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New Zealand’s most influential women

New Zealand’s most influential women

Winners announced at the annual Women of Influence awards

5 November 2015 - One of New Zealand’s foremost business leaders, Joan Withers has been named Supreme Winner at the Women of Influence Awards held last night at the SkyCity Convention Centre in Auckland.

As the recipient of the Board and Management Award, judges commented her work championing board diversity and striving to close the gender gap resulted in a unanimous decision as the Supreme Winner. Joan is currently chair of Mighty River Power and TVNZ, a director of ANZ, and a member of the Treasury Advisory Board.

Beginning her career as a junior bank teller, Withers rose to lead two NZX15 companies - the only woman to have achieved that to date.

The Women of Influence Awards celebrate the remarkable, leading women shaping the future of New Zealand and recognise the impact they are making in their home country and overseas. A partnership between Fairfax Media and Westpac, the awards are judged in 10 categories: Arts and Culture, Board and Management, Business Enterprise, Community and Not for Profit, Diversity, Global, Innovation, Public Policy, Rural and Young Leader.

Fairfax Media Managing Director, Simon Tong, says the finalists have inspiring stories and it’s important to celebrate the successes of those making a difference.

“We’re blown away by the calibre of entries. The record number of nominees this year made selecting our winners really tricky. The awards aim to inspire Kiwis and recognise the incredible achievements of Kiwi women. We hope that through the Women of Influence Awards, we can celebrate these phenomenal achievements, and encourage others to aspire to make an impact - the way these women do.”

Westpac NZ Chief Executive, David McLean, says the continued growth of the Women of Influence programme is testament to the high level of influence and accomplishments of New Zealand’s female leaders.

“This is the third year for the Women of Influence programme, and there’s certainly no shortage of women to recognise. Since inception, we’ve recognised 240 women who have played a major role in shaping our communities, economy and country.

“I’d like to congratulate all the nominees, and particularly our category winners and Supreme Award winner, Joan Withers. A most deserving recipient, Joan is a stand-out in her field, respected by those she works with and a great inspiration to all New Zealanders - both men and women,” says McLean.

The judging panel - Dame Rosanne Meo, Peter Tennent, Sinead Boucher, Traci Houpapa, Karen Silk and Jamie Tuuta - had the tough job of deliberating over a strong group of finalists.

Nine other category winners were also celebrated for accomplishments in their respective fields.

Business Enterprise

From the outstanding field of finalists in the Business Enterprise category, the judges selected Linda Jenkinson for her entrepreneurial successes in the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand. Judges commented that Linda’s influence is not restricted to business. She is a member of the New Zealand Olympic Counsel, an advisor for leading New Zealand incubator, The Icehouse, and a Director and Secretary of the Massey University Foundation.


Education futurist and The Mind Lab founder, Frances Valintine, won the Innovation Award for being at the forefront of change in education. Frances stood out in this category and judges commended her vision, passion and results in creating a new approach to education.

Young Leader

Parris Goebel was awarded the Young Leader Award and has been honoured for her supportive, inspirational influence on young New Zealanders to pursue their dreams of becoming stars in hip-hop dance. At 23 years old, she owns a dance studio, pioneered her own unique style of dance, and has choreographed for stars like Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson and most recently, Justin Bieber. Parris spearheaded the success of a number of dance crews at the prestigious World Hip Hop International Championships, leading all-female dancers, Request, to win gold and put New Zealand on the global stage of hip-hop dance.

Arts and Culture

The Arts and Culture Award was received by Victoria Spackman for her role in reviving BATS Theatre Limited, transforming the board to one at the forefront of a vibrant and in-demand theatre. Victoria’s contribution and effort was crucial to the survival and evolution of the organisation and her continued work in the creative sectors is to be highly commended. The judges noted Victoria’s influence touches not only Wellington theatre goers, but our TV screens, exhibitions and museums around the world.

Public Policy

Vicky Robertson won the Public Policy category for her continued focus on results and ability to work effectively across a wide range of stakeholder groups. Whether it was speaking about the competition policy at the 1995 APEC summit in Osaka, reviewing the Climate Change Policy and KiwiSaver scheme or leading Treasury to explore new approaches to policy design, she is making a huge impact for a prosperous New Zealand.

Community and Not-for-Profit

The Community and Not-for-Profit Award was won by Stacey Shortall for the depth and breadth of her contribution and influence in her work with children. This includes developing a weekly homework club at a decile one school, initiatives in the battle against domestic violence, advocating against violence toward children and developing a prison programme to help jailed mothers maintain meaningful connections with their children.


Colonel Karyn Thompson won the Diversity category for her work as the most senior military woman in the New Zealand Defence Force, consistently advocating for diversity and inspiring women to enter a career in the military. The judges recognised that in such a male dominated environment, the work of Karyn is instrumental in breaking down barriers and creating positive change for women.


The Global Award, one of the two new categories introduced this year, was received by Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas. Among her achievements as Chair for many respected organisations, she has served numerous arts and educational institutions, including being the first woman to chair The Royal Opera House in London. Since moving to London in 1973, her influence at the highest levels has stretched across academia, the private sector, local government, the arts and volunteer sector.


The Rural category - added this year - was won by Katie Milne. She has been instrumental in the agriculture and farming industry, regularly addressing issues that impact farming and agriculture on a provincial and national level. As a young mum and farmer, Katie did the hard yards juggling farming, parenthood and an off-farm job. The judges were impressed with her ability to break down barriers by communicating at all levels, making her an influential force in the agri-political space.


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