Lisa Lawrence’s entire career has involved influencing positive change in the lives of New Zealanders.
Serving in numerous, often concurrent, national leadership positions in the social health sector and as president of the National Council of Women NZ, her impact includes holding a mirror up to the systemic environments and attitudes that result in inequality, disadvantage and marginalisation, prompting positive change.
“New Zealanders have a sense that anyone can get ahead and that we’ve all got a fair shot,” explains Lawrence. “It’s a great outlook, but it isn’t very well reflected in how life actually is for a lot of people.”
As a result, she’s a proponent of affirmative action, including establishing diversity and inclusion policies. Particularly proud of the establishment of NCWNZ’s Gender Equal NZ Gender Attitudes survey undertaken every two years, Lawrence says its outcomes are key to showing that while things are improving, we still have a way to go in how gender roles are considered in the workplace, the community and at home.
Familiar with imposter syndrome as well as discrimination, Lawrence has learnt to manage both with practice. “I’m small. I look reasonably insignificant. So there can be lots of assumptions around my credibility.” She’s learnt to push back firmly in all types of situations.
“It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable saying, ‘Actually, if you need to do a Karakia at the start of your meeting then go and learn one, but don’t look for the brown girl to do it for you’.”
Similarly, she’s put in work to build her own sense of worth. “I think all of us have an internal critic and it’s a matter of recognising that it’s not actually your voice. If you walk into a room and you think, ‘I’m not meant to be here’, it’s probably a really good sign you are meant to be there, but you’re not yet practised at being there.”