VoiceOver users please use the tab key when navigating expanded menus

A gold medal for confidence


Antonia Watson


ANZ New Zealand Ltd.

There is nothing quite like being perched in a single scull for the first time, tipping and wobbling around in the middle of a lake, while a world champion rower watches you to test your confidence and belief in your own ability.


I found myself in this position just prior to Christmas, and to really ramp up the pressure cameras were rolling on us, ready to capture the moment I took an unexpected dip.


Would I sink or would I swim?



I was in Cambridge to talk to Olympic gold medalist Emma Twigg about a report ANZ commissioned last year into what is driving, and also holding back, women from success.


The Watch Women Win report found that confidence, fear of failure and being judged are the main factors holding many women back.


The results really resonated with me because I have experienced some of those things.


I know first-hand the importance of encouragement and support, and how important it is to have visible role models.


This year we’ve decided to explore the findings of our Watch Women Win report with a fresh generation of leaders and influencers - to learn from their successes and hear what they think has held them back or helped them.


We want to shine a light on their achievements and share their stories. I also want to take what we learn and apply it in my own sphere of influence, using their insights to help change our business for the better.


So what is it that is driving women to be successful? And what is holding them back?


Sitting down on the couch with Emma, it was immediately clear she has an incredible story of courage and redemption.


She managed to overcome huge physical and mental challenges to win gold in the single sculls at the Tokyo Olympics last year, but there were also things she said about her success that were surprising.


Over the course of our conversation, Emma told me she suffers from a lack of confidence and fears failure almost daily.


She looks at her male counterparts and wishes she had just a snippet of their self-confidence.


As women she feels many of us don’t have that same level of supreme self-confidence day-to-day and learning how to deal with this has played a big part in her success.


What helps, she says, is seeking out a regular confidence boost from those around her.


Hearing her talk about confidence, navigating the world as a young, gay female athlete and being visible makes you realise that while we all take a unique path in life, at our core many of us are experiencing the same things.


Just like Emma, I too seek support from others when I need it, and we’re both fortunate to be working in occupations that value women.


"There is nothing quite like being perched in a single scull for the first time, tipping and wobbling around in the middle of a lake, while a world champion rower watches you to test your confidence and belief in your own ability." - Antonia Watson, CEO, ANZ NZ Ltd.


Historically the top jobs in the financial services sector have been largely a male preserve, but thankfully this is changing.


I am the CEO of ANZ New Zealand at a time when three of our five main banks have female Chief Executives.


Our New Zealand board has four female directors and on the ANZ New Zealand executive team seven of the 14 roles are currently held by women.


But when it comes to the number of women in leadership roles across the wider business we need to do much better.


It is currently less than 40 percent.


Representation of women at the manager, senior manager, and executive levels is 45.8, 38.8 and 34.6 per cent respectively.


The good news is that it’s up from 44.5, 29.7 and 32.7 per cent in early 2020.


Although we pride ourselves on women and men being paid equally for the work they do, those numbers show me that our higher paying roles are still predominantly held by males.


That is why I am really proud that we’ve joined other companies in publically reporting on our gender pay gap - this is the high-level indicator of the difference between what women and men earn.


For the record, when we look across all roles in ANZ New Zealand, on average women are paid 22.4 per cent less than men.


According to Statistics New Zealand the average gender pay gap in the country is 9 per cent.


It’s not good enough and I take it as my responsibility to bring this down.


Companies can’t shy away from this.


We need to be transparent and hold ourselves to account if we are to drive much greater representation of women in leadership and higher paying roles.


The causes of the gender pay gap are complex. According to the Ministry for Women the majority (80 percent) of the gender pay gap is now driven by what research calls “unexplained” factors.


ANZ’s Watch Women Win report found that when it comes to equality the top three solutions companies and leaders could implement to empower women are:


  • Pay females equally for similar work;
  • Provide training courses for females to accelerate development; and
  • Celebrate female successes in a public and formal way.


There are a number of initiatives underway at ANZ to reflect this, including empowering our leaders to look for women who might not have the confidence to put themselves forward for a more senior role or an opportunity for development.


This is really important because we can see, even in incredibly successful women like Emma, that self-confidence is something that needs to be nurtured.


I know creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace won’t be easy. It also needs to be extended to the ethnicity pay gap, which we hope to report on in 2023.


Creating long term, meaningful change will take openness, courage and commitment.


I also think it takes a willingness to put yourself well outside what is comfortable and familiar to you - getting more comfortable with those ‘sink or swim’ moments.


Which takes us back to the lake and my attempt at rowing. You’ll have to watch the video to find out if I did take a dip, but it’s safe to say I’ll never be a gold medal rower!


But I am willing to put myself in situations like this where my confidence, self-belief and perspective are challenged. Because sometimes we need to make ourselves vulnerable in order to truly hear someone else’s perspective.


ANZ's Watch Women Win Report

There’s a huge amount of work to be done to find ways that enable, empower and encourage women to fulfil their professional or personal aspirations and dreams, which uplifts us all, socially and economically.

Supporting women to succeed

It's time for all New Zealanders to feel it's no longer unusual for a woman to succeed in any way she chooses – and be championed doing so.

Talking openly and honestly about menopause

Younger generations are leading the charge when it comes to being body positive and what it means to be a woman – what can we learn from them?