The year that was: Celebrating 2018 for Women & Leadership Australia and New Zealand.

This year was a really big one for Women & Leadership Australia and New Zealand. We had events in Auckland and Christchurch, and over in Aus we ran the #100daysforchange campaign. It has been a big year for Women & Leadership!

Some of the key takeaways from the latest report on how women interact with the workplace.

A new report by McKinsey & Company and Lean In has uncovered that there has been little improvement for women in the workplace. However, they also make some great recommendations about what workplaces can do to fix the status quo

The Leadership Interviews: Kathryn Crofts, Founding Board Member of Road Sense Australia

We interview Kathryn Crofts, one of our ALP Alumni, about her experiences as a leader, what she learnt and her advice for aspiring leaders.

Can the words caregiver and ambitious be in the same sentence?

Professor Jan Thomas takes a look at how society can move away from tacit assumptions about caring and ambition to champion diversity for all.

Laura Maxwell

Laura Maxwell's career journey​

Laura Maxwell is Chief Commercial Officer at NZME. She has over 20 years of experience in media and is also currently serving as a Chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a Director of the Newspapers Publishers Association and a board member of the Radio Bureau. Laura will be speaking at the upcoming NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium so we sat down with her to discuss her career journey.Tell us about your career to date?After completing a BA at Otago University I began a fantastic OE that ended up lasting….much longer than planned! I did get to experience working in a range of industries, improved my skiing and to my father’s relief, started my first ‘real job’ in sales and marketing at the University of Canberra, at 26 years of age. Given the commute was sensational, I also completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Marketing while I was there.I have worked in small businesses where I have rolled my sleeves up and been involved both along and across the business. This taught me so much and gave me experience in manufacturing, importing, exporting, retailing, packaging, pricing, negotiation, marketing, advertising, sales and finance. Once I joined larger organisations (where your role is more defined), I then had the confidence to challenge and add value to areas ‘outside my remit’. I have been within the media business since 2001 and still love the pace, the brands and how we connect with Kiwis. For me, being in an informal, creative and fast-paced environment suits my ethos of taking the role seriously but having a good time too.What have been some highlights (and low lights!) in your career?Highlights for me have been working with slick, global brands where I got to experience planning, strategy and execution at a level that was simply top notch and at a scale larger than we have in New Zealand. These include working alongside big brands and organisations like Team New Zealand, Louis Vuitton, the America’s Cup, the All Blacks, and the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. Working for a business and creating commercial success in a short window, such as for an event, was a steep learning curve for me. For the America’s Cup programme we developed, branded, packaged, retailed, marketed and sold over 90 new products specific to the event with every step of the chain needing approval from the event brand owners. And we hit our targets!  One of the biggest career challenges for me was when I was leading Yahoo!NZ and the Xtra email issue arose. I would not call it a lowlight (although being on conference calls to the States every hour throughout the night seemed like a lowlight at the time!) as it was a great learning experience.  I have used the skills learned during that episode again and again.You are recognised as a leader in your field. What advice would you give other women who aspire to this?Plan where you want to go and create a pathway to get there. Be honest with what your gaps are and improve them. Find businesses where you can make a difference, that excite you and where you ‘fit‘. If you rate a particular leader, then either get a job with them or see if they will mentor you.Choose your battles and understand the impact of your decisions on the business, the brand and other people within the business.Outside your business, give your time to contribute to the betterment of your industry – this will also raise your profile. What groups are there you can join? What initiatives can you develop and lead that will improve the business ecosystem for the industry?What do you think are the most important strengths/skills women need in the workforce now and in the future?The same skills any person needs to be successful. I do not see the key strengths/skills as being different for women. Own your ideas, speak up and add value. However, if you want to position yourself for an executive role, do not volunteer to take notes in meetings or organise the coffee or bring in the baking.When negotiating your remuneration, show how you add value to the business and know what the market rates are for your role. Make sure you have a list of the achievements in the previous year and what your plans are to move the business forward. Take the emotion out of it. The business is not hiring you. They are hiring what you bring to the company.We all know how important networking is. What is your networking strategy?I like talking to interesting people who can see new ways of solving challenges. I seek out people who may have similar challenges to me and share ideas with them. I do not believe it is a numbers game. I would rather have fewer good people that I can call than have the largest list of people.What do you think the biggest challenge facing females in the corporate world, and females in business more generally, at the moment?Confidence. This is the biggest difference I see between men and women in a work environment. I thought it was a Kiwi thing, but I think it is more of women underestimating what they bring to the table. Find the forums to accelerate your worth to the business. If you are delivering value and your employer is not valuing it, then ask for feedback and do not be afraid of what you hear. Then you can decide if there are changes you need to make at work or if the current business is not one that will fulfil your goals and instead find a new one.Would you like to hear Laura Maxwell and other inspirational speakers share their journeys and leadership advice? Join us at the NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium from 21-22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. To secure your seat at this phenomenal event, register now.  


Mai Chen, Inaugural Chair, NZ Global Women, shares invaluable advice for women​

Mai Chen

As far as career achievements go, you do not get much more impressive than that of the incredible Mai Chen. A lawyer by trade, Mai is currently Managing Partner of Chen Palmer Public and Employment Law Specialists and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Auckland School of Law. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg of her amazing professional accolades. Mai is also a BNZ Board Director and a superdiversity expert. She holds many roles that showcase her unique skills in this area, for example, Chair, New Zealand Asian Leaders; Chair Superdiversity Centre for Law, Policy and Business; and Inaugural Chair, NZ Global Women and SUPERdiverse Women. With a list of achievements that impressive, it is of little surprise that she has been a finalist for New Zealander of the Year in 2014 and 2016 and was also in the Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life in the Global Diversity List 2016, affiliated with the Global Diversity Awards (producer of the annual European Diversity Awards) and supported by The Economist.

Given the fact that she is arguably one of New Zealand’s most respected and recognised female leaders, we thought we would ask her to share some words of wisdom for any females aspiring to roles like hers.  Here is what she had to say.


Mai believes that women need to meditate as a form of self-reflection. Essentially, she says, meditation can give you clarity on where you really want to go and help you create a plan to get there. According to Mai, "Ultimately, meditation will help you to find your own truth…rather than accept a projection of other people’s expectations and biases."

Do not wait for perfect conditions

Mai truly believes that done is better than perfect. She says that women "do not take opportunities because we never feel quite ready…stop waiting for perfect conditions and make the most of conditions right now. Life is always going to be difficult!"

Live every day as though it is your last

Mai thinks that we all need to embrace the now in a big way. She has achieved this by accepting that she will not be around forever. Accordingly, she makes decisions about how she spends her time, whom she spends it with, and what sacrifices she is prepared to make every day. Of this, she says, ”It is liberating! When I am not sure, I say to myself, give it a go. If you wait much longer, you might not have the opportunity to try.“

Make a move!

Related to her last point, Mai thinks it is important to give things a shot and see how they go. By doing this, Mai says that women will get a chance to find out whether whatever it is they are trying is right for them, and even if it is not, they will not have to die wondering!

Do not make life harder for yourself

One of Mai’s favourite quotes is from Tim Sole, and it goes something like this, “Unless you are in a diving competition, there are no points in life for difficulty.“ In a nutshell, this is Mai’s philosophy on life: do not make it harder than it needs to be. Examples she cites are: getting a 6am flight is rarely essential; saying no to taking on seven things at once on short deadlines is fine; letting yourself sleep in and not running another 5 km when you are knackered is okay; and talk to the boss, that is you, and let up on yourself.

And we could not agree more.

If you want to hear more from the inspirational Mai Chen, along with an incredible line up of other speakers, then grab your tickets to the NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium. This phenomenal event is due to be held from 21-22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. Early bird tickets are currently available, but only until 28 April, so get your ticket today for a discount of up to $500.


Women and Leadership New Zealand