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Wendy Betteridge offered her Viewpoint to the Club on 9 October 2018. She said:

'Labelling, or stereotyping, for the sole purpose of proving superiority is something I really dislike. Black/white, maori/pakeha, man/woman, muslim/catholic, English/Polish - and the list goes on. Hearing derogatory, and sometimes abusive, comments from one side (who want to prove that they’re somehow superior) to run down the other, always makes me want to leap to the defence of the abused.

'My viewpoint is about valuing differences.

'I’m sure that intolerance for labelling came from my sporting days and later from my work in human resources.

'Playing international sport meant working alongside and competing against other athletes from all walks of life, all persuasions, all creeds, all colours and against both men and women. To me, all these people were just that – people. When competing, the opponent was someone to be beaten or to learn from if winning wasn’t possible on the day. We never noticed if our opponent had different religious beliefs, was a different colour, or sex. They were an opponent.

'When I was studying for a post graduate diploma at Vic in the late 80s, we were encouraged to work in study groups. I was lucky enough to join up with three very intelligent and lovely men. We got to know each other really well. There was quite a significant feminist movement in New Zealand at that time and some women were becoming very strident in asserting their rights – not to be equal but somehow to prove their superiority to men. I heard some women abusing men when they opened doors for them or stood to offer their seat to a woman who was standing. My three friends were confused. They felt that their map of the world had turned upside down and they didn’t really know how to behave. Did all women feel like this now? What should they do? This was New Zealand. Certainly there were and still are mind sets that need changing but they were good guys and always very respectful around me as I was around them. There are still some lessons that both men and women in New Zealand need to learn but I feel that it could be done gracefully and with a lot more love and understanding of each other’s point of view. I believe the pendulum has swung too far and is having the effect of making our men go on the defensive and that’s a great shame.

'On May 4, 1987, the US Supreme Court ruled that Rotary Clubs could no longer exclude women from membership on the basis of gender. In February 1993, after trying unsuccessfully to invite several other women to join, the Rotary Club of Plimmerton invited me. Randall Shaw was the President and he warned me that seven members had threatened to resign if a woman joined the club. He also said that he would be fined heavily as he was one of the seven!

'Clearly, the other six weren’t named and I did feel anxious as I looked around the room for averted eyes and furrowed brows. Remarkably, however, five of those six men sought me out within just a few weeks, identified themselves and said they were glad to welcome me. I was blown away and humbled. I knew that I would affect the dynamic of ‘men only’. Men in Rotary clubs had been comfortable in each other’s company since February 1903 when Chicago lawyer, Paul Harris, encouraged professionals with diverse backgrounds to meet to exchange ideas, form meaningful lifelong friendships and give back to their communities. We all know that men act differently within a group of men just as women act differently within a group of women. Same-sex time together is important. I was breaking into their world.

'Be that as it may, the welcome and inclusion I experienced from the lovely men of this club was heart-warming. I was working alone on our farm in my new training consultancy after years spent with over 150 partners and staff at Chapman Tripp. The weekly stimulation I received from the intelligent minds at Plimmerton Rotary probably saved my sanity.

'But I had to paddle hard below the surface to contribute equally and I’ll finish with a poem I wrote in 1997. I’d been given the job of Secretary in 1995, following on from Ross Garner who kindly mentored me into the role. My lovely friend, Alan Roberts, was the Treasurer and he and I had a great working relationship. It was at that time that Rotary decided to introduce a software package called Club Mate. It was a nightmare. Each member had to be entered on a digital form, item by item. First name, enter, second name, enter, address, enter… And it took minutes between each entry for the software package to receive the data so I had to sit there and twiddle my thumbs. At the same time, I was managing our 600 acre farm single-handedly because Ken was working in Papua New Guinea for months at a time. One day our Murray Grey Bull pushed through a gate onto our lawn in the middle of winter with his enormous hooves leaving deep holes. After I’d got him out and mended the gate I felt so overwhelmed as I sat back down at my desk that I found myself writing a poem. Goodness knows why! It was at this moment that Alan rang me and said, ‘Hello Possum, what are you doing?’ When I said I was writing a poem, he said innocently, ‘I wish I had time to write poetry’!

'So, I thought I’d repeat my poem that I read to the club over 20 years ago (I’m sorry for the few of you who have heard it before). I hope you’ll see that it calls for understanding – even though there’s a bit of labelling going on!

For the women holding office

It can be hard, you see,

To juggle all the myriad tasks -

(I'm speaking personally)

There's still the house to clean and shine

The meals to cook and clear

The shopping, often dead at night,

(There's no more butter, dear)

The garden to be dug and pruned

The lawns mowed frequently

The stock to move, the dogs to train

And all with urgency

And into this array of tasks

Career and clients squeeze

Calls to make, workshops to run

Meetings – what a breeze

But still there's more, there's mail to sort

There's Club Mate to install

Records to keep, minutes to send

Quick, lest I drop a ball

We hold the babe, we stir the soup

We kick wolves from the door

This juggling ability

Can sometimes be a bore

I know the work-load borne by men

Needs competence and grit

The difference I'm outlining, is

No wives at home!  We're it!

Valuing differences

 
 
 
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