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Breaking the glass ceiling

Written by Margot Boock
on March 08, 2022

For James Wattie resident, Caroline Kells, being an air hostess was a chance to see the world. But it also had its drawbacks.

“Each day we had to check our uniform and ourselves to make sure no moustache was visible and no rolls in your easies!”

“We had to wear bright lipstick and matching red nail polish, and bouffant hairstyles above the shoulders. Then wigs came in, and we all started wearing them.”

Nobody used to even think of asking ‘where do you expect see yourself in the next two or three years. Those things weren’t thought of in 50s career ladder.

“Women in the airline weren’t expected to stay. We were never asked to join the superannuation fund.”

In 1980 Caroline had saved a 50% deposit to buy her first house. But the banks wouldn’t give women a loan.

“I was earning better money than a lot of married men with children to educate, but they wouldn’t budge.

“I had to phone them every Friday to see if the loan had been approved. They didn’t contact me.

“I was finally asked well where does your father bank? I thought that was strange then I realised why they wanted him to guarantee the loan even though I was working full time and had a 50% deposit.”

Caroline also went on Pan Am $80 standby round the world trip. At the time you couldn’t take a boyfriend. You either went with another flight attendant or with parents.

“I had a great time in UK but when I got back, I couldn’t fit my uniforms!

“The chief hostess kept leaving me notes to go to her office for a weigh in and then finally called me into her office and said, ‘Caroline if you don’t get off the planes, the planes won’t be able to get off the ground.’

I was so upset!”

Caroline didn’t complain, however, as it was just the way it was.

“Sexist? – the word wasn’t even invented! Stressful wasn’t a word we used. It was just working hard. It was expected of us growing up. We didn’t question anything. You did as you were told. You just got on with it.”

“In the 70s there were pinches on the bottom and wolf whistles – it was the only way they could show any interest.”

For Caroline, the world has come a long way but there is more to learn.

“I think it is wonderful that we can celebrate International Women's Day, show our solidarity by crossing our arms, after decades of gender bias.

“But this collective strength to overcome equality must begin at an early age when women must learn to congratulate, comfort, praise and thank each other to give them the confidence to break the glass ceiling.”Smiling woman sitting in chair

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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