We signalled earlier in the year that we had plans for
Professionelle, and the time has come to share them. The details
are still evolving but we can broadly chart the direction for
As I started drafting this, my daughter's 16th birthday party
was in full swing in the next room. Milestones like birthdays are
always a trigger to reflect on progress and goals and, ultimately,
on what we will leave behind when we go. I am reasonably sure that
my children will be the most significant part of my legacy, but
there's definitely room for more items on the list. And the thing
is, legacies take time to build.
Professionelle is a venture that Galia and I have been committed
to building for over 5 years now and it remains unique in its focus
on professional women throughout all career stages. We know
that Professionelle has made a positive difference to the lives of
professional women in New Zealand because you, our members, have
been kind enough to tell us, as this example from a recent email
I found your work and website so motivating over the past few
years. You might claim me as a small success - I kept the flame of
aspiration to be Professor burning with a little help from my
To us, that looks like the makings of a legacy - something
worthwhile, something to be proud of.
The trick with legacies, however, is how to sustain them once
they're 'grown'. Children - we hope! - become independent and
self-funding adults… but what about business ventures,
especially ones that have so far relied heavily on the two
This was highlighted for Galia, especially, as she battled a
life threatening disease last year. This experience has taught us
both that we won't be around forever, there will be other
challenges and demands we need to deal with, as well as new
interests. Trying to keep Professionelle going while Galia was
dealing with her gruelling treatment regime generated a key insight
for us: to sustain Professionelle over the long term, as we hope
to, we must eventually make it independent of us.
We discussed different options including selling the business,
and, as so often, found ourselves relying on our values to guide
the decision. Safeguarding the brand and our members' privacy was
more important than making pots of money.
After many discussions between the two of us, as well as turning
to our own trusted advisors, we decided to turn Professionelle into
a charitable trust, called the Professionelle Foundation. Our
registration application was generously helped on a pro-bono basis
by Peter Rowe from Minter Ellison Rudd Watts and is currently with
the Charities Commissioner. However, the Professionelle Foundation
This model appealed to us for three main reasons:
- Defining (and thus protecting) Professionelle's objectives and
approach in the Trust Deed
- Easier to partner with other organisations when the profit
motive is removed
- Similarly, simpler to attract high calibre trustees onto the
In hindsight, talking to our new advisory board, this would
probably been the right model all along because our raison
d'etre is about 'doing good,' not necessarily (or practically)
about making profit. We live and learn!
As an important part of broadening Professionelle beyond the two
of us, we have secured three wonderful members for our advisory
board. In order of appearance:
- Marisa Fong, director and co-founder of The Madison Group, a
highly successful business woman who is teaching us a lot about
- John Loughlin, the Chairman of Zespri (among many other
governance positions) - because we know the importance of having "a
few good men" on board…
- Rebecca Thomas, the CEO of Mint Asset Management and director
of Kiwi Rail and the FMA. Galia recently
interviewed Rebecca on NZ governance, women and boards, and
'making it all work'.
We intend to bring a general manager on board, too, to take over
the day to day management and keep the momentum going in a way that
has always been challenging for us with our intermittent
availability. With a network of facilitators around NZ (already
progressing through our regional Chapters) and the eventual
resources to commission bespoke pieces of research and IP
development, Galia and I hope to make ourselves as redundant as we
choose to be!
We are also looking to attract an 'ambassador' or 'patron' to
help us lift our general profile. We'd love your thoughts as
who you think would be a good 'fit' for us!
are all about advancing women's careers. We envisage
a future where the norm will be having senior women in
organisations while those employers without senior women will be
seen as 'abnormal'.
To make progress towards this vision, we plan to target our
activities at three levels, namely:
- individual women
- their employers
- NZ society at large.
So far, we know we've engaged effectively with the many
independent, self-starting women in our community but we have a lot
of room to do more with employers and with NZ society more broadly.
This is where our board is already encouraging us to lift the bar
and be bolder.
Another way we're progressing the vision is by setting ourselves
a raft of ambitious KPIs. These cover awareness, organisational
change, and policy influence. Specific measures we've defined
include membership numbers and press mentions, improvements in the
pay gap (at least in organisations we partner with) and even really
significant changes like tax deductible childcare.
We plan to work with organisations who are serious about
advancing the careers of their female talent. We believe there's a
fairly straightforward business case here - from senior role
models, to better senior decision making (and financial outcomes),
to improved employment branding and new marketing opportunities.
For some employers, like law firms, the majority of new hires are
women, which makes development and retention especially important!
But it's also a question of equity, rather than diversity, because
women are half the population.
We're actively looking for and contacting organisations who
share our vision of the future and want to partner with us on the
journey. Of course, every employer has different needs and we
already have a wide toolbox from which to tailor the right mix of
interventions. We're also working on a set of exclusive
benefits we can offer our partners, in return for financial support
to allow us to keep reinvesting in the resources we can offer.
If you think your organisation would be a good candidate for us
to approach, please get in touch!
The last change we foresee is (at last) creating a premium offer
for paid members. For years you have been telling us that we offer
an amazing amount free - and we will keep all the existing content
free and continue to offer public seminars and workshops as we do
now. But over and above this, we will push ourselves to
develop higher value opportunities for subscribers, such as
subscriber-only events, selected premium content and better rates
and access to our public events throughout New Zealand.
The simple reality is that to be sustainable over the long haul,
with more people involved, Professionelle has to build up its
income streams. That's why we're looking to formalise partnerships
with organisations who share our vision and to offer a premium
bundle of benefits to our community. However, you now know that any
margin created will be reinvested in the Foundation for the
progress of New Zealand's working women. And Galia and I will be
able to be more selective and strategic in what and how we
contribute to the Professionelle Foundation - which will probably
mean exercising our curiosity in the pursuit of meaningful,
We would love to know what you think about this next chapter for
Professionelle and any ideas that it sparks. Please leave your
comments and thoughts below.