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Governance leaders offer advice for future-proofing boards

5 November 2021

YouTube screen

Five experienced leaders and Distinguished Alumnae from the University of Waikato have shared their insights on governance and leadership in New Zealand and how to futureproof boards.

Liz Coutts, Miriam Dean, Theresa Gattung, Parekawhia McLean and Tania Te Rangingangana Simpson spoke in an online leadership panel event organised by the University of Waikato on 2 November.

While there was no crystal ball to predict pandemics or social issues, they agreed that there were “obvious preparations” for the next generation of leaders.

Liz Coutts said New Zealand and international boards need to plan for the advancement of technology.

“Information technology and how it will affect business models and consumer behaviour will bring opportunities. For example, eSports will have a sports code but will be played online with players, coaches and an audience - just as in real sport,” said Coutts.

Tania Te Rangingangana Simpson echoed the need for boards and leaders to have heightened technical skills.

“We will need to keep up with fast-paced technology trends while being well grounded in the fundamentals around environment and sustainability.”

She added: “I expect to see more diverse but integrated approaches to governance.”

She also wants to see the coalescing of social, environmental, cultural and business priorities to show a united approach.

Diversity and inclusion was a strong theme in the group’s message.

“We need to bring more voices to the table,” said Theresa Gattung. “We are past the point that diversity and inclusion is a ‘nice-to-do’. It is a core leadership skill - it is now and will be even more in 15 years’ time.”

A variety of voices on boards was essential.

“We need more diversity, but not just in gender and ethnicity but in thoughts and skill sets,” said Miriam Dean.

Strategic planning would be required to make the much-needed shift.

“It needs to be done deliberately, there needs to be a commitment,” said Parekawhia McLean. “There needs to be an expectation in the charter and for the leadership of the board to walk the talk. It is always front and centre of our planning.”

The five mana wāhine have a vision of the future of governance and leadership but are also realistic about the hurdles for young people to carve a career.

“You don’t have to start in something amazing,” McLean said. “Just find what you are good at, what you enjoy and where you can earn some money and put them together and find the intersect.”

McLean reminded people to believe in themselves: “You are enough.”

The five women are University of Waikato alumni and have each been conferred Distinguished Alumni Awards (DAA), an initiative which began in 2007.

  • CEO, entrepreneur and philanthropist Theresa Gattung CNZM was an inaugural recipient in 2007
  • CEO and Waikato-Tainui leader Parekawhia McLean was given a DAA in 2014
  • Barrister and director Miriam Dean, CNZM QC, was awarded a DAA in 2018
  • Professional director Liz Coutts ONZM was awarded her DAA in 2020
  • Professional director Tania Rangingangana Simpson also received her DAA in 2020

They were speaking as part of the University’s At Your Fingertips programme, an event designed to share knowledge with alumni and the community.

The panel discussion was facilitated by Dr Heather Connolly, Director of Engagement and Executive Education at Waikato Management School.

The event can be watched below.


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