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.  


Thoughts on the 2016 Women’s Leadership Symposium​

Megan Dalla Camina on stage in Sydney 2016

My interest in attending this year’s Women’s Leadership Symposium was for both personal and professional reasons; as the mother of a six-year-old, Principal Solicitor at my own immigration law firm and the Managing Director of my own company, I was keen to learn new tips for finding the holy-grail that is the elusive work-life balance.

As a seasoned attendee of conferences on business, feminism and leadership, part of me wondered if I would hear anything new at the conference, or whether we would be (yet again) asked the same questions. Fortunately a great number of new topics, ideas and perspectives were introduced and I found myself mesmerized by the discussion. I was scribbling notes furiously.

The symposium made me appreciate that the conversation had evolved. There was an acknowledgement of the complexity of the issues facing women in the workforce and a need for them to be considered on multiple levels.

Discussion took shape around topics such as: as a society, what do we need to do to facilitate a work-life balance for women, and men? What part should corporations and government play? On an individual level, how can we have a balanced life? We considered how to reach personal goals, whether they were related to time spent with family, time spent facilitating personal growth, re-entering the workforce, helping others or being a catalyst for change. But the biggest question related to the notion that, as women, what are the additional challenges we face with regard to career progression?


Sydney Panel


“The symposium made me appreciate that the conversation had evolved. There was an acknowledgement of the complexity of the issues facing women in the workforce and a need for them to be considered on multiple levels. “

Each presenter considered issues by telling their story and sharing what motivated and inspired them, how they built resilience and how their journey still continues. Interestingly, despite the differences in personal circumstances, all presenters delivered two universal messages: one was the importance of putting health and well-being first - a lesson that had been learned by some the hard way. The second was that the path to success did not need to be linear and could certainly incorporate failure.

It was inspiring to hear each presenter talk, not just about overcoming challenges such as ill health, financial set-backs, personal failures and just plain bad luck, but how these challenges were catalysts for positive change and growth.

 I was impressed by the diversity of speakers and audience members who were made up of women from a vast cross-section of industries, covering senior executives, elite athletes, students, board members, those working in finance and banking, the not-for-profit sector and government, entrepreneurs, entertainers, media personalities, artists, academics and scientists. You name it.

“Unlike some networking events which can be awkward or intimidating, the symposium was more like a relaxed community gathering. Participants were open and friendly, and it was easy to enter into conversations and exchange contact details."

Suzi Sydney Symposium


On a purely practical level, it was an incredibly well organised conference. The speakers were engaging and informative, entertaining and moving. The presentations were well paced and just long enough (around thirty-forty minutes). The schedule ran on time and was led by Suzi Finkelstein, a truly impressive communicator and conference facilitator.

One of the additional benefits of the symposium was that it provided ample opportunities for participants to mix and converse with each other and the speakers.

Unlike some networking events which can be awkward or intimidating, the symposium was more like a relaxed community gathering. Participants were open and friendly, and it was easy to enter into conversations and exchange contact details.

Attending this year’s Sydney Women’s Leadership Symposium was a wonderful opportunity. I have already recommended the event to many of my friends, colleagues and professional contacts as being a very worthwhile and beneficial experience and I am already looking forward to attending next year’s event.

Rita Chowdhury is a corporate immigration adviser and Principal Solicitor at Integrate Legal. She is also the co-founder and director of Career Catapult. For more about Rita, see:

Women and Leadership New Zealand