Women of Influence Alumni

For the past three years the Women of Influence programme has recognised and celebrated the important contribution that influential women have made to business, our communities and society. Meet our alumni of amazing winners and finalists from 2013, 2014 and 2015. 

2015 Finalists

Board and Management

Joan Withers - Category Winner

The judges commented her work championing board diversity and striving to close the gender gap also resulted in a unanimous decision as the Supreme Winner. Joan is currently chair of Mighty River Power and TVNZ, a director of ANZ, and a member of the Treasury Advisory Board.

Category Finalists:
  • Helen Anderson
  • Christine Coppell
  • Jo Coughlan
  • Karen Fifield
  • Pip Greenwood
  • Lynda Hagen
  • Barbara Kendall
  • Helen Robinson
  • Penny Simmonds
  • Sue Suckling
  • Karyn Thompson
  • Joan Withers

Business Enterprise

Linda Jenkinson - Category Winner

From the outstanding field of finalists in the Business Enterprise category, the judges selected Linda Jenkinson for her entrepreneurial successes in the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand. Judges commented that Linda’s influence is not restricted to business. She is a member of the New Zealand Olympic Counsel, an advisor for leading New Zealand incubator, The Icehouse, and a Director and Secretary of the Massey University Foundation.

Category finalists:
  • Anya Anderson
  • Sharon Cooke
  • Serena Fiso
  • Linda Jenkinson
  • Ranjna Patel
  • Jo Pennycuick
  • Sarah Reo
  • Merryn Straker
  • Alison Van Wyk
  • Josephine Wallis


Frances Valintine - Category Winner

Education futurist and The Mind Lab founder, Frances Valintine, won the Innovation Award for being at the forefront of change in education. Frances stood out in this category and judges commended her vision, passion and results in creating a new approach to education.

Category finalists:
  • Regine Deleu
  • Chris Duggan
  • Jennifer Hay
  • Sangeeta Karmokar
  • Robin Peace
  • Julia Rucklidge
  • Michelle Shirtcliffe
  • Frances Valintine

Young Leader

Parris Goebel - Category Winner

Parris Goebel was awarded the Young Leader Award and has been honoured for her supportive, inspirational influence on young New Zealanders to pursue their dreams of becoming stars in hip-hop dance. At 23 years old, she owns a dance studio, pioneered her own unique style of dance, and has choreographed for stars like Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson and most recently, Justin Bieber. Parris spearheaded the success of a number of dance crews at the prestigious World Hip Hop International Championships, leading all-female dancers, Request, to win gold and put New Zealand on the global stage of hip-hop dance.

Category Finalists:
  • Shayma Arif 
  • Stephanie Benseman
  • Kendall Flutey
  • Parris Goebel
  • Bonnie Howland
  • Ezel Kokcu
  • Henrietta McNeill 
  • Sian Simpson

Arts and Culture

Victoria Spackman - Category Winner

The Arts and Culture Award was received by Victoria Spackman for her role in reviving BATS Theatre Limited, transforming the board to one at the forefront of a vibrant and in-demand theatre. Victoria’s contribution and effort was crucial to the survival and evolution of the organisation and her continued work in the creative sectors is to be highly commended. The judges noted Victoria’s influence touches not only Wellington theatre goers, but our TV screens, and exhibitions and museums around the world.

Category Finalists:
  • Victoria Carter
  • Jen Crawford
  • Parris Goebel
  • Pip Hall
  • Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan
  • Naomi McCleary
  • Sonja McGirr-Garrett
  • Sue Paterson
  • Jeanette Richardson
  • Claire Robinson
  • Victoria Spackman 

Public Policy

Vicky Robertson - Category Winner

Vicky Robertson won the Public Policy category for her continued focus on results and ability to work effectively across a wide range of stakeholder groups. Whether it was speaking about the competition policy at the 1995 APEC summit in Osaka, reviewing the Climate Change Policy and KiwiSaver scheme or leading Treasury to explore new approaches to policy design, she is making a huge impact for a prosperous New Zealand.

Category Finalists:
  • Cath Atkins
  • Keriana Brooking
  • Jo Cribb
  • Alison Dewes
  • Brandi Hudson
  • Diane Maxwell
  • Robyn Munford
  • Maria Robertson
  • Vicky Robertson

Community and Not-for-Profit

Stacey Shortall - Category Winner

The Community and Not-for-Profit Award was won by Stacey Shortall for the depth and breadth of her contribution and influence in her work with children. This includes developing a weekly homework club at a decile one school, initiatives in the battle against domestic violence, advocating against violence toward children and developing a prison programme to help jailed mothers maintain meaningful connections with their children.

Category Finalists:
  • Amy Burke
  • Jo Coughlan 
  • Monique Faleafa
  • Lou James 
  • Madeline King
  • Rosemary Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan
  • Heather Laanbroek
  • Janice Lee
  • Vanassa McGoldrick
  • Parekawhia McLean
  • Ranjna Patel 
  • Karen Poole 
  • Kate Russell 
  • Stacey Shortall
  • Terry Shubkin
  • Rosie Smith 
  • Teresa Te Pania-Ashton 
  • Jenny (Ling Juan) Wang 
  • Pushpa Wood
  • Bronwyn Yates


Karyn Thompson - Category Winner

Colonel Karyn Thompson won the Diversity category for her work as the most senior military woman in the New Zealand Defence Force, consistently advocating for diversity and inspiring women to enter a career in the military. The judges recognised that in such a male dominated environment, the work of Karyn is instrumental in breaking down barriers and creating positive change for women.

Category Finalists:
  • Mai Chen
  • Sonja Cooper
  • Kimberly de Vries
  • Rebecca Jackson
  • Mahsa Mohaghegh
  • Papaarangi Reid 
  • Karyn Thompson 
  • Erika Todi


Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas - Category Winner

The Global Award, one of the two new categories introduced this year, was received by Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas. Among her achievements as Chair for many respected organisations, she has served numerous arts and educational institutions, including being the first woman to chair The Royal Opera House in London. Since moving to London in 1973, her influence at the highest levels has stretched across academia, the private sector, local government, the arts and volunteer sector.

Category Finalists:
  • Molly Bedingfield 
  • Claire Dugan
  • Judith Forbes
  • Dianne Glenn
  • Gill Greer
  • Bronwen Horton
  • Judith Mayhew Jonas
  • Dale Murray 
  • Laly Samuel 
  • Joanne Scott


Katie Milne - Category Winner

The Rural category - added this year - was won by Katie Milne. She has been instrumental in the agriculture and farming industry, regularly addressing issues that impact farming and agriculture on a provincial and national level. As a young mum and farmer, Katie did the hard yards juggling farming, parenthood and an off-farm job. The judges were impressed with her ability to break down barriers by communicating at all levels, making her an influential force in the agri-political space.

Category Finalists:
  • Olivia Egerton
  • Keri Johnston
  • Julia Jones
  • Katie Milne
  • Bronwyn Muir
  • Helen Slattery
  • Sophie Stanley
  • Michelle Thompson
2014 Finalists


Lesley Elliott - Category Winner
Women of Influence Supreme Winner 2014

Lesley Elliott is the founder of the Sophie Elliott Foundation, an organisation aimed at preventing violence against women through education and empowerment. In 2008 Lesley witnessed the death of her daughter Sophie, in their Dunedin home at the hands of former boyfriend Clayton Weatherston. The crime shocked New Zealand. As part of her quest to educate youth Lesley has presented Sophie’s Story and the signs she missed over 200 times in towns and cities throughout the country. Audiences have at times exceeded 1000. Lesley’s Foundation is in a formal partnership with New Zealand Police and the It’s Not OK campaign to develop and implement a one-day workshop called Loves-Me-Not for year 12 students examining what is a healthy (equal) relationship as opposed to an unhealthy (controlling) one. The programme was evaluated as being remarkably successful and is available nationwide. Lesley has written two books. Her first was the best-selling Sophie’s Legacy and latest, Loves-Me-Not, gives sound practical advice on what to look for in a healthy relationship. Lesley has also played a pivotal role in lobbying Government regarding law changes including the defence of provocation. Loves-Me-Not is the legacy from Lesley to her much loved daughter. Lesley was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year for her work in preventing domestic violence.

Category Finalists:
  • Cynthia Ward
  • Rebecca Culver
  • Deborah George
  • Rebecca Armour
  • Michelle Robinson
  • Susan Hassall
  • Rachel Jenkinson
  • Janferie Bryce-Chapman
  • Andrea Perez

Board and Management

Traci Houpapa - Category Winner

Traci specialises in strategic and economic development, advising Maori, Iwi, and public and private sector clients throughout New Zealand. She is a partner in Hamilton-based THS & Associates. Traci is an experienced company director, and holds a number of directorships and Ministerial appointments. She is the first female chairman of the Federation of Maori Authorities since its establishment in 1987, representing a mainly primary sector asset base valued at around $8 billion. She’s also acting chair of the state owned enterprise, LandCorp Farming Limited. Traci chairs Te Uranga B2 Incorporation a Maori-owned family farming entity and the National Advisory Council for the Employment of Women. She holds governance roles on the Waikato River Authority, Nga Pae O Te Maramatanga, Diverse NZ Inc, the Rural Broadband Initiative National Advisory Committee, Strada Corporation and the Beef+Lamb Wool Levy Group. Traci has an MBA from Massey University, and is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a Justice of the Peace, and a marriage celebrant.

Category Finalists:
  • Gráinne Moss
  • Vicky Robertson
  • Victoria Crone
  • Susan Peterson
  • Jane Huria
  • Christina Domecq
  • Jo Field
  • Julia Raue
  • Corina Bruce

Local & Regional

Kerry Prendergast - Category Winner

Kerry’s professional background was in the health sector, as a registered nurse and midwife. Kerry then went on to a successful career in local politics, as a councillor in Tawa in 1986, then joining the Wellington City Council until 2010. During this time she was Deputy Mayor for 6 years and was elected Mayor in 2001. Kerry held the mayoralty for three terms. Kerry is at present a Company Director, Trustee and the Chairperson of several organisations and Boards, including holding the position of Executive Chair of the NZ International Festival of the Arts, Chair of the Environmental Protection Authority and the New Zealand Tourism Board, Board Member of Kirkaldie and Stains Ltd, Worksafe NZ, Compass Health, Wellington Phoenix Football Club, VUW Foundation, amongst others. Kerry received a Paul Harris Fellow for Rotary and is a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit. She holds an MBA from Victoria University (Wellington).

Category Finalists:
  • Beatrice Faumuina
  • Carla Forbes
  • Kaye McNabb
  • Alexis Lewgor
  • Karyn Riley
  • Mary Jensen
  • Nicola Douglas
  • Michelle MacWilliam
  • Tessa Clarke

Innovation and Science

Margaret Brimble - Category Winner

Margaret is a medicinal chemist who has received the highest level of international recognition. She was the first New Zealander to receive the L’Oreal-Unesco Award for Women in Science and the second to receive a Rutherford Medal from the Royal Society NZ which she was awarded three years ago. She has many varied roles including chair of the RSNZ Rutherford Foundation, a principal investigator for the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, principal investigator in the Centre for Brain Research, and associate investigator in the MacDiarmid Institute. She studied chemistry at the University of Auckland and was then awarded a NZ Commonwealth scholarship to undertake a PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Southampton. Margaret is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Royal Society of Chemistry and President-Elect of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Organic and Biomolecular Division and chair of the Synthesis Subcommittee. Her other accolades include the Hector Medal for outstanding contributions to the advancement of the field of chemical sciences, and the MacDiarmid medal for outstanding scientific research for potential human benefit. Professor Brimble was conferred as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004 and a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2012 for her services to science.

Category Finalists:
  • Deborah Bush
  • Erica Whineray Kelly
  • Michelle Dickinson
  • Louise Parr-Brownlie
  • Kate McGrath
  • Frances Valintine
  • Nicola Gaston
  • Kylie Price

Business Entrepreneur

Dame Wendy Pye - Category Winner

Dame Wendy Pye is the owner and Managing Director of the Wendy Pye Publishing Ltd, publishers of educational products. Wendy’s Sunshine Book and Galaxy Kids brands have taken the company to the ends of the earth and she became a publishing phenomenon when she launched Sunshine Books in 1985. Through her vision, passion, drive and energy, Wendy has built her company into one of the world's most successful educational export companies. Her educational products consist of over 1800 titles which have sold over 218 million copies worldwide.

For the past twenty years she has worked extensively with governments and education departments within the APEC region to implement new policies on curriculum development for literacy.

Wendy pioneered the use of multimedia - animated internet and CD-Rom - to complement the print and other components of her products. She was a leader in the development of an early literacy programme and learning technologies, and worked with many institutes and universities worldwide to develop strategies for literacy through research.

Category Finalists:
  • Dame Suzie Moncrieff
  • Cilla Hegarty
  • Robyn Scott-Vincent
  • Ranjna Patel
  • Sandra Iversen
  • Helen Darling
  • Jenene Crossan
  • Cate Grace
  • Pamela Bell


Shona McCullagh - Category Winner

Shona McCullagh is one of New Zealand’s outstanding cross platform artists and the co-founder of The New Zealand Dance Company. A Distinguished Graduate from the New Zealand School of Dance, Shona went on to be a founding member of the NZ-based Douglas Wright Dance Company and became its Associate Director in 1991, touring to the London Dance Umbrella and the Holland Dance Festival. As a choreographer over the last 27 years, she has created works ranging from short pieces to full length works. In 2000, she became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to dance and in 2007 became an Arts Laureate. Shona has a long history of collaboration with other art forms, creating extensive work for theatre, television and film. She has developed an international reputation as an award-winning and innovative filmmaker with all of her films being screened at the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival. In 2008 Shona was invited to be part of the inaugural Art Venture Acceleration Programme for Creative Entrepreneurs, an initiative of the Arts Regional Trust that resulted in her decision to assist the growth of the NZ dance industry by establishing The New Zealand Dance Company.

Category Finalists:
  • Gina Dellabarca
  • Libby Hakaraia
  • Julie Bartlett
  • Jeanette Richardson
  • Victoria Carter
  • Jessica Pearless
  • Sarah Reese
  • Piera McArthur
  • Virginia Humphrey-Taylor

Social Enterprise

Anne Miles - Joint Category Winner

For the past 11 and a half years, Anne Miles has been principal of McAuley High School in South Auckland. McAuley High School is a Catholic Integrated school for girls with a decile 1 rating. During Anne’s time as principal the school has experienced a dramatic rise in achievement of Maori and Pacific students, an increase in roll numbers and now enjoys the full support of the community. Key elements of Anne’s approach to driving performance at McAuley High School have included introducing a transition programme for students from a feeder intermediate to the High School; raising the morale of staff, students and the community - success is now expected; and sharing expertise on a regular basis with other schools through presenting at conferences, professional development, welcoming other principals into the school and providing support and information. McAuley High School is now a high performing school and recognized for its achievements. Anne has a team based approach to running a school and sees the achievements as belonging to the community, staff, students and the Board.

Jo-anne Wilkinson - Joint Category Winner

Jo-anne Wilkinson is the Co-Founder and retired Executive Director of the Foundation for Youth Development (formerly Project K Trust). The organisation began in 1995 and has grown today to reach 18,000 young people each year through its programmes; Project K, Stars, Kiwi Can, Career Navigator and MYND. Jo-anne managed the National Office team of 20 and was responsible for the network of 17 licensees (similar to a franchise) around the country. Jo-anne remains on the FYD board. With her legal background and through building FYD Jo-anne has gained experience in licensing, research and evaluation, community development, programme development, quality assurance, governance and the interface between Government, Business and the Social Sector. Jo-anne also works as a consultant specialising in mentoring, change management, governance and corporate social responsibility. Jo-anne’s current roles include Board Member Foundation for Youth Development Auckland; Board Member Families Commission; Panel Member, Youth Justice Grievance Panel; Board Member Foundation for Youth Development National; Consultant, Dingle and Wilkinson Ltd; and Deputy Chair of the Families Commission.

Category Finalists:
  • Vicki Lee
  • Qiujing Wong
  • Rangimarie Hunia
  • Angela Francis
  • Cecilia Mary Sullivan-Grant
  • Dianne Glenn
  • Makaia Carr
  • Karen Fifield

Emerging Leader

Althea Carbon - Category Winner

Althea Carbon is a 26-year-old lawyer who has also poured her considerable energies into the non-profit sector. Althea co-founded Charity-IT, an organisation that helps charities improve their IT systems. It provides a platform for IT professionals who may not be able to volunteer on a weekly basis, but can provide a one-off commitment to help out the charity. In her day job, Althea works as a solicitor at Chapman Tripp. Three years ago Althea ran Entré, which aims to increase students’ awareness and knowledge of entrepreneurship. She also co-founded the blog, Business Is the New Black (BITNB) in a bid to make more young women aware of, and interested in, entrepreneurship, science and technology by using fashion as a metaphor. Prior to that, she served as the President of AIESEC Canterbury, a local branch of the world’s largest student-run organisation Althea has a column, “Lawyering for Good”, in the Wellington Young Lawyer’s magazine “Advocate” which aims to increase young lawyers’ awareness of public interest law and emphasise that people do not have to be full-time volunteers in order to make an impact. Mentoring is an important part of Althea’s life. Currently, she is a mentor with the Asian Law Students Society at Victoria University. She is a member of the Asia NZ Leadership Network which encourages young New Zealanders to help build New Zealand’s links through Asia. She has also been selected to represent New Zealand in international conferences on youth and entrepreneurship.

Category Finalists:
  • Jade Leung
  • Fiona Bradley
  • Toyah Attwell
  • Zheng Li
2013 Finalists

Board & Management

Therese Walsh - Category Winner
Women of Influence Supreme Winner 2013

Therese successfully took on the role of Head of New Zealand for Cricket World Cup 2015 (CWC 2015) after her position as Chief Operating Officer for Rugby New Zealand 2011 Limited. This was a joint venture between the Government and the New Zealand Rugby Union that was responsible for organising and managing Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011) in New Zealand. The tournament was an outstanding success and was delivered in a flawless manner.

Therese was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year.

In 2011 the Minister of Foreign Affairs appointed Therese as Chair of the inaugural International Development Advisory and Selection Panel. The role of the Panel is to receive and evaluate applications from New Zealand based organisations to partner with the New Zealand Government and receive significant levels of funding for international aid projects.

Category Finalists:
  • Traci Houpapa
  • Barbara Kuriger
  • Selena Fox
  • Alison Paterson
  • Jeanette Richardson
  • Vicky Robertson
  • Justine Smyth
  • Susie Staley
  • Jane Sweeney

Innovation & Science

Marilyn Waring (Prof) - Category Winner

In 1975, at the age of 23, Marilyn Waring became the youngest Member of Parliament in New Zealand under Robert Muldoon’s Government. In 1978 she became the MP for Waipa and remained in the House of Representatives until 1984.

She was the only woman in caucus between 1978 and 1981, setting an example for young women across New Zealand and the world. In 1988 Marilyn gained international prominence with the publication of her book ‘Counting for Nothing’ (also known as ‘If Women Counted’). The book is a groundbreaking and systematic critique of the system of national accounts, the international standard of measuring economic growth, and the ways in which women’s unpaid work has been excluded from what counts as productive in the economy.

Since 2006, Marilyn has been appointed Professor of Public Policy at the Institute for Public Policy (IPP) at AUT University. Her research focuses on government and public policy, political economy, gender analysis, and human rights. In 2012, British magazine Wired named Marilyn in its first ever Wired Smart List, a list of ‘50 people who will change the world’.

Category Finalists:
  • Minnie Baragwanath
  • Margaret Brimble (Prof)
  • Michelle Dickinson (Dr)
  • Jessie Jacobsen (Dr)
  • Marlena Kruger (Prof)
  • Lindy Nelson
  • Emma Parry (Dr)
  • Julia Raue
  • Jacqueline Rowarth (Prof)

Community Service & Social Enterprise

Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o - Category Winner

Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o is the brains behind Affirming Works – a not-for-profit organisation which has provided mentoring for more than 5,000 youth and children as well as opportunities for training and employment to more than 100 youth workers.

In 2012 she established the Community Café to assist with the fundraising needs of Affirming Works, and the café has since become a hub to the wider South Auckland community. Emeline also established the Fofola Consultancy to provide independent consultancy on issues affecting Pacific people. In 2012 she wrote the Tongan Conceptual Framework for Family Violence in New Zealand which later led to writing training modules for Tongan practitioners in the social service area.

Category Finalists:
  • Julie Chapman
  • Elizabeth Charleston
  • Nicola Coom
  • Annette Fale
  • Beatrice Faumuinā
  • Emily Gualter
  • Heather Henare
  • Diane Vivian
  • Silvia Zuur

Regional & Local Influencers

Fran Wilde - Category Winner

Fran Wilde, CNZM, QSO, JP, is a New Zealand politician, and former Wellington Labour MP, Minister of Tourism and the 31st Mayor of Wellington. She was the first woman to serve as Mayor of Wellington. Fran was a Member of Parliament for the Wellington Central seat, winning it from sitting National MP Ken Comber in the 1981 general election. She retained the seat at the subsequent 1984 general election. Fran has been highly influential in ensuring that Wellington’s infrastructure continues to develop, including the development of the Transmission Gully highway. Fran is currently chair of the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

She is also passionate about fundraising for community initiatives and has helped raise money to rebuild the Wellington Night Shelter and was instrumental in the capital fund-raising campaign for the new headquarters of the Cancer Society.

Category Finalists:
  • Julie Bartlett
  • Peggy Burrows
  • Anita Finnigan
  • Kiri Goulter
  • Jenny Harper
  • Jo Kelly-Moore (Dean)
  • Maureen Pugh
  • Sarah Trotman
  • Leeann Watson

Business Entrepreneur

Mai Chen - Category Winner

In 1994 Mai Chen was a co-founder in Chen Palmer Public and Employment Law Specialists. Chen Palmer was the first boutique firm in New Zealand and the first law firm in Australiasia specialising in the private practice of public law. 
Mai was the inaugural chair of New Zealand Global Women, now in its sixth year. The organisation has become a substantial asset of value to top women leaders in New Zealand and to the diversity enterprise nationwide. She also helped to establish the Pacifica Leadership Academy owned by BEST Pacific Institute of Education. Mai teaches the Public Law Toolbox at the Auckland University Business School and the Auckland Law School, with the intention of training more lawyers and business people to understand the relevance of public law and Government to their chosen professions.

Category Finalists:
  • Tracy Banner
  • Carol Campbell
  • Erica Crawford
  • Nicola Martin
  • Sachie Nomura
  • Ranjna Patel
  • Jo Pennycuick
  • Helen Robinson
  • Rachel Taulelei

Emerging Leader

Mahsa Mohaghegh - Category Winner

A lecturer in the Department of Computing at Unitec, Mahsa Mohaghegh of Albany, Auckland, is driven by a desire to share her passion for technology with other young women. In 2012 she was awarded the Google Anita Borg Scholarship – an award aimed at encouraging women to pursue careers in computing and technology.

Category Finalists:
  • Hana Olds
  • Lisa Plato
  • Maya Shino
  • Nive Sharat Chandran