Ethnic Women Leadership project

This programme is designed to develop ethnic women’s leadership capability so they can be the agents for change in their own communities and the wider society.

Ethnic women are encouraged to be influential and effective decision-makers, who are able to support ethnic communities to integrate and participate in society more effectively.


The talent, skills and connections of ethnic women can make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s future prosperity. Ethnic women with leadership potential have increasingly voiced their desire to express themselves and to participate actively in all aspects of New Zealand life. Their vision is to become empowered and confident leaders with a sense of belonging and a stake in New Zealand’s future.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs is currently working collaboratively to achieve the following objectives:

  • Increase ethnic women’s leadership capability and capacity.
  • Create a platform for ethnic women leaders to have robust debate and exchange about the key challenges and opportunities they and others like them face.
  • Encourage and equip ethnic women leaders to take on more influential civic roles.
  • Create opportunities for ethnic women participants to connect with their peers and others who can support them on their leadership journeys.
  • Provide a platform for networking, and facilitate peer-support among ethnic women leaders.

Ethnic Women's Leadership Development comprises three main components:

Leadership capacity building

The Ethnic Women’s Leadership programme is designed to develop leadership capability so ethnic women can be the agents for change in their communities and the wider New Zealand society.

Civic participation and connection

This component will focus on encouraging women to play more influential roles in New Zealand through civic activities at a local and national level. The Office of Ethnic Affairs will also facilitate networking opportunities with professional leadership organisations.

Inspiration and visibility

The Office of Ethnic Affairs is committed to collaborating with other organisations to enhance ethnic women’s visibility and to promote the socio-economic contributions they make to New Zealand.

What do ethnic women need to develop their leadership potential?

The Office of Ethnic Affairs has been working with ethnic women leaders as part of an ongoing programme of work to build leadership capability and capacity in New Zealand’s ethnic communities.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs has facilitated leadership training specifically designed for ethnic women since 2008. The Office has deliberately sought to capture the lessons we have learnt about what women need to develop their leadership potential to ensure that the training it provides is based on best practice and a strong local evidence base.. This has been done through programme evaluations, and more recently a needs analysis and a literature review on ethnic women’s leadership.

The following is a summary of the main factors that drive success in leadership training and support for ethnic women in New Zealand.

Literature Review – Key Findings

Ethnic women are diverse in terms of their family, where they live, migration history, language, social and familial relationships, educational experience, spirituality, philosophy, sexuality and aspirations.

While there is a significant amount of international and domestic literature on women’s leadership in a general sense, there is little information about ethnic women’s leadership. Nevertheless, key elements from international studies are relevant, to some extent, to our domestic environment.

Two main themes emerge in the available literature: the importance of context and an understanding of leadership; and the dearth of women and ethnic minorities generally, and ethnic women specifically, in leadership roles across politics, business and academia. From this small body of literature we note the following points.

Women, ethnicity and leadership

  • There is a need to create new concepts of leadership that take into account ethnicity, gender and class differences
  • The most critical skills needed by ethnic women are the ability to empower others, manage change, motivate people, coach and develop staff, and to communicate effectively.
  • Ethnic women experience a ‘double bind hurdle’ and are a minority within a minority. because of their gender and their ethnicity.

Supporting ethnic women leaders

  • Many ethnic women must pursue higher education by rearranging their lives around familial obligations. Ethnic women require and deliberately seek support from immediate family members, especially fathers and brothers. Although negotiations test traditional, cultural and familial boundaries, many women have been successful in securing that support without disrupting family harmony.
  • Mentoring programmes and role models are a critical form of support.

The full literature review was conducted by Dr Carina Meares and Dr Amanda Gilbertson Social and Economic Research Team, Research Investigations and Monitoring Unit, Auckland Council in June 2013.

Needs Assessment Survey – Key Findings

The Office of Ethnic Affairs undertook a survey of ethnic women’s leadership development needs in 2013. The survey aimed to identify what women thought they needed in terms of training and support. The survey sampled 20 women from a range of ethnic backgrounds including Indian, Iranian, Chinese, Korean, Ghanaian, Eastern European and Filipino throughout New Zealand. The survey used both quantitative and qualitative components.

Respondent Profile

The women surveyed came from a range of professional backgrounds including management consultancy, nursing, the NGO sector, accountancy and public sector services. They were well educated, professionally savvy, possessed business acumen, and displayed an enthusiasm for opportunities to participate in all aspects of life in New Zealand, including civic, political, socio-cultural, and commercial.

Respondent Characteristics

The respondents were confident, ambitious and capable, interested in creating better awareness of the benefits of diversity for New Zealand, and displayed a sense of pride in their ethnic identity.

They have aspirations to develop their leadership ability within their own communities, to participate more actively in the wider civic environment and increase their political nous.

Areas of interest

The respondents expressed a strong desire to learn mentoring and coaching skills, and to enhance their cross-cultural communication and diversity management abilities.

Barriers and gaps

Respondents identified a number of barriers and gaps in leadership development. They talked about cultural differences that influence learning behaviours and training preferences. Some women also talked about not having the financial means to undertake expensive leadership development courses, having little access to opportunities (traditionally given to males), and sometimes a lack of family and community support.

Suggestions for training

Respondents wanted training that would improve their confidence as leaders within their own communities, assertiveness in carrying out their functions, and planning and execution of their leadership goals. Women also wanted to be able to better identify the needs and issues for their communities, access to networking opportunities for ethnic women with similar aspirations, and to access information on government strategic planning and policy.


Based on the information provided by the literature review and needs analysis, as well as the feedback gained from participants in the Auckland leadership training provided in December 2012, the Office of Ethnic Affairs is developing a framework that will guide future training programmes in Wellington and Christchurch (with other centres likely to follow as resources permit). The framework comprises three main components:

  1. Leadership capacity building
  2. Civic participation and connection
  3. Inspiration and visibility.

Collaboration and Connection: Women and LeadershipLeft and Right: Nive Sharat Chandran, Odetta Ntezicimpa and Marisa Fong

A new collaborative initiative by the Office of Ethnic Affairs and Professionelle, a professional development organisation for women will help enhance career and leadership opportunities and  connections for ethnic women. One of the focus areas for the Office of Ethnic Affairs is strengthening ethnic women's leadership capability, with civic participation and collaboration as a key theme.

Professionelle, a Charitable Trust, has come on board with the Office of Ethnic Affairs to support ethnic women' s leadership development through training and network meetings nationwide. Professionelle offers professional development for working women at all stages of their careers.

Galia Barhava-Monteith, Director of Professionelle and a member of the National Advisory Council for the Employment of Women says:  'It is wonderful to have this collaboration in place and bring diversity to our work".

At a "Sharing Personal Stories" event held on  27 August in Auckland, Marisa Fong, Chair of Professionelle and co-founder of Madison Recruitment shared her early journey from being an employee to entrepreneur and how confidence (and lack of it) played a big part in managing her exit out of a toxic working relationship into a leadership role.

Participants at the event said they felt inspired by the candid account and were appreciative of the opportunities to network.

Summary of 2012 Ethnic Women's Leadership Project

The 2012 project provided a training workshop, with the involvement of experienced trainers and facilitators. Over two days the programme provided four training sessions:

  • Governance and Leadership – Women on Boards
  • Women’s Leadership and Diversity Management
  • Media Responsiveness and Civic Participation
  • Reflection, Inspiration, Connection – Women in Action

These themes were developed based on best practice (from interviews with agencies and organisations with an interest in leadership development), government priorities, a previous evaluation report about leadership training provided by the Office of Ethnic Affairs and consultation meetings with ethnic women in leadership positions in the Auckland region.

Nomination information for board opportunities

For women (and men) wanting to pursue leadership in the area of Governance, there are many opportunities to apply for positions on a range of state sector and Crown Entity Boards.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs operates a Nominations Database through its website:

The service has been developed to nominate suitably qualified candidates from the ethnic sector to be considered for appointment to government boards. The ethnic sector consists of New Zealand citizens or people with New Zealand permanent residence who identify themselves ethnically as Asian, Middle Eastern, Continental European, Latin American or African.

A nomination from a nominating agency like the Office of Ethnic Affairs does not ensure an appointment. The appointment process is highly competitive and a single vacancy for a board member can attract a high number of nominations. The Office of Ethnic Affairs is just one source of candidates, among many others, for the appointing agencies. We do not have a role beyond the nomination.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs also provides a range of information to help women who are interested in being appointed to a governance board in New Zealand. The Ministry runs a special website which provides governance advice, tools, and information drawn from the expertise of its staff and experienced women directors. At this website you can find information about the nominations service, top tips to being a successful applicant, case studies, and information about different types of boards that operate in New Zealand -

Some examples of boards include:

  • Commercial – state-owned enterprises such as New Zealand Post and Crown research institutions.
  • Quasi-judicial – Advertising Standards Complaints Board, Human Rights Review Tribunal, Commerce Commission, Film and Literature Board of Review and Broadcasting Standards Authority.
  • Professional – Nurses’ Council and trade skills registration Boards.
  • Community – Trusts, Lotteries Distribution Committees and Conservation Boards

The skills and experience required will depend on the nature of the business of a particular board. For example, commercial boards require a high level of experience in financial management, business, governance, investment, accounting, law, and knowledge of the particular sector in which the company operates.

Quasi-judicial boards require a background in law and/or an understanding of regulatory procedures. It also requires experience with hearings or tribunals.

Community boards require experience in governance with committees, voluntary organisations, or professional bodies, and good networks within the community.

Other nominating agencies include:

  • If you are a woman, you can register with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs –
  • If you are Māori you can register with Te Puni Kōkiri –
  • If you are of Pacific origin you can register with the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs –
  • If you have a disability you can register with the Office for Disability Issues –
  • If you are interested in an appointment to a State-Owned Enterprise or Crown Research Institute Board, you can contact the Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit (COMU) –

You can also contact appointing agencies such as:

The appointing agencies consider suitable candidates from a number of sources and undertake the short-listing of candidates and recommend suitable candidate(s) to the relevant Minister. The final decision is made by Cabinet.

Recommended resources
You can find out more about the drive to appoint more women to boards from the following organisations and sources:

Other leadership opportunities

If you are interested in further leadership training, or mentoring and coaching there are a range of organisations you can go to. It is important to have a clear understanding of your development requirements and to look for an appropriate organisation that will be able to offer what you require. It is important to note that much of this training will come at a cost, although some organisations provide information about applying for funding to cover the cost of the training.

Some organisations providing information, networking opportunities, support and training and mentoring for leadership development include but are not limited to the following:

The organisations below are in no particular order of importance.

Organisation Description

Appoint allows organisations seeking directors and trustees to easily connect with individuals who want to share their governance experience. You can view and apply for a number of governance positions (from publicly-listed directors through to not-for-profit trustees) at their website.

Global Women

New Zealand Global Women is a not-for-profit organisation whose members are recognised and accomplished senior women leaders from a wide range of national and international disciplines and industries. Members build meaningful peer-to-peer relationships, exchange ideas, facilitate international opportunities and openly share their collective wisdom with each other.

They actively work to expand the national and international impact and influence of women leaders, develop and assure leadership opportunities for qualified women, and mentor and shape emerging leaders.

Institute of Directors

The Institute of Directors (IoD) is a membership organisation of more than 5000 individuals, representing organisations large and small. It promotes excellence in corporate governance, represents directors’ interests and facilitates their professional development through education and training.

As the professional body for boards and board members in New Zealand, the IoD helps directors develop skills in governance.

Leadership New Zealand

Founded in 2003 by a group of prominent New Zealand leaders, the Leadership New Zealand Trust exists to enrich New Zealand and to foster a culture of leadership. It aims to ensure that New Zealand leaders understand and are equipped for the challenges of leadership throughout the community.

The organisation is governed and supported by prominent and passionate leaders from all sectors of New Zealand society.

Leadership Development Centre

The Leadership Development Centre was established by public service chief executives to build leadership capability across the sector. Their mission is to develop leaders who effectively lead the public sector and achieve results for New Zealanders.

LDC is a membership organisation, governed by a Board of Trustees and staffed by a small team of professionals.


Professionelle is a unique social venture dedicated to researching, understanding and addressing the needs of all working women in New Zealand.

Its website offers a wealth of free resources that cover the real issues professional women face in their careers - and beyond. Professionelle has over 2000 members, mostly women.

Springboard New Zealand

SpringBoard is a not-for-profit group that encourages and develops the next generation of New Zealand directors and promotes age diversity around the board table.

There are currently 2000 members throughout New Zealand. SpringBoard members are 45 years old and under and all have previous governance experience.

Women in Leadership Aotearoa

Women in Leadership Aotearoa (WILA) is a social profit-focused, collaborative network supporting women as leaders through action and advocacy.

ZONTA International Fondation

Zonta International is a worldwide service organisation of executives in business and the professions, working together to advance the status of women. There are more than 30,000 members in more than 1,200 clubs in 63 countries all over the world.

Please note: The Office of Ethnic Affairs does not endorse these organisations above others. We encourage you to undertake your own research and make an independent decision based on your needs.

Contact details

For further information, please contact:

Vivien Verheijen
Phone: 09 362 7911