2023 March - 150 years: Public Trust among the first to employ women in New Zealand
Media release March 2023
Public Trust employed some of the first women in the Public Service from 1892 — a year before women won the right to vote in New Zealand.
In 1892, Maud Harrap transferred from the Postal Department to the Public Trust Office as a short-hand typist and became the first woman on staff. Maud was joined later that year by Susan Dimant, and, in 1895, by Julia Skerrett and Emily Smythe, all as short-hand typists.
Elvie Mooney started working for Public Trust Auckland’s office in 1962 as a shorthand typist.
She left five years later to bring up her family and during her nine-year hiatus she studied to upskill herself. She returned in 1976, joining the Takapuna branch and later becoming the first female District Public Trustee, based in Thames with five staff.
Says Elvie: “There were opportunities there [in the State Services Commission], and, if you were willing and able, you could take them. I was never one to stand back, I put my hand up for anything going and was eager to learn.
The 1970s workplace was hierarchical, sexist and smoky (smoking was common place in the office) and nearly everyone was a public servant.
On Monday, 4 December 1978, a young Shona Devoy, straight from a secretarial course at Waiariki Community College, started as a typist at the Public Trust Office in Rotorua.
"We got to serve tea to the bosses in their rooms. Very menial stuff. We weren't allowed to wear trousers in the office. We weren't allowed to drive the office car, or anything like that," recalls Shona.
From starting at Public Trust as a typist in 1978, having worked on the frontline as an estates officer, in management roles as Customer Centre Manager (Hamilton/Thames) and as Area Manager for the Central Region, to today where Shona holds a senior role as Service Quality Manager.
"I suppose the biggest change that I've seen is the change of the role for women in the organisation,” says Shona.
Shona recalls it was ‘monumental’ when Elvie Mooney became the first woman to be appointed a District Public Trustee at Thames – “it was a landmark”.
In 1990, Public Trust’s adoption of an Equal Employment Opportunity policy recognised the need to increase the gender balance and ethnic diversity of staff to better serve New Zealand’s bi-cultural foundations and increasingly diverse society.
EEO Coordinator Deborah Mullis became the first woman on the senior executive team in 1995 and the following year Rhondda Murphy joined the executive team as Communications Manager and later General Manager Communications and Marketing.
Today, the Public Trust workforce is 67% female and is led by its first female Chief Executive, Glenys Talivai.
About Public Trust Public Trust, which marks its 150-year anniversary this year (2023), is a Crown entity employing over 400 people across our corporate offices and network of customer centres.
Our purpose is to empower all New Zealanders to build and protect their legacies. We do this through our work as New Zealand’s largest provider of estate planning and management services. We are also one of the country’s largest charitable trust administrators and advisers, helping more than 420 charities to set up trusts and distribute funds back to our communities.
Our investment team manages around $1.2bn of funds, primarily for charities, estate beneficiaries and students (through our Fee Protect service). Public Trust’s Corporate Trustee Services offer some of Australasia’s best-known institutions a full range of trustee services and we supervise a number of KiwiSaver and superannuation scheme providers.
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