Every time things get a bit tough for Alison Mau, she thinks of a simple compliment garnered from one of her daughter’s friends.
“Please tell your mum thanks… she is such a boss bitch”.
It was just after journalist and telly presenter Ali had launched #metoo NZ, a dedicated investigative section of Stuff that aims to expose and highlight workplace sexual misconduct and harassment, and she was copping flack from both men and women who couldn’t believe she’d dared to ‘go there’.
“[There were] prominent women who were giving me a good bashing,” tells Ali. “But two days later I got a text from my daughter, who was at university in Australia, with a picture attached. It was a message she’d been sent from one of her 19-year-old friends – ‘please tell your mum thanks for doing something about #metoo in NZ. She is such a boss bitch.
“Boss bitch!” she repeats, laughing. “I loved it. Oh my God, every time I face a setback I think about that message. I carry that with me in my heart, that phrase. It was a moment.”
Ali ‘Boss Bitch’ Mau has certainly been a booming voice for women since launching her series two years ago in the wake of the Weinstein saga, and it’s seen her talk to around 500 – yes, you read that correctly – women who have allegedly been subjected to some kind of harassment or abuse.
It’s tough stuff, she admits to Capsule, and it’s the victories large and small that keep her going. Oh, and rage.
“I was joking to a colleague the other day, he asked the same thing, ‘what keeps me going’ and I just said rage,” she says with a sardonic laugh.
“But it’s kind of true! My daughter keeps reminding me that I need a professional I can download to. It’s probably time for me to do that, a bit of self-care. I think about work too much, that’s something I admit to. I’ve had to cultivate some hobbies to make sure that I have some downtime.”
“When she rises, we all rise”
It’s a heavy workload Ali has taken on – and while there’s been some marked improvements over the last couple of years (and she now has an outlet in the sewing machine she asked her partner to buy her) it’s is still a topic that conjures horrific tales of privilege, power and plenty of awful men. And it’s not easy listening.
Ali, who this Thursday will be hosting the first of Stuff’s Women of Influence Virtual Speaker Series, has herself has seen her fair share of sexism – from the truly horrific months spent in Australia under “the most vile, misogynistic person I’d ever come across in my life” who professionally and emotionally brutalised his young female employees, through to casual examples almost every woman still encounters to this day.
But she’s had a bloody gutsful – and is certainly not afraid of being judged an ‘angry feminist’ or any other witty label boomer men tend to fling about on Twitter.
“Part of my work now, and why I keep going like a bulldozer, harks back to that need for accountability. We’ve forgiven that type of behaviour that brutalises women at work for what too long. And I’m not having it anymore.
“It’s our responsibility to make it better for the next generation. I find that more and more I’m admiring women who are much younger than me – and I don’t mean that in a suggestive manner!” she laughs.
“There are young women now who are willing to realise their passions and achievements and voice their opposition to oppression, far more so than back in my day.”
It’s never been more important for women to support other women, Ali says – “The kind of women I can’t stand, is the kind of women who pull the ladder up behind them.”
The speaker series, of which the first will kick off on Thursday 6 August at 12pm, will be hosted by Ali with appearances by acclaimed designer Kathryn Wilson, incredible Muslim women’s rights campaigner Anjum Rahman and Olympic champion and business leader and diplomat Beatrice Faumuinā.
“There’s a tonne of stuff to jump into with these women, and the good thing about this lot, they’re just super strong women. I can chuck anything at these women and they’ll knock it out of the park with grace,” tells Ali, who adds the topics of resilience, ethics, business and the challenges (and joys) of being a woman in 2020 New Zealand.
“The interesting thing for me will be to weave their stories together, and to show what they have in common in their completely different areas and endeavours.”
To register, head to https://www.womenofinfluence.co.nz/speaker-series