exhausted.
  • Just being present. You don’t necessarily have to talk or do anything, just be there to share a cuppa, talk about the weather and sit in the sun.

A Guide for Carers  provides a single resource on the range of government support available  in a caring role including information on topics such as financial help, help at home, respite care, needs assessment, transport and travel, and what your rights are.

Tips for people in customer service:

  • Actively listen to what they have to say. Ask them what their understanding of the situation is, it will give you the best overall picture and give you phrases that they are comfortable with you using back to them.
  • Use the client’s first name to confirm that personal touch and reinforce that you have been listening.
  • Listen to the cue the person is giving you. If it sounds like they do not want to talk right now ask if you can talk to them at a time when it is OK for them.
  • It is not easy having emotionally charged conversations but remain professional, this is a business call. Use your normal tone of voice and try not to be overly sympathetic.
  • Be efficient and clear with your questioning. Know your policies well. Confirm what you can and cannot do for them.
  • Do not be afraid of the silence in a conversation. Try saying something like: “Take your time, it’s OK, let me know when you are ready to continue or we can pick this up again when you’re ready”.
  • Try and leave the conversation on a positive note that is suitable for the situation. Summarize what you have discussed and confirm what you are going to do for them with clear time frames. It is not your job to refer or counsel a distressed person.

The Cancer Society has a very comprehensive range of services that you can access on line or call The Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

Remember this is not your illness. You may need to talk to a friend of colleague after the call to debrief and that’s OK but don’t hold on to someone else’s grief.

Sovereign is proud to partner with Sweet Louise, a nationwide charity supports people with incurable breast cancer and their families.

It’s time to focus on our future

Stephen Bell has been there for young people for over 40 years.  As CEO of Youthline he’s in a unique position to share the biggest challenges facing young people in New Zealand today. I sat down with him to find out what he thought were the biggest challenges for New Zealand’s future.

Lack of future-orientation

When people feel secure about the future, they invest in the future.

“With so many people (not just young people) living day to day we’re seeing more and more people disenfranchised by society.”

Financial debt

It’s too easy for people to get credit, which is causing a massive credit burden amongst young people.

“It’s hard to buy a house, hard to rent even with a decent salary so what sort of future can people build? We are seeing more children staying at home (not necessarily good for the child or the parents) and, on the flip side, sleeping rough in crowded flats/on the couch.


Even with a degree, graduates are struggling to find meaningful work

“We have 21st century learners being taught by 20th century teachers, in 19th century institutions. Too many people leave school without serious qualifications. We need to create more flexibility and alternative education pathways.”


The elephant in the room that no-one is talking about.

“We have come a long way as a society to accept and celebrate sexual diversity. There is still a lot to do. Young people are being exposed to pornography in a way they never have before in another era. We don’t know what all of the potential consequences will be but we’re already seeing addiction, confused reality and shame.  We need to talk about this issue.”

Lack of community

We need to shift away from treating the problem to building our communities.

“We need to create more opportunities for young people to engage in citizenship. We can do this by creating places where they have meaningful involvement in community, making it easier to travel around, giving them opportunities to lead and influence policy and provide relevant resources and information.”

So what can we do to help the young people in our community?

“It’s not rocket science. It’s about doing the fundamentals well and consistently. Find ways to get young people involved in different activities whether it’s sport, volunteering, gaming, part-time work, dance or music. Show them where to go for help. Give them the tools to help their friends. Let’s create opportunities for young people to become leaders in their own way. We all benefit if we make this happen.”

Why giving back is good business

Businesses that are just throwing money at charities are missing the point. To make a real difference to New Zealand we need to invest our most valuable asset – our people.

Community activity boosts employee wellbeing and productivity, that’s why volunteering and fundraising programs should be standard issue within businesses.

By contributing to a cause, people feel better about themselves and the company they work for. People with higher levels of wellbeing are more resilient, can deal with adversity better, and are more productive.

Who doesn’t benefit from increased productivity?

For the charity itself, attracting willing volunteers and expertise is time consuming. Corporations can provide instant relief by putting forward their people, and it can go far beyond traditional volunteer work – providing free financial, legal, marketing, fundraising or technology support is invaluable.

And it goes both ways.

At Sovereign, our customer facing teams need to be empathetic and supportive to support our customers when they need us the most. By understanding what an individual or family is experiencing during a traumatic time, employees can make a real difference.

With this in mind, Sovereign invited Sweet Louise trustee and palliative care nurse Janet Mikkelsen to speak with staff about her experience supporting terminally ill patients. With 30 years of experience, Janet provided staff with insights that empowered them to better understand the role they could play in comforting customers and making things easier for them.

Embedding a community partner like Sweet Louise within your business, for everyone’s benefit, ensures success.

“Sweet Louise has greatly benefited from communications via Sovereign’s digital channels and through internal campaigns. Jointly they have led to payroll giving, volunteer assistance, donations, increased awareness of the work we do and support for external Sweet Louise events such as Auckland Marathon runners.  Sovereign staff have really got behind the cause and shown their desire to help those living with incurable breast cancer. All of us at Sweet Louise are very chuffed to have such meaningful corporate support from Sovereign,” says Sweet Louise CEO Fiona Hatton.

My advice: Don’t decide to support a charity, choose to partner with them. Create an authentic and meaningful connection that makes a difference.

Here are a few thought-starters:

  • Support causes that link to your business purpose.
  • Connect with organisations that are willing and have capability to support employee engagement activity.
  • Provide employees with the choice to support personal causes through a wide mix of volunteering opportunities.
  • Make sure community activity has a high profile internally by sharing how our people and community partners are making a difference.