Smash through the glass ceiling


A rapidly-growing network is empowering, and supporting, Queenstown women. Queenstown Lakes Women in Business founder Jane Guy talks to Daisy Hudson about changing attitudes and breaking the glass ceiling

It started on social media, but now a local women’s group has grown into a support network that’s pushing back against the “male, pale, and stale” status quo.

Jane Guy founded Queenstown Lakes Women in Business after being repeatedly asked if there was a group for women in the area.

“I was getting literally five to 10 emails a week, asking if there was something,” she says.

After posting on Facebook to try to gauge enthusiasm for a group, she received 80 messages in two days.

There’s clearly an appetite for it – six months after launching, the group now has about 360 members.

“The whole idea was for anyone who identifies as a woman in this town could come, non-binary, it’s totally open for anyone who identifies as a woman,” Guy says.

“I don’t want to create a group of women who look like me, I want women of all diverse networks to be able to come to something that’s not about being in a suit.”

While the social aspect is important, especially given Queenstown’s transient nature, the group’s events aren’t just about catching up for drinks or coffee, she says.

“It’s not just meet-ups, but sessions for women to learn stuff.

“You know, people are often quite anxious about asking for help around things they think they should know – you know, ‘I don’t know how to set up a Google Doc but I don’t want to ask anyone’.”

She’s also keen for the people who lead those learning sessions to get paid, “because as women we always do stuff for free, always”.

“But I also don’t want to limit people from coming because it has to be paid for. So that’s about looking at businesses in town who can maybe give scholarships to those people so they can come.”

Finding businesses willing to provide scholarships so women can attend courses is also on the agenda.

The group’s also started a directory, where people can fill in what they do for work.

“I want women to say ‘I want a plumber, oh my gosh there’s a female plumber who lives in Queenstown’, or, “I need a graphic designer, I don’t have to go to Auckland to get a graphic designer’,” Guy says.

That push to empower women, and create opportunities, seems to be a major theme for the group.

Guy arrived in Queenstown 13 years ago, and while she says things have changed since then, the area’s still “boys’ club-led”.

“It’s always worked in the same way, but there are so many amazing things going on, lots of other people doing things that aren’t the traditional ways of doing things.”

She also points to sexist social media comments, and an issue at the Arrowtown Golf Club that Mountain Scene revealed last week, as examples of backwards attitudes still in place.

“Come on, we’re living in 2019, there are so many other places that would be laughing their socks off at this sort of stuff,” she says.

There’s a four-strong team of women behind the Women in Business group: Guy, Josie Debenham, Charlotte Winkel and Erin Jackson.

Guy says she couldn’t do it on her own, and she wouldn’t want to. They sit down every couple of weeks to plot out new events and ideas.

“I think it’s very relaxed, it’s not too much, but it’s also slightly different, we’ve got ideas for doing things like clothes swaps,” Guy says.

“I hate the name ‘Women in Business’, we’re really trying to think of another title.”

She’s also keen to incorporate Wanaka and Central.

“There’s a whole idea around the kaupapa of how the group works and that’s really important for me to pass that on to other people, so they know that.”