The winners of this year’s 2022 Women in Governance Awards were announced at a gala dinner at Parliament’s Banquet Hall last night.
The awards were presented by Minister for Women, Jan Tinetti.
It was a big night for Waikato-based, Meleane Burgess, who took away trophies for the Pacific Governance Leader Award and Rising Governance Star Award.
Judges of the Pacific Governance Leader category applauded Ms Burgess’ “tireless service” to the Pacific community, not only in the Waikato region but also at a national level.
“Meleane is committed to paving the way for many up-and-coming Pacific peoples in the governance space, especially for the younger generation and making sure that Pacific people are at the forefront of all decision making and their voices are heard in all four corners of Aotearoa,” the judges said.
The judges spoke of Ms Burgess’ focus, determination and resilience to establish her governance career, in the face of challenges of youth and gender – establishing herself as a true rising governance star of the future.
Auckland based accounting firm, WE Accounting took home the prestigious Gender Diverse Organisation Leader Award, with the judges calling their work, “insightful, inclusive, innovative, sustained”, focused on systemic advocacy and actions for gender equality and ethnic diversity.
The judges noted that the firm was “creating system change far beyond [their] own organisation in a profession that is still very male dominated.”
Mele Wendt received the Not-for-Profit Governance Leader Award and was commended by the judges for her demonstrated leadership of over 25 years.
“Mele has six current governance positions with a previous 15 governance roles where she has been a mentor for other women, changing the narrative and being very influential in the political and not for profit space,” the judging panel said.
Inspiring and pathing the way for other wahine Māori to follow, Deputy Chair of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Tania Simpson was awarded the Māori Governance Leader Award.
Often both the first woman, and the first Māori to be appointed to esteemed boards, the judges admired the strength of Tania’s appointments and the strategic influence she leads, opening minds and hearts to the importance of Māori values and Treaty partnership in business.
The inaugural Ethnic Communities Governance Leader Award went to Nuwanthie Samarakone who stood out to judges for her versatility in governance roles and her significant contribution to those boards as an ethnic woman.
The judges said they were impressed by the diversity of her roles and the depth of industry range.
“Some of these industries and sectors have been and to a great extent still continue to be male dominated. An ethnic woman cracking those barriers and sitting on those boards is commendable,” the panel said.
Susan Doughty and Elle Archer were joint winners of the newly introduced Gender Champion award.
Recognised for their commitment to achieving gender equality for all women at the board table, the judges said each winner drove gender and diversity change in their own, different spaces and both were successful in making an impact.
Recognised as a gender pay equity expert and a public advocate for gender equity, the judges commented that Ms Doughty was a highly skilled practitioner in Diversity and Inclusion, “and a seasoned governance professional using her expertise to make a significant difference to gender equality.”
They said Ms Archer’s career success in itself demonstrated gender champion.
“Elle is a disruptor, committed to achieving gender equality in the digital infrastructure sector, and represents a different type of leadership using technology to impact gender equity change,” they said.
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognises a woman who has made a lifelong commitment to governance and leadership. This year’s award went to Sally Morrison, a trailblazer for women in sport in New Zealand.
“Her governance roles have demonstrated a passion and commitment to female participation in a diverse range of sports and in her sports governance roles, not only has she achieved a number of ‘firsts’, she has demonstrated impressive resilience, a powerful work ethic and an authentic commitment to people and communities,” said the judges.