Members Spotlight | New Beginnings

The month of July was a call for celebrations on new beginnings!

Guiding us with their journeys of accomplishments are members Cassandra Crowley, Isobel Kerr-Newell and Juliet Tainui-Hernandez.

Sit back and be inspired by their strength of tenacity.

Isobel Kerr-Newell, Group CEO of VideoTaxi and Artemis Communications

Isobel Kerr-Newell is a dynamic, highly-motivated leader and entrepreneur who brings, literally, a world of public relations, communications, branding and social media from her extensive and award-winning background with Saatchi & Saatchi to her newly formed Artemis Communications. 

I asked Isobel about her background and experiences, and why she recently founded Artemis.  (And is your company named for the Greek Goddess?)

“I have two children; a son who has just turned two, and a daughter who is nearly five, so I came through the brutal Covid years working at home and raising babies. I found out I was pregnant with my 2nd child on the day of the MSL New Zealand launch. That’s an experience I wouldn’t go through again by choice, however, it has built my strength and resilience. I don’t have the support of family or a nanny in Tamaki Makaurau, however, I do have a very supportive partner and both our kids go to a great daycare. We both work hard, and it’s pretty challenging at times.

So, you asked me, why Artemis and why now?  I have wanted to build a future-facing communications agency for a long time, and while it’s certainly a very busy time in my life, it felt like the right time – for a number of reasons.  After working for 20 years for one network in different guises, approaching 40, and coming out the other side of the life changing experience of working through Covid with two under-fives, I needed a fresh challenge. This new beginning for me started with accepting a non-executive director with a digital content company VideoTaxi where I experienced a true meeting of minds with the team and a reignited passion for a part of my industry that I had long been drawn to. This decision led me to eventually move into the CEO role at VideoTaxi and then most recently to launch Artemis Communications as well. It’s been just over a year since I took that first step and I’m so grateful I did as it has lead me to this incredible new phase of my career and has refreshed my personal purpose as well.

The concept of Artemis has been very client-led, built through learning and listening to what is needed.  The message I kept hearing was a demand for a seamless, integrated portfolio of services. Artemis focuses on building long term value for clients through work that ‘drives connection, inspires action, impacts culture, and creates meaningful change.’

It is indeed named after the Greek Goddess, who is also known as Diana the Huntress. She was the daughter of Zeus and given that we’re a company founded on strong female energy and a desire to put positive energy into the world, it felt like a fitting name!”

Please tell us how Artemis aligns with VideoTaxi and what the two companies will provide for clients in supercharging corporate communications.

“The strategy across both organisations recognizes that content is at the heart of modern communications. Each entity has its own strengths and can complement and amplify the other. The creation of Artemis was deliberately organic through listening to the needs of clients, and purposely designed to provide this addition to VideoTaxi, but Artemis is also forging a fresh new service offering to its own growing client base.”

Is your concept new in the world of communications?  Does it place you at the leading edge?

“The culture we are constructing is ultimately what I hope will be our key point of difference. Not just to set us apart, but to contribute to driving the whole industry forward for everyone’s benefit. With people truly at the centre, we want to be the antidote to the burn and churn of the current industry norms. This is my passion – my commitment to build and shape things differently. In creating Artemis and in the decisions we make every day, our team consciously addresses and challenges our own corporate muscle memories by asking; is there a smarter better or more productive and healthy way to do this?

With regard to our approach on the service we are delivering – Artemis brings together the best experts in their fields and takes a holistic view on how to meet a client’s challenge. We believe it offers a fresh, compelling communications contribution to the market.

It’s early days for Artemis, however, we had an amazing response to the launch and have already built a strong client base and an incredible team.”

You have partnered with Global Women, as a member, and as a communications expert.  How do you feel that women are progressing in the media space with regard to equity and inclusion?

“In terms of the work we’ve been doing with Global Women over a number of years in my current and former roles with my colleague Beccy Churchill, we have focused on championing the voices of women in the media, to make them stronger and more frequent. We have also been making sure that those conversations around equity inclusion, representation, and challenging biases weren’t something we just talked about on International Women’s Day, but every day. We need a strong, regular drumbeat if we are going to make change.

Another way I believe we can all help to progress the conversation and the representation of women generally is in the way we are telling our own stories. I think it’s really important to ensure we are presenting ourselves as relatable role models for the women who are coming through next while ensuring that we are being authentic to the reality of our experiences.

When I was coming through school and university looking up at the women ahead of me, it was very much an era of ‘you can have it all’; the incredible career, 2.5 children, a great relationship, and a perfectly balanced life. In my late thirties I collided with the reality that this particular dream might not be entirely achievable or sustainable, at least not without a comprehensive support system. As I get further down the line in my career and as a mother, I’ve learned that being relatable and authentic about my experience is really important if we are going to make things more manageable for the next generation. When I think back to the most impactful lessons I learned, it is often the moments of vulnerability and glimpses of their own reality the women shared with me. I believe it’s about being mindful and unafraid to sometimes show the cracks, flaws and stress points that can be equally as powerful as presenting our accolades.

I believe it’s also important that we all stay restless. That we make sure we don’t rest and sit back and say “this is will do”, “things are fine” or “it’s alright in my organisation”. There’s still a lot of change to be made. It might be harder to see at times, but it’s important that we continue to address and shine the light on biases around women that still permeate our culture, otherwise they just remain under the surface, simmering away and ultimately holding us all back. I feel we have a responsibility to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, for having the hard conversations to look harder and deeper at what and why things need to change. With just 6 women out of 50 of our NZXCEOs, it’s clear there is still work to do.

I’ve recently shared my views on this in the Herald in an opinion piece: ‘Disappearing Women’. It’s had an incredible response from Global Women members and beyond and I’m so grateful to everyone who engaged with me as it has really strengthened my resolve to keep raising my voice – even when it feels disruptive or uncomfortable. You can read the full article here:

What advice do you have for women who are new to entrepreneurial enterprises about how to succeed in their endeavours?

“Build your own advisory board. Formal or informal – everyone needs a tight group around them who can act as mentors, sounding boards or emotional support through the challenging times and help them navigate through the journey. I feel so fortunate to have established my own network of former colleagues, clients and leaders I can call on who have been my ‘advisory board’ over the years as they have been a fundamental component to my success.

My second piece of advice for women who are considering their entrepreneurial options is – just do it!  You’ve done your research, you’ve done multiple iterations of your business plan no doubt, you’ve upskilled yourself. You are ready, so just take the leap. We are all aware of the ‘confidence gap’ and imposter syndrome that holds women back, along with the weight of responsibility we often carry for our families. I definitely feel like these things stopped me taking the leap earlier, but now I have, there is no looking back.”

You have achieved a great deal recently, however because you are so forward-focused, I have to ask, ‘what’s next for you?’

For now, focusing, on continuing to build the VideoTaxi and Artemis team and creating impact for our clients, and in parallel to that, I want to pursue my personal mission – to keep creating change for women. For me, that means using my voice and the platforms I have available to keep having those uncomfortable conversations, to help lift the voices of others who may be harder to hear or have been muffled and continuing to smooth the pathway for women coming through so that it will be different and I hope better for our sisters, daughters and granddaughters that follow us.”

Isobel, we at Global Women are indeed grateful to have you in our midst, with your superb thinking, business drive, and energy for progressing other women!

Juliet Tainui-Hernandez, Assistant Governor and General Manager of Transformation, Innovation, People and Culture, Te Pūtea Matua/The Reserve Bank of New Zealand

Vivacious, passionate Juliet Tainui-Hernandez (Ngāi Tahu, Te Whakatōhea) returned to Aotearoa NZ in 2020 after two illustrious decades abroad (in Australia, Hong Kong and the UK) to take up the role of Assistant Governor and General Manager of Transformation, Innovation, People and Culture at Te Pūtea Matua (the Reserve Bank of New Zealand) and a non-executive directorship on Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation, the intergenerational investment arm of Ngāi Tahu. She is a qualified Barrister and Solicitor in the New Zealand High Court, a solicitor in the Supreme Court of New South Wales and a solicitor in England and Wales. 

I asked Juliet to tell us how her amazing professional journey started, and who were her mentors and guides.

“I grew up in Akaroa on Banks Peninsula.  My father’s whānau has lived on the Peninsula for generations.  It was a wonderful life-style for a child being out in nature and living in Ōnuku in close proximity to our kaika (the Ngāi Tahu dialect word for ‘home’ – kainga means ‘home’ in Māori.)  Ōnuku is the bay just over the hill from Akaroa towards the harbour heads.  I grew up with my parents and brother and also very closely with my large wider whānau; my father was one of eight.  Many of his siblings, his cousins, and their families lived nearby, so I shared close relationships with all of my first and second cousins – in and out of their houses in Akaroa and the environs.  As a number of these cousins were female, I had a natural sisterhood growing up as part of our broader whānau and hapū, which is a key part of the way kinship works in te ao Māori.

My grandfather, John Tainui, died in his 30s before I was born leaving my grandmother Bernice, my Taua or Nan, to look after their eight children aloneAlthough her whakapapa links were Te Whakatōhea in the Bay of Plenty (her dad) and her mother was Irish (her parents were immigrants who had settled in Christchurch), Nan spent the bulk of her life in Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island) and so was very connected with Ngāi Tahu.  She was a member of the Māori Women’s League and also my first influencer; our matriarch and a real mentor, she was an amazingly strong wahine, yet very kind and understated.  She was a quiet activist, also a kaumatua of Plunket for years, a Justice of the Peace, and she received a QSM for her services to Māori.

Education has always been very important in my family. My grandparents and parents focused on education, learning, and community service with the expectation of participation in marae life. When my grandfather died (on the sidelines of a rugby game in Akaroa) the community came together to help my Nan with raising funds to help with the family and the children’s education, which was always seen as an important means to grow and advance.  My father and I both boarded in Christchurch for high school.  I attended Te Wai Pounamu Girls’ college. This was a formative time for me and really built a strength in my identity and knowing who I was, and that what I could learn and do was important.

While I was in the fifth form at Te Wai Pounamu, the boarding house closed down so I continued my schooling at Avonside Girls’, moving in with one of the girls from my class.  I enjoyed languages, Maths, Economics and PE at school, but I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do when I left school.  With some insistence from my dad I enrolled at the University of Canterbury.  At University I picked up law alongside Māori Studies, Japanese, Computer Science and a range of other subjects.  Law was an extra subject, but as I learned more about it, my interest grew.

I realised I was good with research, critical thinking and writing skills and in one of the summers I did a Land Court research project for the strategy and legal team supporting the Ngāi Tahu Settlement negotiations with the Crown. Ngāi Tahu then offered me a part time job as an intern for the final two years of my degrees.  I worked with some amazing advisers at Ngāi Tahu who were influential on my life and also became mentors.  It was there I also met a number of our Rangatira, including Tipene O’Regan who was our lead negotiator.  As a student that time was truly mind-expanding and it also really piqued my interest in the law and seeing how it worked.

When I finished at University, I went to work in a team at Bell Gully in Pōneke supervised by Chris Finlayson as Responsible Partner.  There I continued to work on Ngāi Tahu-related matters and more broadly on Te Tiriti matters including the Fisheries Settlement litigation and more.   Even then Chris knew he wanted to be the future Attorney General!  He set supremely high standards of his junior lawyers; we worked hard and had to get our grammar right, and his office was pristine, but I learned a lot and it was a fantastic training ground.

Chris and Tipene took me to dinner one night and when talking about my future they persuaded me of the benefits of going off-shore to grow my skills and build perspective. Following the advice to go overseas from two incredibly talented people was definitely the making of me; it lifted me out of my comfort zone and provided opportunities and a life I could never have imagined were possible.  I often think of that dinner I had with Chris and Tipene, both because of the advice, but also because I knew I’d one day return to Aotearoa and give back to Ngāi Tahu.”

You are a rangatira at Te Pūtea Matua. Why did you decide to accept this new role, what does your mahi entail and how is it supporting the growth and prosperity of Maori in Aotearoa NZ?

“When I first went to England in 2002, I took a role at Clifford Chance, one of the biggest international law firms in the world, headquartered in London. I worked in the General Counsel, Risk and Compliance function which was quite a new thing for law firms at the time – because of their scale they’d decided to run things quite differently and centralise their internal legal, risk and compliance work.  I worked on identifying potential conflicts between their clients and offices and other regulatory compliance and conduct matters.  They sent me on secondment to Hong Kong for a year to look after risk and compliance for their six Asia offices, working for their Asia COO.  In that time there were a range of regulatory reforms including the introduction of the first tranche of EU anti-money laundering regulations, followed by new professional conduct rules and more, which created and contributed to regulatory change projects implementing new systems, controls, processes, functions, and capabilities in the firm. The firm was also working on the design and delivery of a large global practice management system IT project and considering the optimal organization design of their international risk and compliance function.  This where my interests in regulation and change began, which ultimately led me to my current role with the Reserve Bank.

Until 2020 however I worked internationally in the regulatory and transformation spaces for several large international law firms.  My most recent international firm had grown to 58 offices, following several international mergers and combinations.  There I started as a Partner and their Chief Compliance Officer and over time picked up responsibilities for their large-scale business transformation programme. I supported the CEO and COO on several projects to drive greater value, consider optimal functional structures, automation and process improvement, as well as integrate the practices and people alongside my regulatory work – and this is where my interest in transformation was further stimulated.  I was responsible for the UK, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Brazil regions (26 of the 58 offices) which required a lot of travel but involved fascinating work and consideration of where commonality of different offices and cultures might lie, how we could create better integration, identifying and resolving issues through building greater awareness and getting people on board.  Highlights of that time for me were working with many different people and cultures and bringing together different viewpoints for greater outcomes.

I started considering coming home because I wanted to give my children a connection to New Zealand, their identity, and their iwi.  When I saw the role description at the Reserve Bank, I realised that the synergy of all my experience over the past 20 years could be focused on transformation and people at Te Pūtea Matua.  It would be an opportunity to learn more by working in a different sector, whilst bringing my expertise on regulatory and broader change. The role also offered the potential to bring a te ao Māori lens to what we do…  to think about how we create change in the system and support the people going through the change, in a way that contributes to our overarching purpose at Te Pūtea Matua, which is to promote the economic prosperity and wellbeing of all New Zealanders – Toitū te Ōhanga, Toitū te Oranga.”

You’re also continuing in your role as a non-executive board director of Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation, which is the investment arm of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu which is there to restore the iwi so its people can thrive and realise their aspirations.  Do your two roles complement each other? Is your mahi at the Reserve Bank guided by your Ngāi Tahu knowledge?

“Yes, and they very much complement each other.  I get to bring my knowledge and matauranga from my childhood and the work I’ve done with Ngāi Tahu and Bell Gully on Te Tiriti matters into the Reserve Bank, which as part of its mandate considers financial inclusion and broader economic wellbeing of New Zealand as a whole.  Ngāi Tahu Holdings mahi contributes to replenishing the wellbeing of our whanau, hapū and iwi – and ultimately the growth and success of the Māori economy contributes to the economic wellbeing of our whole country.  A rising tide lifts all boats.”

You’re the mother of two tamariki who are learning to become fluent in te reo. Do you feel that Aotearoa NZ is moving forward with regard to embracing te reo, tikanga Māori and other elements of te ao Māori and culture that take New Zealand towards being a truly bi-cultural nation which honours the partnership anticipated with Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

“A big wish for me is that my children become fluent in te reo. I only learned a little as a child around the marae and then some more at school and university, but my great-grandfather was the last native speaker in our family and he died before I was born.  I also learned our local tikanga and customs around mahinga kai, but unfortunately not fluent language – so I’m now a second language learner!  My daughter Paloma Pounamu is doing so well with it – we returned to New Zealand just before she turned six, so it’s been amazing to watch her growth over the last couple of years in her reo rumaki (total immersion) class at Te Rehu (Westmere school).  My daughter is going to be fully fluent, and it brings me so much joy to be able to see us bridge that gap between my ancestors and her.  It’s been a bit tougher for my son Oscar Poutini who at 11, will need to work a bit harder.  That said, Oscar’s Spanish is good because my husband Javier is from Puerto Rico and his mother, their Abuela (grandmother), doesn’t speak English, and Oscar spent a lot of time with her when we were in the northern hemisphere.  I met my husband in London in 2002 and we got married in NZ in 2010.  We shared a huge Māori wedding at Onuku with whānau, our latin Familia, and many international guests in attendance from around world.

I do think we are making good progress in the country with te reo.  After 20 years out of the country it has brought me great joy to return to see the mahi in progress in normalization of te reo in mainstream society, seeing it being used on TV and in the media, and also within the Reserve Bank – it’s amazing in one generation!  The Bank offers free te reo lessons to our staff and we have a whole learning programme that covers te ao māori, which our staff love!”

Why did you join Global Women and how do you believe the organization is doing as we move forward into increased inclusion and focus on equality?

One of the Reserve Bank board members, Tania Simpson, mentioned that she was a member of Global Women, and that because I’d been away for 20 years I should join, so I did! I love to build relationships and to meet people, especially forward-focused women wanting to make a real difference.  I have also loved seeing the work that Agnes Naera is doing with Global Women, bringing an intersectional lens with te ao Māori as well.

I am super pleased about the trajectory and the growing open-mindedness in looking at diversity, equity and inclusion for our country and seeing the beauty and strength te ao māori can bring.  I’m excited that our institutions are transforming to reflect our new New Zealand and believe we are on the cusp of forming our own fantastic national identity that will lift us all up – tangata whenua and tangata tiriti together.  I really hope the trajectory continues as the possibilities for transformation and our country are truly exciting.   That said, I’m also a little nervous because I see too that there are a few sections of our society that are afraid of the change.  I truly believe however that we will all thrive if we can bring our worldviews together and create and establish our own unique Aotearoa.  Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi – With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive

Was the recent Matariki holiday a positive message that Aotearoa NZ is moving forward to new beginnings?

“Yes absolutely.  Our new Matariki public holiday is a wonderful sign of the whakataukī (proverb) above and where we can and are going as a nation.  I love the way New Zealanders of all kinds have embraced and recognized this beautiful te ao māori event as something that we can honour and celebrate together.  It’s a special, unique New Zealand holiday, a time to take stock and give thanks, remember our loved ones who have passed, focus on our families and what’s ahead, which creates so much for the country as a whole.

At Te Pūtea Matua, we have also celebrated Matariki for the last two years, using it as a way to bring people together, deepen our culture and create inclusion.  Long may it continue!  My Pākehā and international colleagues have been as excited as my Māori colleagues; we’ve been leaning into the chance for whakawhanaungatanga (deepening our relationships), learning more about our history together, matauranga māori including our Māori lunar cycles and astronomy, and how the stars were used in Māori navigation and life – there are so many cool dimensions around this holiday.”

And Juliet’s closing comments…

This interview is taking place in the early days of our Māori new year following the rise of Matariki – which I think is a great time for messaging around deepening down and looking to the horizon towards our future nation-building; it’s also a message of encouragement to those who continue to build the momentum, but also to those more cautious or holding onto some fears – there is so much in our future for us to grow from together.”

Juliet, we are so fortunate that you chose to return to Aotearoa New Zealand, where you can share your indelible gifts with our country!

Cassandra Crowley, CEO, Te Arawa Management Limited

Vibrant Cassandra Crowley has an extensive and celebrated background in finance, education, technology, tourism, retail, compliance, membership organisations, health, infrastructure, manufacturing, property, central and local government, the Māori economy and entrepreneurship, alongside professional accreditations as a Chartered Accountant (Fellow) and Barrister & Solicitor.

Since 2017, she has been the CEO of Te Arawa Management Limited (TAML), so I asked Cassandra about her role. 

“Te Arawa Management Limited is the commercial arm of the Te Arawa Lakes Trust in the Bay of Plenty, that is owner or hungatiaki of the 14 lakes beds in the Rotorua region. The Trust received the legacy assets from the Te Arawa Māori Trust Board when it settled the lakes claim with the Crown in 2006 and hadn’t acquired many new assets since that point.  In choosing to invest in some dedicated resourcing we initiated that process of asset development and acquisition.  TAML now has a kiwifruit orchard portfolio, forestry, dairy farms, property development, and only two weeks ago we invested in our first tourism venture by purchasing a local aviation business.  At the same time, we have been supporting our parent board in expanding its restoration of the taiao and other contract initiatives that have created employment opportunities for our people and environmental outcomes for the broader community.

We refer to ourselves as ‘Profit for Purpose’ as we operate commercially but also seek multi-disciplinary and sustainable outcomes – it’s a concept that is at the core of being a Māori organization but is becoming more and more prevalent across all entities. We don’t make profit at any cost. Most of our people whakapapa to Te Arawa, and the things that we are responsible for are in our DNA.  While we act for the benefit of our registered members, our parent is charged with serving the interests of Te Arawa as a whole. When we think about the community that we serve, it is a series of  ever- expanding circles through those that work for us, our registered members, all of Te Arawa, those that live in and around our lakes, those who visit Rotorua and on and on – we are creating a cultural richness that engages and enhances our environment.”

You are pākehā, working in a Māori organisation.  Tell us about this.

“While we are fortunate that most of our staff whakapapa to Te Arawa, we have many people who whakapapa to other iwi working within our group and people from diverse cultural backgrounds – yet they all have a ngākau Māori – a way of being and value set that resonates.  I realise how fortunate I am to occupy a space and be invited to be of assistance.  It is like any family business; the opportunity to be involved is never a right, and I always have more to learn.

I think it is important not to place too much weight on what people view as “normal” particularly when it relates to how you show up in your community, workplace or family.   People are often surprised about my roles!  I’m pākehā and work with some Māori organisations.  I have a governance portfolio and retain an executive role. I have a young child and I took limited leave when she was born; my husband is the primary caregiver.

I originally came from Taranaki, then lived for a long time in Wellington.  In some ways I’m a city girl at heart.  I love the things that cities deliver –  great food, arts, the environment, ideas, activity, and opportunities to connect with people. But I have also always loved what we have regionally; easy places to live, side by side with nature, and in the Bay of Plenty there’s an amazing richness of people who have an entrepreneurial spirit.  We live in a community that fosters startups and capital.  Oriens Capital was set up in Tauranga with a mandate to invest in regional New Zealand.

People might say I haven’t worked for commercial organisations if they don’t understand what goes into a $1b roading project or explain what goes on inside an iwi organisation. You can look one-dimensionally or with a newness and broad lens that allows you to see and create opportunities others can’t readily see.

So, my being pākehā in a Māori organisation reflects buying into the customs and culture of that organisation.  I’m cautious about how we approach the conversation that normalises it as on one level our greatest success would be for all of our staff to whakapapa to Te Arawa.  In all our inter-cultural debates we need to understand utu in its broadest sense; reciprocity and balance and how those things come together.  I look at the values that drive New Zealand and the aspirations that many kiwis espouse … they are at their heart Māori values; our love of whānau and protecting our natural environment are two strong examples. There is so much that resonates and it’s from there that we build these concepts and create a nation where we recognise the opportunities that come from a shared value set despite some of the not insignificant challenges presented by our history.”

Recently, you hosted a Global Women Community Series event in the Bay of Plenty.  Please tell us about the event and what it created for the participants?

“One area where the regional centres are generally less successful is showcasing our amazing female talent in the way we it is done in the larger centres.  We have amazing professional women in our region, however, often they are invisible.   I love to connect women to a place or a network where they can thrive.  I think the Bay of Plenty is as exciting as Auckland for its commercial opportunities.

The series came about when Fiona McTavish and I were both nominated for Women of Influence awards.  We asked each other ‘how can we bring all the nominees in our area and their networks together?’ Then we connected with Global Women and ANZ and launched the Community Series.  I was conned into being the standing emcee! Every speaker is a Global Women member. Antonia Watson, the CEO of ANZ, kicked our series off. Sue Lund has been phenomenal in making everything come together; she and Fiona took a concept and made it work!

When we live in smaller areas, we often think we know everyone locally.  However, at our event in Whakatāne, there were people meeting each other for the first time as we delivered a cross-pollination of industries and a kaupapa that people were attracted to.   Today, as many of us work remotely or with colleagues across the country or in the global community, it’s also really important to say that professional intellect, friendship and camaraderie can exist in your hometown. We can remind each other of the breadth of the opportunities in the modern environment in a paid capacity.  We are now into year two of the Community Series. For not being sure if there was a demand for a second one, let alone number six, it shows the importance of these gatherings to women in the Bay of Plenty.

Our next in the Series is Learn/Lead/Legacy which will be held on Monday 24 July.  Theresa Gattung and Laurissa Cooney will speak on The Leadership Journey & How we Can Build an Equitable and More Profitable Aotearoa, so the focus is on success and equity. We started with three sessions per year; this is a series that other regions could replicate.”

As a member of Global Women, how do you think we are doing as an organisation to forge new pathways and places for women in Aotearoa New Zealand?

One of the excellent things that Global Women does is create an environment for women to be open and aspirational. And when women are willing to bring others with them on the journey, whether it be through Mozaic, the Hui or WhatsApp, identifying and promoting the network and all it can offer, its fabulous!  It’s about the success of Global Women on the local, national and global stage I love the fact it’s about the women of New Zealand and how we can be successful on our own terms being the authentically fabulous wāhine that we are!”

As we celebrate Matariki, please tell us what this means to you.

“I think it’s phenomenal!  Aotearoa is celebrating our indigenous culture.  I’m from Taranaki, where we celebrate panga. I was at an event where someone asked about plans for the long weekend celebrating Matariki and it provided a really great opportunity to talk about puanga and matariki, our regional differences.

Puanga is a single whetū (star). It’s not part of the Matariki cluster but appears in the evening sky shortly before Matariki rises each year. Puanga is the brightest star in the constellation. Orion, that rises higher in the sky than Matariki is viewed more easily in some parts of the country.

Our kids come home from school having made matariki stars.  This enables adult New Zealanders to talk about Matariki, and helps us all to learn about Māori culture by opening up conversations that wouldn’t normally take place.  Whether it be understanding more about astrology and our changing sky, or how different iwi have different customs and practices or why the Māori new year is in the middle of winter, there is the ability to engage with the concept on a level that feels right for individual knowledge sets.  As for Matariki itself, why not take a midwinter’s pause as an opportunity to reflect, be grateful and prepare for the months ahead.”

And final words to close…

“I want to encourage anyone who reads this article to be free to think about their future in a new way. For example if you run your own business then know it is OK to go back to working for other people, or vice versa. If you have always been an employee, you can try doing your own thing. I’ve held governance roles and executive roles.  I had my first directorship at 26. I’ve worked in non-traditional organisations. I’m an accountant and lawyer and curiously, have never worked in firms purely for either.  I don’t think what I’ve done is unusual, and in 2023 we should expect that people can live at Lake Tarawera and work for Google because our working world is pivoting.

Until recently , I had only one full time staff member at TAML with the rest working part-time, with many looking after children.  We are spread around the region while doing really exciting work.  As executives and governors we need to learn to employ across the age spectrum. It’s not something we should discriminate against.  At one point, I had an 83 and an 85 year-old in paid employment with me.  We gained so much from their experience and expertise and one of the most rewarding experiences was seeing a 19 year old learn from the 83 year old, and vice versa.  When things are not cookie cutter it means you can see opportunities in ways that others haven’t.  I have a broad lens and am fully supportive of people with much bigger lenses!”

Cassandra, thank you for “breaking the code” and showing us the power of flexibility to lead towards increased understanding and embracing of the cultures of Aotearoa New Zealand!


All interviews and stories written by our Editor in Residence, Jenni Prisk (Global Women Member)