New Zealand politics: ‘man’s world’ no longer

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New Zealand politics: ‘man’s world’ no longer

According to Jane Coombs, 43, the new ambassador to South Korea from New Zealand, for women to hold positions of power is not unusual in her country. In New Zealand, the governor-general, prime minister, chief justice and several cabinet ministers are women, Ms. Coombs said.
“I won’t deny that when I started my career it was more of a man’s world. But that has changed so much over the years. Now more than half of the new recruits who come to the ministry each year are women, and increasingly we have women in senior positions.”
Women head 12 of 48 New Zealand embassies throughout the world and, outside of government, the chief executive officer of Telecom New Zealand, the country’s largest private company, is female, she added.
Ms. Coombs also pointed out that, in 1893, New Zealand was the first self-governing country in the world to grant the vote to women. The country continues to advance the status of women through systematic efforts to eliminate discrimination against women both legally and through governmental programs, she said.
Ms. Coombs uses her own last name, not that of her husband Tim Strong ― a professional singer and actor who plans to perform in Korea while the family is resident here.
Asked how the couple will cope with the typical roles and responsibilities an ambassador’s spouse is expected to perform, Ms. Coombs said, “Obviously, the stereotypical role of a wife is not going to be the model for us.” She emphasized her appreciation of her husband’s support, however, saying, “He is my backbone.”
She said the couple’s son, Connor, 10, is enjoying life in Korea and has signed up for taekwondo lessons. “I think Korea is a country that values education so much. We hope that it will be a good influence on him,” she said.
Ms. Coombs has started learning Korean to prepare for family trips throughout the country, including exploring Korea’s national parks.
Although this is Ms. Coombs’ first posting as ambassador, she has a wide range of experience in the diplomatic world, including postings in Canberra, Moscow and the United Nations in New York.

by Park Hyun-young
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