Congratulations to our 2023 Breakthrough Leaders Programe Graduates!


Kei ōu ringaringa te ao.
The world is yours.


It is with immense pride that we share in celebrating the graduation of the Global Women Breakthrough Leaders for 2023.

Held at Ōrakei Marae, hosted by Ngāti Whātua, our graduation ceremony marked the end of the programme these wāhine have undertaken in 2023. It was by no means a fullstop in our participants leadership path: it was time of collective reflection and celebration. A moment of togetherness, with Sponsors, the programme’s facilitators, family members and students from Auckland Girls Grammar (who shared their voices in a powerful waiata).

Moreover, our graduation was a chance to celebrate the future-proof learnings and poetically enhanced by the Marae’s sweeping views of Rangitoto to Auckland city’s skyline, mirroring our Nation’s path to nationhood.

We’re proud to announce the following women, who have completed Breakthrough Leaders Programme in 2023, as the faces, voices and mana shaping our leadership.

As a participant shared on the night: we’re not bracing these women for the world — but rather bracing the world for these women. 

Aarti Narain

Chief Financial Officer, Tamaki Health Group

Sponsor | Tamaki Health Group

Aarti is a global senior executive who has worked internationally for multinationals & private equity owned Australasian businesses.Aarti is passionate about building high performing function, solution-focused results with commercial insights.

Alex Geale

Executive Manager Consumer Performance, IAG

Sponsor | IAG

Alex’s career spans across start-ups, corporate roles in communications, change, and culture. She jumped to operations, discovering her passion for leading large teams and empowering and fostering people potential. For the past 9 years, Alex has worked in various roles at IAG NZ, New Zealand’s largest insurer. In her free time, she supports Upside Mentoring, a youth mentoring program.

Amy Hitchcock

Head of Investment Operations, NZ Superfund

Sponsor | NZ Super Fund

Amy has held various roles at NZ Super Fund for 9 years. Before that, through her work at Deloitte she worked with top global organisations including Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Lehman Brothers, and Nomura. Outside of the office Amy can be found managing her children’s sport teams.

Anna Mitchell

Tribe Lead, Fibre Frontier, Chorus

Sponsor | Chorus

Anna leads a cross-functional team responsible for the strategic direction and implementation of rural strategy. Anna enjoys making the complex simple and aligning teams around a shared vision. Prior to joining Chorus, Anna served as senior advisor to a cabinet minister across a wide range of portfolios.

Aurelie Le Gall

Branch Manager – Auckland North, Fletcher Residential Limited

Sponsor | Fletcher Building

Aurelie spent 15+ years in recruitment / talent management where she led large teams of recruiters. “She is passionate about building successful teams, has led gender equity initiatives, and aims to inspire young women to thrive in male-dominated industries when choosing their careers.

Debbie Mills

Tribe Lead, Home Ownership and Insurance, Personal Banking, ASB

Sponsor | ASB Bank Limited

Debbie has worked in a variety of banking roles across the globe. The common link across many of these roles has been a delivery of large- scale transformation. Debbie has two twin teenager boys and her and is a lover of the outdoors.

Donna Sanders

Director Operations, Computer Concepts Ltd

Sponsor | Computer Concepts Ltd (Spark)

Donna has over 25 years’ experience in the IT industry. In her career she has embraced new ways of working and proactive management of various IT environments from people to processes. Donna enjoys working with teams and is passionate around contributing to future generations of the industry.

Georgia Mills

Head of Investment, NZ Trade & Enterprise

Sponsor | NZTE

Joining NZTE in 2017, Georgia loves the autonomy she has to create change, and being surrounded by smart, driven people in a purposeful environment. Georgia has lived and worked in London and New York, previously working at household names including KPMG, Westfield and Spark.

Jackie Waddams

General Counsel & Company Secretary, AIA NZ

Sponsor | AIA NZ

Jackie joined AIA in 2017 and was instrumental in the acquisition and integration of the Sovereign business and the portfolio transfer of the ex-AIA International. Prior to AIA, she spent many years working at Barclays Bank, Absa Bank in South Africa and the UAE and held a number of legal roles in London.

WGCDR Jennifer Atkinson

Op STAND – Reduction of Harm from Substance Misuse DHD, Defence Health Directorate

Sponsor | Royal NZ Air Force

Jennifer served as an RNZAF psychologist for 22 years, taking on diverse roles and leading gender initiatives during overseas deployments in the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and the U.S. She attributes hanging with her dog and competitive ultra- train running to keeping her sane.

Joanna Brain

General Manager Strategy & Masterplanning, Tāmaki Regeneration

Sponsor | Tāmaki Regeneration

Jo was born and raised in a small village in the north of England. Jo moved to NZ in 2008 and leads a team responsible for setting the strategic direction for the programme meet the needs of the various communities of Tāmaki. Jo is committed to driving outcomes that enhance the wellbeing of the Tāmaki community and is passionate about creating a sense of community and ownership for people.

Julie Calder

Head of Member Engagement, NIB

Sponsor | NIB

Julie’s career has been focused in the financial services industry within banking and insurance. She has a led large and complex change and transformation projects across multiple teams. She leads over 100 team members across operational and clinical functions.

Kerri Anne Hancock

Kaiwhakahaere, Te Kāhui Raraunga & Kaupare Law and Consultancy

Sponsor | Rotoiti 15 Ahu Whenua Trust, Kaupare Limited & Tindall Foundation Scholar

Kerri Anne’s career is diverse across both the public and private sector. Including Treaty settlement negotiations, environmental kaupapa and leadership positions within her iwi. Her biggest aspiration: ‘Ka uru Kahikatea te tū’ – to be like a beautiful Kahikatea tree, to stand strong and connected to her ngahere.

Kathryn Jane Dillon

Executive Director – AoG, COVID-19 Royal Commission of Inquiry, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Sponsor | Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE)

K-J’s background is in corporate strategy, governance and finance working with teams to drive better performance, innovate and growth. Her desire to lead and deliver results at an NZ-inc level has naturally led her towards the challenges of public sector service delivery, she spends her days trouble-shooting operational or service performance issues and later recharging with the great outdoors.

Korōria Tirikātene-LeCheminant

Spark Business Group Corporate Sales & Te Korowai Tupu (Māori Strategy)

Sponsor | Spark

Korōria has worked in telecommunications for 30+ years. Korōria manages a portfolio of South Island corporate clients and is a Kaiārahi for Te Wāipounamu at Spark. Her contribution to this Kaupapa is to encourage staff to participate in Spark Māori initiatives, support business channels in Te Ao Māori and most importantly participate in the revitalisation of Te reo. She is a keen motorbike enthusiast and when she’s not with her whanau you can find her out on the road.

Maxine Graham

Director, Pumau Limited

Sponsor | Waikato-Tanui & Tindall Foundation Scholar

Maxine is a kaupapa based servant leader, an advocate for an Aotearoa that honours Te Tiriti. Maxine has a wealth of experience working in education, iwi organisations and the public sector. Her strengths lie in creating cross-sector partnerships specifically crown-iwi leadership and engagement. Max is passionate for creating a better Aotearoa for future generations to thrive.

Melaine Cummings

Digital and Marketing Manager, Laminex NZ

Sponsor | Fletcher Building

With more than 20 years’ experience driving innovation across businesses. Melaine has a multitude of experience working with brands, products, platforms & services tools. She is passionate about understanding the reality of customers and unlocking her team’s potential in all that they do.

Melanie Biss

Head of Operational Risk & Compliance NZ,

ANZ Sponsor | ANZ

Melanie has experience in leadership, governance, banking, legal and wealth – through senior roles. She understands the importance of a culture that embraces and leverages difference. A sports fanatic, Melanie played premier netball, led Wellington’s largest netball club and was a weekend sports radio commentator.

Michelle Young

Head of Finance, ONE NZ

Sponsor | ONE NZ

Michelle started her career in interior design before pivoting into finance. For the past 8 years Michelle has worked at ONE NZ in various roles and loves the telecommunications industry. She enjoys developing people and bringing teams and individuals together to drive positive change.

Sela Finau

General Manager – Learner Success & Tiriti Policy, Ministry of Education

Sponsor | Department of Internal Affairs & Tindall Foundation Scholar

Over the last 15 years Sela has held a variety strategic and regulatory policy role in the public service. Sela is a leader and driver of community initiatives that supports the Pacific community and is a board member of Siaola, Vahefonua Methodist mission, a community base social service for Tongan and Pacific families throughout Aotearoa.

Talei Solomon-Mua

Trust Manager, Martin Hautus Foundation

Sponsor | Martin Hautus Foundation & Tindall Foundation Scholar

Working in education for 28 years and serving in governance and leadership roles for 10 years, Talei is passionate about helping families enhance their parenting skills. Currently she runs projects for Pasifika families enhancing their abilities getting them started on achieving the dreams and aspirations they have for themselves and their children.

Tara Macmillan

Head of Regulatory Strategic Programmes Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency

Sponsor | Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency

Tara has extensive experience in Supply Chain and procurement-related disciplines. Over the past 15 years Tara has held senior supply chain and leadership roles. Five years ago, Tara embarked on her journey with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, fueled by a passion for the public sector. Her aspiration is to contribute and positively impacts the lives of New Zealanders.

Leliani Frew

Deputy Secretary, Financial and Commercial, Treasury

Sponsor | Treasury

Leilani is a respected senior executive with 25+ years’ experience in global infrastructure, energy, and finance. Leilani has held leadership roles in global investment banks and the public sector. She is passionate about supporting emerging female leaders and does so through mentoring programmes and grassroots women’s rugby.

Julia Steenson

Director of Transformation, Ngā Maunga Whakahii o Kaipara

Sponsor | Ngāti Whātua and Tindall Foundation Scholar

Julia, a director, lawyer, and innovator, has a diverse background spanning corporate banking, tertiary education, and the public sector. In 2020, she was appointed as a Commissioner on the Royal Commission of Inquiry. Julia is actively involved in various iwi and nonprofit boards in Waikato and Ōrākei, with a strong commitment. She’s also known for developing an online risk program and hosting the NZ Free Law podcast, discussing all things law in NZ.

Pauline Martin

Chief Trading Officer, Genesis Energy

Sponsor | Genesis Energy

Pauline is responsible for helping Genesis navigate the future of trading as the sector moves towards increasingly sustainable markets. In addition to her expertise in wholesale markets, Pauline has experience in transmission, generation development, and retail markets.