People always told me that I should be a lawyer because I talk a lot and am good at arguing, but when I was younger I wanted to be Judy Bailey. As I got older I realised that a career in television wasn’t for me; I didn’t think I was a ‘have my hair and makeup done and my picture plastered on Women’s Day' kind of girl. And so, when I started my career, I became a lawyer.
Contributing to the community I live in has always been important to me, and that’s why I’ve always had an interest in local government. I recently quit law, and now I’m a Policy Advisor for Local Government New Zealand, the sector body who represents all of the councils in New Zealand. Local government might have always been seen as a “middle aged white man’s club”, but things are changing – there are plenty of female Mayors and Chairs and CEOs, and that’s a good thing. I think women in particular have a good sense of the need to focus on more than just roads and wastewater. They know that community wellbeing is important, and that the things I like to call “spiritual infrastructure” are important – libraries, art galleries, community facilities and public art.
The legal profession was full of men, despite the fact that when I was at Law School, girls ruled. I know there are all sorts of problems that women in the legal profession face, particularly women who want to have kids – but that wasn’t a problem I ever got to fully understand. Instead, the sense I got was that women felt a desire to escape the law because they want to pursue something more creative. I don’t think that should be discouraged or undermined or viewed as a “soft” option.
Creativity needs to be viewed as being just as important as winning big cases and negotiating major commercial deals. I felt that my only way to survive a career in law was to combine my interest in the law with a desire to do something that’s more creative. I did that by using my legal skills to provide pro bono support to a number of Christchurch arts organisations, by working as a freelance writer for Neat Places and other publications and by starting a project in 2016 that involved documenting every dinner I ate that year. It’s important to me to use my skills to support other people who’re doing creative things – those people need to be promoted and celebrated and supported and advocated for. And that desire for creativity is ongoing, even in my new world of councils and mayors and sewage pipes and long term plans.
Every time I am asked what my hobby is, my response is the same: food. I have always loved food. When I was a 7 year old, my teacher’s key piece of feedback in my school report was that I needed to start writing stories about something other than food. That teacher didn’t value my interest in food or do anything to foster it. Little did she know that in my spare time I would earnestly copy recipes from the Edmonds Cookbook into a 1B5 exercise book and come up with my own recipes for delicacies such as “Chicken Pasta in a Terracotta Pot”.
I think girls need to be encouraged to have an interest in food – and in particular to have a good relationship with food. There are too many females who worry about what they eat, comment on how much they are eating and talk about “being naughty” when they eat a piece of cake. That makes me sad. Women should enjoy food, and shouldn’t feel like they have to justify their food choices or how they look to anyone. I like sausages and hot chips and mince pies and I’m not afraid to say that. I know most other females do too, and I want a world where no woman is afraid to admit that.
I also want a world in which we better celebrate and promote the things that women are doing with food: the chefs, the home cooks, the makers and growers and bakers, the ones who feed their families every day, the ones who butcher meat and fry chips and cook in their family-run restaurants. So many women I have talked to have an amazing story to tell about food, and it’s my plan that one day I leave the law to pursue a creative mission of spreading those stories, that more often than not are untold.
Women should be thanked and acknowledged for providing food; the importance of women providing and making food needs to be elevated well beyond the ladies in the kitchen making sandwiches stereotype. I'm going to make that happen.