Leading for Future Generations: Whakatāne Welcomes in our Women in Leadership Series 2024

“Grow great people around you” and “be present wherever you are” were some of the words of wisdom shared by Lorraine Mapu and Faylene Tunui at the inaugural event of our Women in Leadership Series for 2024 in Whakatāne. With great humility and candour, these two wāhine toa beautifully showcased the power of wāhine sharing their stories for our communities and rangatahi to connect, grow, and be stronger together.  

Our hosts, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, warmly welcomed in a full house through waiata, setting the tone for an intimate evening of generous and nourishing kōrero. Lorraine and Faylene were candid and open, speaking of community, family, and belonging to their multigenerational audience. As ANZ’s Managing Director for Business and Mayor of Kawerau respectively, Lorraine and Faylene acknowledged how Whakatāne and Kawerau have woven a community around their wāhine leaders. Each spoke about the importance of their roots and where they had come from, and of continuing to contribute back to the places, and people, that grew them. 

In addressing the importance of whānau, Lorraine and Faylene took a moment to acknowledge and celebrate grandmothers as strong role-models for young women. Faylene shared the wisdom of her grandmother and namesake, and Lorraine reminded the audience of the value in “taking time to smell the roses.” Another pearl of wisdom to arise through kōrero around family and familial principles and values was “do not be afraid to be your authentic self.” This thread was carried into a discussion of the importance of caring for future generations, not only in our communities but also in our workplaces. Lorraine and Faylene spoke of preparing jobs that will suit those that follow: “We are custodians of the organisations we are in, and our job is to prepare the organisation for the generations after us.”  

This focus on caring for past, present, and future generations was woven throughout the kōrero of the night. Each speaker spoke with wisdom, grace, and humility, embodying a generosity of spirit that is characteristic of the women leaders who present as part of our Women in Leadership series. Last year, at our first Whakatāne event, Kirsti Luke spoke to the whakataukī “Kāore te kūmara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka – the kūmara does not speak of its own sweetness.” Often women struggle with taking up space and speaking their stories, preferring forms of servant leadership that keep them out of the spotlight. Our speakers this year also drew on this whakataukī, addressing the discomfort often felt and the importance of speaking through it to share their stories for future generations. 

The insight emerged that, in sharing their stories, wisdom, and success, women leaders are proactively helping our daughters, the rangatahi on their journey, to better prepare one another. It is not about the kūmara speaking of how sweet it is, but about how we can weave together the strands we each have—especially if your strand does not fit. Together we can create a beautiful welcome mat that welcomes those that follow us to the whare. If we can help many women, Aotearoa New Zealand can be prosperous, and we will know we have done a good job: “You are a caretaker and your purpose is to grow the seedlings for the next generation. They will do more than you could imagine.”  

Lorraine and Faylene concluded their kōrero with words of wisdom for women at any stage of their leadership journey, encouraging the cultivation of grit and determination, and emphasising the importance of bringing all the gifts you have with you as a leader. It was a very special evening, bringing together and inspiring women leaders in the community.  

Thanks to our partnering hosts ANZ and Bay of Plenty Regional Council, to our speakers Lorraine Mapu and Faylene Tunui, and to our facilitator Cassandra Crowley.