Who are New Zealand’s Women Powerbrokers?

Who are New Zealand’s Women Powerbrokers?

They play a crucial role in business, are among our most innovative entrepreneurs, their influence can change Government policy, and they oversee the direction some of our largest businesses take.

Across executive management, governance, entrepreneurship and public service, REDnews has identified the top 5 women powerbrokers in each category.

It’s a subjective list and you may well disagree with some of those named. That’s fine. All opinions welcome. The purpose is to acknowledge their work and influence within New Zealand and the yardstick they have laid for our future women leaders.

Here we look at the Executive Management and Governance categories, and part 2 in the series looks at Entrepreneur and Public Service powerbrokers.

SEE ALSO: The Importance & Advantages of a Diverse Board



Mary Devine ONZMMary Devine ONZM

The former Chief Executive of EziBuy and Managing Director of legendary Christchurch family retail business J Ballantyne & Co, Mary’s also a director of Meridian Energy and Briscoe Group.

Mary began as a stockbroker and investment analyst and moved into management in 1990 at textile manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin. She later helped establish the Canterbury brand overseas.

In 2012 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to business, and was recently appointed to the advisory board that will oversee the transition of power from CERA to local authorities in Christchurch.


Traci HoupapaTraci Houpapa

Partner with Hamilton consulting firm THS & Associates, Traci is the first female Chair of the Federation of Maori Authorities that represents a mainly primary sector asset base valued at around $8 billion.

As well as chairing Te Uranga B2 Incorporation, a Maori-owned family farming entity and the National Advisory Council for the Employment of Women, she is also acting chair of the state owned enterprise, LandCorp Farming Limited.

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 was acknowledged at the 2014 Women of Influence Awards winning the Board and Management category.


Barbara ChapmanBarbara Chapman

As Chief Executive and Managing Director of ASB, Barbara Chapman heads one of our largest employers, with 5,000 staff and operating income of $1.97 billion.

The career banker came up through the executive ranks, starting out in 1994 as Chief Manager Marketing.

She is an inaugural member of the 25% Group, lobbying for more women in senior executive roles and in the boardroom.


Mai ChenMai Chen

The Managing Partner of public and employment law firm Chen Palmer exercises quiet influence in the corridors of power.

A Harvard graduate, she founded NZ Asian Leaders and has sat on the Securities Commission, Asia New Zealand Foundation, and NZTE Beachheads, among others.

Mai won the Business Entrepreneur category at the 2013 Women of Influence Awards.


Therese WalshTherese Walsh

Therese led management oversight for 2 of the biggest sports events New Zealand has ever hosted – the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Prior, she was the Chief Financial Officer of the NZ Rugby Union. She has also served on the board of Save the Children, is chair of the MFAT International Development Advisory and Selection Panel, and is a director of TVNZ and NZX Ltd.

She won the Supreme Award at the 2013 Women of Influence Awards.



Carmel Fisher, co-founder and owner of boutique fund manager Fisher Funds, which has $6.3 billion in funds under management and is currently the 5th largest fund manager in the country.

Rebecca Thomas, CEO of boutique fund manager Mint Asset Management.

Di Humphries, Chief Executive of NZX-listed Pumpkin Patch.

SEE ALSO: The Importance & Advantages of a Diverse Board



Jan DawsonJan Dawson

The former Chair and Chief Executive of “big 4” accountancy firm KPMG, Jan Dawson’s resume of current directorships reads like a power list of corporate New Zealand: Westpac NZ, Meridian Energy, Goodman Fielder, Beca Group, AIG Insurance, along with the role of Deputy Chair of Air New Zealand.

UPDATE: Jan Dawson was named Chair of the Westpac NZ Board on 11 March.


Dame Alison PatersonDame Alison Paterson

The first woman appointed to the board of a New Zealand public company and a board member of the Reserve Bank for 15 years, Dame Alison has been a trailblazer for women in New Zealand boardrooms for several decades.

Now in her 70s, she is an independent director of Vector and several others.



Catherine SavageCatherine Savage

The Deputy Chair of the Guardians Board of the NZ Super Fund made a meteoric rise in business, appointed Managing Director of AMP Capital Investors in 2001 aged just 33.

Today the chartered accountant’s directorships include KiwiBank and the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the National Provident Fund.


Joan WithersJoan Withers

From being a 16-year-old bank teller, Joan Withers rose to become Chief Executive of our largest media organisation, Fairfax New Zealand Limited.

Current boardroom appointments include Chair of Mighty River Power, Deputy Chair of TVNZ, and director of the Treasury Board and ANZ.



Dame Jenny ShipleyDame Jenny Shipley

New Zealand’s first female Prime Minister has carved out a successful boardroom career since leaving politics.

She is Chair of Genesis Energy, the China Construction Bank, and the Financial Service Council, an Executive Board Member of the New Zealand China Council, and has the ear of the government as Chair of the Advisory Board on the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Transitional Plan.



Mary Jane Daley, an EQC Commissioner, is on the boards of Kiwi Property Group, Airways Corporation of NZ, and the Green Building Council.

Pip Dunphy, recently retired Chair of Solid Energy, is on the Super Fund, and is a director of Fonterra Shareholders Fund and Abano Healthcare.

Sue Suckling has over 20 years’ experience covering sectors as diverse as agriculture, international marketing, education, health, banking, science and technology, and many more. She is currently the Chair of ECL Group, Barker Fruit Processors and NZQA, and a director of Sky City Entertainment Group, Restaurant Brands and HSR Governance.

Norah Barlow, former MD and CEO of NZX listed Summerset Group, is on the boards of Summerset, retirement specialist Ingenia Communities, Cigna Life Insurance, and others.

SEE ALSO: The Importance & Advantages of a Diverse Board


Who’s missing?

Didn’t see a name you were expecting? Tell us in the comments below. And don't forget to check out part 2 of our Women Powerbroker list.



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