We’re a modern, progressive society here in New Zealand, right? We like to think we’ve led the way with sexual equality and that the culture of sexism is something that we left back in 1960. Right again?
Can a woman in 2014 work in her own business, wield her considerable intelligence and social competence and have proven results in her line of work, accolades, positive media interactions and basically a damn interesting career without attracting undue comment just because she is a woman?
Should be able to. In the case of Julia Hartley Moore, this is not so.
Not that Hartley Moore minds. She’s been in the business of private investigation for 20 years, building her own successful practice and public brand from the ground up.
She’s highly visible and often the go-to person for comment to the media, because, well, she just is and fosters a good relationship with them.
Yet there is one area where Julia is excluded – the professional body for private investigators in New Zealand aka the New Zealand Institute of Private Investigators (Inc).
I know, I know. It all sounds blackly outrageous. We have a professional body for private dicks.
But private investigation, by virtue of the fact that people are accessing the private world of New Zealand citizens, needs a body like this as much as any other professional field. There are stringent guidelines, and it is a peer-endorsed collective. See the proviso below:
“In order to become a member of NZIPI you must agree to adhere to the highest professional standards and most importantly you must be approved as a peer by all current members prior to membership acceptance.”
Hartley Moore has never been admitted to this professional body. She will never be admitted to it.
I spoke to her about this at length. She is not loved in her own professional circle. She has experienced cynicism and sometimes outright venom over the years as people query her credibility.
She would need full approval by all current members of the body to be admitted.
“That’ll never happen”, she says with a smirk. “The paperwork is all pretty straight forward and there is no real reason why I shouldn’t be admitted, except that I have no Police background, apparently. Having said that, there are many current members who do not necessarily have that background either.”
So what’s going on? Is this some sort of old boys’ network bullshit paradigm?
I put it to Hartley Moore that if she was shorter, perhaps less glamorous and more masculine, she might have a show of being admitted?
“Absolutely. That stereotype, although unfortunate and unfair, is real.”
She gives me examples of the attitudes.
“I was on Seven Sharp a while ago talking about a cold case and immediately after the show I had another male PI contact me saying ‘since when have you been an expert in cold cases?’ ”
“I was on the cover of a well-known business magazine and again, and I was contacted by an irate male PI who could not believe I had been chosen over him for the cover.”
“Of course I am used to this and I cannot go in the media without there being backlash against me personally”.
She rolls with the punches. Private investigation for Hartley Moore extends beyond the expected infidelity issues, and in fact she is widely consulted by lawyers and other professionals in her line of work.
She is internationally published.
In her practice, she uses ex-Police personnel to carry out investigative work. I ask her what’s involved in an investigation, using myself as an example.
“What could you find out about me, for example. Given that I may or may not have some skeletons in my closet, would I be surprised at the results of your findings?” I asked.
“Not really. The average member of the public would have the same if not more ability to find out about you than a PI because we are bound by all sorts of privacy and ethics laws. It’s just that we have the tools at our disposal more so than anyone else”.
Phew. I was glad that incident at Shadows Bar would remain right there, in the Shadows.
With all of this negativity, how has she managed to build up such a successful practice?
“Actually the irony of the negativity is that it just highlights what I do even more. You would think some of these guys in my field would be smart enough to ignore what I do and say and focus on their own careers and work. But they don’t. Each time they make a comment, it just draws more attention to my work. So actually, it’s all good at the end of the day”.
Hartley Moore believes that becoming pregnant at 15 gave her the fortitude to withstand heavy criticism as a person and a woman.
“I had to tell myself that I was ok, that I wasn’t a bad person because in the 60s, attitudes to this kind of thing were pretty conservative. It taught to me to be ok around critics, and actually, who cares?”
I’m still interested in this NZIPI admission though. She probably doesn’t need it, but wouldn’t it be nice to be accepted by your peers and work in a more collaborative way?
“I’m a happy person and I don’t mind working alone without the PI cohort. But I also have a great team working for me,” she decides.
The highlight of her work is helping people come to acceptance about the truth. “One woman read my one of my Huffington Post articles and sent me a thank you message to say how grateful she was to read another story like her own and that she no longer felt like she was going mad”.
It’s the ultimate endorsement she says.
In the meantime, I’d be interested to see how the NZIPI responds to the impasse on Hartley Moore’s admission to the body.