Date posted: 10/08/2020

Women of Influence awards encourage women to step outside their comfort zone

CA and former WOI awards finalist Lisa Jacobs says there are no downsides and plenty of upsides to nominating an inspirational woman for this year’s awards.

In brief

  • WOI awards celebrate the achievements of Kiwi women in a wide range of areas
  • The awards ceremony is a fascinating and uplifting experience
  • Every woman has a story – and it’s not always what you think it is

If you know an inspirational woman, nominate her now for this year’s Women of Influence awards – that’s the advice of Lisa Jacobs, CA and former Women of Influence awards finalist, who says there are no  downsides to making a nomination, and plenty of upsides. They include the fact that nominating one inspirational woman may encourage other women to step outside their comfort zone and take on new challenges. 

“Women are often reluctant to put themselves forward, but the value of the awards is that they say ‘Yes you can do this, let’s look at some of the other women who have done this and the success they’ve had.’,” says Lisa, who is CEO of law firm Anthony Harper. “I think it enables women to reflect on their own lives and start taking up more opportunities.”

Lisa, who is qualified in both accountancy and law, was a finalist in the Board and Management category of the 2016 Women of Influence awards, which are held annually to celebrate the achievements of inspirational New Zealand women. There are 10 categories in the 2020 awards, including the Diversity category for women whose advocacy has helped create a more diverse workforce, which is sponsored by CA ANZ. 

Lisa says one of the highlights of the awards ceremony was hearing the stories of the other women, most of whom came from completely different backgrounds than her.

Lisa Jacobs CA

“The awards cover the entire range of where women can be successful in their lives. It’s a fabulous evening – you hear these amazing stories from women who’ve achieved in a whole lot of different areas, who’ve been successful not just in business or at board level, but who are involved in charities and other community activities.”

She says hearing their stories helped her appreciate that there is more to her own story than her career achievements, which include being the first woman to head a large New Zealand law firm. But just as relevant to her story are the challenges she faced after being hit by a runaway van eight years ago. The van careered onto the footpath and pinned her against a power box, injuring her leg so badly there were fears it would have to be amputated. She eventually recovered after months of rehabilitation.

“I had to learn how to walk again and that has now become embedded as part of my story. I was determined to get through it and once I had got through it, I realised that if I could recover from that, I could do anything. I started to push myself forward for any opportunities that came my way.”

“I think it enables women to reflect on their own lives and start taking up more opportunities.”

At the time she became CEO of Anthony Harper in 2016 Lisa was the first woman to hold that position with a large New Zealand law firm. Since then, other law firms have also appointed women CEOs but – as with large accountancy firms – senior positions in New Zealand law firms continue to be very male dominated.

“At our firm, 24% of the partners are women, while 70% of the lawyers are women.”

As CEO, Lisa is trying to change that imbalance by mentoring younger women in the firm. She says it’s also important to find ways of accommodating the needs of women who return to work after parental leave, particularly if they initially choose to work part-time.

“We need to ensure that these young women get good work as well as opportunities to grow and learn and develop skills they can take into the future.”

She hopes that attitudes towards more flexible working arrangements will change as a result of the Covid 19 crisis, which meant everyone had to work from home.

“If there’s more flexibility about when you work, and how you work, and how it can work better with your life, then that’s got to be helpful in the long term.”

Women of influence

In partnership with the Women of Influence awards, we are on the search for outstanding Kiwi women who are making a difference to the lives of New Zealanders. If you, or know someone who is, complete the nomination form now!

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