By Penelope Peebles

A while ago, I asked a favour of Galia and she (of course) obliged and provided the wise response I needed. She asked if in return I would write a small piece about Professionelle and the connections the association with Professionelle has led to from my perspective.

My immediate response was to observe that I think of Professionelle as Galia and Sarah. They are such competent and genuine women that I suspect anyone who interacts with Professionelle identifies with them and relates to them. How could you not?

With the evolution of Professionelle into a charitable trust, called the Professionelle Foundation we can look forward to a sustainable future and I think we all need to recognise the effort Galia and Sarah have put into starting, building, consolidating and then releasing Professionelle and of course the wealth of meaningful connections that have been created through Professionelle. Which leads me nicely to the original question from Galia.

The answer to her question is that Professionelle has led to two things.

Impactful connections

ConnectionsThe first is impactful connections – a phrase used by Kay Keam, a Partner at Martelli McKegg, when I asked her what Professionelle has given her. I agree.

I recently attended a Professionelle lunch event and not only was the food delicious but I can confirm it has achieved its goal of giving women the opportunity to connect in a safe way.

I also attended the Coaching Women on Boards workshop and recommend you go to one. It was an incredibly revealing and powerful workshop that will make you see very clearly what you have to do to help yourself and other women. The power is in your hands and it’s pretty simple.

As a result of one of the first Professionelle courses on personal branding back in 2008, I met Kay Keam. Kay rang me a few months after that day course and invited me to be part of a group she was putting together (with Gretchen Williamson of Craigs) of professional women, meeting fortnightly to support our professional development and I accepted. That group has been evolved into W-Initiative and Kay has been instrumental as our convenor. As well as our stated goals, W-Initiative recently supported the Well Women’s Trust (along with other sponsors) in a High Tea fundraiser that led to an increase of 85% in ticket sales and 150% more money raised than in the previous year.

So, Professionelle has led to impactful connections, friendships and confidence in connecting with people and connecting people with each other.

Mindful development

The second thing the Professionelle interaction has led to for me personally is conscious professional development. Would I have developed without Professionelle? Absolutely. However I believe my development has been more conscious and more mindful as a result of Professionelle.

But enough about me. In my profession I have perfected the art of talking about you……


Let me share with your some observations about the things that I have learnt from Professionelle, from Galia and from Sarah. Galia has taught me the benefit of reflection (does this sound familiar to any of you?!) so perhaps as you read this you can also reflect on your own learnings and also your development in the last few years – I’m sure you have achieved many things. Take the time to stop and consider them and be pleased.


I have observed that:

  • Galia and Sarah are constant – they remain focused on achieving change supported by a robust base of research, metrics and fact.
  • They have ensured Professionelle constantly evolves while keeping a firm focus on the end goal – the promotion of women and advocacy of positive change. I believe that clarity of purpose provides energy to overcome gender barriers.
  • They are steadfastly optimistic about the future but uncompromisingly direct about the barriers and what needs to change for organisations, society and individuals.
  • They are very thoughtful about both the short and long term and enthusiastic about each person’s to influence change.
  • They both have an honesty that is unique – you know where they stand but their opinions are delivered thoughtfully and professionally.
  • They provide forthright commentary on current issues and insightful ways of looking at things. They ask questions that generate discussion in the right direction.
  • Through Professionelle I have learnt some new terms and concepts – particularly that of trusted advisor. Interestingly I can see the influence of Professionelle in the language Galia and Sarah use and I see it repeated in the storm of dialogue around gender and diversity.
  • They have integrity, professionalism and a desire to learn and grown alongside those around them.
  • They take huge care with their relationships; however they never hesitate to challenge you.
  • They share and they trust. They use personal examples to articulate issues / challenges and in doing so teach you how to find the solution for yourself. This point probably needs some elaborating. Galia and Sarah probably do not realise that this is the key to why people connect with them – when they share we get to know them a bit better and ourselves a whole lot more!

Galia and Sarah, on behalf of the Professionelle community let me say thank you. You have given a lot and it has made a difference to us.

Creating change

And my question to each of you reading this is: what have YOU done to effect change for yourself, for women and for minorities?

Personally I do not accept that it is the responsibility of society, “the organisation”, boards or even government to drive change. We have a heritage in New Zealand of strong women who have led change and I see that change steadily happening based on merit. I consider myself part of the next generation of women leaders and you should too.

Now it’s your turn. Regardless of culture or background or position, each of you can improve your personal practice and each of you can positively influence our role in the commercial world.

Women and confidence

Someone asked me the other day what the key thing is that stops more women from getting to Board level. I believe it’s ourselves.

95% of women I ask that same question of say a version of the same thing. Our lack of confidence holds us back and is something we can control. It is also not valid. As Galia commented to me once,

it is easier to doubt than to be confident. Don’t take the easy way out.

I asked this same question about barriers of an older male trusted advisor (who is quite genuinely gender neutral!) and his honest answer was that the three things stopping women at board level are (and in this order):

  1. There is a glass ceiling at board level – even if no one will admit it. It is usually impenetrable and only opens occasionally
  2. There has not been an active programme by Boards to recruit women
  3. Confidence – women should show more.

Do your part

I am 42 and think I’m old enough to tell an anecdote. I remember in my 20s asking my Father why old people were so interested in politics and he said “It’s old people like me that start wars and young people like you who have the most to lose.” It took me until my mid 30s to understand what he was saying of course but you get my point:

We are foolish to leave it up to others to drive change for us. Do your part and do it now.

Regardless of the barriers in the commercial world, you can grow your own confidence and people will notice.

You need to have authentic confidence and become comfortable with the pursuit of power and influence not just achievement.

You cannot build power without taking risks and coming out of your comfort zone.

You are part of the Professionelle community, what have you done this week?



With a background in commercial leadership roles in large NZ organisations and 13 years experience in executive search at Board and senior executive level, Penelope Peebles is a Partner at John Peebles Associates, a  leading retained search firm that has been in the NZ / Australian market for over 30 years. Specialising in CEO, Board appointments and senior management searches with public listed, Maori owned and private clients and cooperatives, 30% of assignments are offshore but John Peebles Associates remains New Zealand based and New Zealand owned, with a strong interest in businesses that are critical to New Zealand’s future going forward.

Trackbacks and pingbacks

No trackback or pingback available for this article.

Leave a reply