10 questions: Victoria Carter

'We have a real responsibility to encourage other women'

Victoria Carter has more than 20 years experience in governance, beginning with becoming a board member of the Auckland Kindergarten Association. She has been a city councillor, chair of the Auckland Arts Festival and is a director of both publicly listed and private companies. Victoria co-founded car-share service Cityhop and is currently deputy chair of NZ Thoroughbred Racing and a director of Tax Management New Zealand. Earlier this year she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the arts, business and the community.

1. What does leadership mean to you?

"Leadership for me means caring, sharing and showing. Caring about other people -  noticing things that need change or improvement. Sharing by being open to seeing how things might be different, being open to other people's ideas and being brave to speak up, especially if it's about something no one else may be aware of. Showing to me is about encouraging people forward. It has felt sometimes that women like me and those who have gone before me, are clearing the way, making the road. I  know some younger women can't even imagine what it used to be like -  the stories we could tell!  I am proud to be a role model for other women, we need more of us, everywhere, because it tells all younger women 'yes we can'."

2. What have been the turning points in your career?

"Being made redundant at 22 from a big corporate role when the whole of the head office was reduced. Disappointment is hard and I often think I have had a fair bit of it! But I think it also makes you resilient. It's the bleak times that really shape us, give us insight and make us better people."

3. What are you most proud of?

"I am most proud of my two sons, Benjamin and Cameron. I am most grateful for the love and support of my husband and proud of many years of marriage. In a professional sense, I am hugely proud of  what the Auckland Arts Festival has become. I'm proud to be behind Cityhop cars by the hour, New Zealand's only carshare business. Cityhop enables people to think differently about car ownership and have access to a car without huge costs."

4. What advice would you give your younger self, or what advice do you have for young women starting out?

"Be brave, don't go for security. Take risks, stay open to possibilities and say yes to opportunities, Learn fast. Trust, everything does work out. Stay open and be curious, believe you can, if you don't who will?

"Be kind, be kinder, the world needs more kindness.

"Laugh more, laughing and being happy is like putting money in a bank account, it will help you on a rainy day! Finally, don't be so hard on yourself."

5. Who is a woman you admire, and why?

"I have been surrounded by some amazing women and I love hearing other women's stories. My mother who taught me courage.  Other women who made big impressions on me were my godmother, Helen, who was one of the first colonels in the British army, and Wellington lawyer Shirley Smith, who was an older person I adored as a teenager. She showed an interest in me and we spent hours while she went through my bookshelf asking me why I loved each book.

"I remember hearing as a youngster that Sue Kedgley was a Kiwi working at the United Nations and I thought that sounded amazing, it gave me a sense that women had choices.

"I admire so many woman: those who are trail-blazing and have made sacrifices to do this, those who work and bring up children. It's not just the exceptional women - there are so many women who work and play important parts in our community through charity work or supporting other family members who I admire and salute."

6. What does work-life balance mean to you?

"I practice meditation and find it is a wonderful stress reliever and opportunity for the world to slow down around me. I know when I am stressed it is my family who I often take it out on. It's hard sometimes to remember what really matters, which is why meditating for 20 minutes often gives me perspective and a calmer approach. That wasn't always possible when my children were smaller."

7. What's the worst thing that's happened to you at work, and how did you deal with it?

"I have had plenty of challenging moments happen at work. Being passed over for a role because another woman didn't want to report to me was probably the most challenging. I never got a chance to know the perceived issues. It wasn't well-managed and was very hurtful. Fortunately, colleagues were amazing and I felt very supported. Sometimes you have to accept you can't change situations, make peace and know your time will come."

8. How can women help each other succeed?

"I read Diane Foreman's book last year and loved her description to leave the ladder down, we need to help more women up the ladder.

"I think women have a real responsibility to encourage and mentor other women. I remember well the women who I felt shut the door on me when I was younger or made me feel less or that I couldn't/shouldn't aspire to walk in their shoes. It's a good reminder to make me more open and willing everyday to help other women."

9. What values underpin your approach to work?

"I have a real can-do attitude, and people say I am enthusiastic and energetic. I believe in hard work - as Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out, the successful people put the hard yards in. I think the energy you put into things is what you can expect back. Honesty is under-rated and an important value - I value honesty in communication."

10. How do you want to be remembered?

"As a loving mother and someone who made a difference."

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