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  • Writer's pictureBrainchild

Here’s to the leading ladies

In honour of International Women's Day 2023, I want to celebrate the exceptional women who have let me watch from the wings, given me backstage access and shared the spotlight with me during my career thus far. I am one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, not everyone has had the same opportunity to learn and be inspired by role models that look like them. I recognise that there is still progress to be made. But I'm embracing equity this year by celebrating those who've stood with me and before me.


Here is a curtain call to celebrate a handful of the women who have supported, inspired and taught me much about leadership and life.


Ladies, take a bow.

Virginia Sisson


Community is king

Many moons ago, at Selwyn Heights Retirement Village, I was lucky to work for Virginia Sisson. Firm, fair and massively supportive, Virginia was a great boss. Upon her move to a head office role, I was struck by the team's effort to give her a good send-off. She had built a deep sense of community, so the feeling of gratitude and sadness about her departure was a testament to Virginia's leadership.


Angela Mace and Katharine Broughton


Teamwork makes the dream work

Both leaders in their own right, grouping Angela and Katharine seems unfair at first glance. But their ability to lead together always impressed me. With a 100% united front, they complemented each other in all the right ways. Angela and Katharine taught me that leadership doesn't have to be loud. Instead, being generous with your time and knowledge can make all the difference. Through their genuine friendship, they cultivated a tight-knit team. My colleagues at Beat genuinely became my friends as well as my colleagues. I have fond memories of my time at Beat.


Deborah Pead


Lifting other women lifts us all

This list wouldn't be complete without mention of the Queen of PR, Deborah. I could write an entire article about the things she taught me, so this will barely scratch the surface. She always celebrates everyone's wins with enthusiasm (and I always felt like she believed I could do something before I thought I could). No pushover, Deborah has honed the art of winning friends and influencing many. When I felt like the world was about to implode, Deborah would remind me that it was PR and not the ER and find a solution (all while making it look impossibly easy). At crunch time, I often ask myself, 'what would Deborah do?'.


Becky Erwood


Be smart and strong

When Becky speaks, you listen. Every word is intelligent and well-thought-through (and it sounds so proper in her British accent). Direct and unafraid to ask the hard questions, Becky constantly challenges her team to do better. A true cheerleader for wāhine everywhere (Becky introduced me to International Women's Day). You can always count on Becky for timely, sound advice. You can also count on her for a great night out dancing to Ricky Martin!


Jane Torrance


Help others learn your level of mastery

A true master of her craft, I appreciated the opportunity to learn from Jane. Attention to detail is so important in our field, and Jane instilled the importance of double or triple checking – even when it feels like there is no time. Caring and kind, Jane always made others feel they mattered by giving them a precious gift: her time.


Cecilia Robinson


Never lower your standards

I have never met anyone who thinks or speaks as fast as Cecilia! With that unrivalled energy and drive, it is no wonder this serial entrepreneur continues to smash through that glass ceiling. I was fortunate to work with Cecilia and My Food Bag at Pead. Among many things about her leadership, I'll never forget her unwavering standards. Better-than-best was the standard she expected from her agency, her team and herself. But this went two ways – she also treated the My Food Bag team to better-than-best perks and benefits unheard of at the time.


Wendy Thompson

Look to the future

I worked with Wendy as part of Social Media Club Auckland (SMCAKL). Unfortunately, SMCAKL no longer exists, but the inspiration Wendy provided still does. I remember being in awe of Wendy as she navigated the early days of, the now empire, Socialites. She's currently on the forefront again with, ahead of its time, web3 marketing agency Toru Creative. I've always thought that smart, vibrant, and generous Wendy was the sort of leader any team was lucky to follow.


Vanessa Williams


It all starts with passion

The queen of property, Vanessa Williams, is one of those clients you aspire to be like. Not only is she bloody good at what she does, but she leads with kindness too. She has a million things on her plate yet always takes the time to ask, "How are you, darling?' (and she cares about the answer too). She is bubbly, warm, and fuelled by her passion for the real estate industry. We love meeting with Vanessa – her energy and excitement for the stories we can tell about realestate.co.nz is infectious! Oh, and she has the best shoes!


Jo Mickleson


Focus on your people

Jo and I have known each other since kindergarten, and she is an incredible leader (if you missed it, she was recently named Emerging Leader of the Year). Jo's priority is always people and their wellbeing, but she can also find that sweet spot that works in a commercial setting. An unofficial adviser to Brainchild (usually paid in wine), Jo's a true problem solver. I love that even as a friend, she will challenge my thinking and ensure I am always doing right by my business and team.


Aasha Foley


Be the new generation

Managing a growing law firm is no easy task, and Aasha is a leader not to be underestimated. She brings her whole self to work and connects with genuine empathy. Standing fierce as Managing Partner of progressive firm iCLAW, Aasha represents a new generation of lawyer who wasn't content waiting in the shadows and instead carved her own path. They say it's rude to mention a lady's age, but this is no small achievement for any leader of her age, regardless of gender.


Janyce March


Work hard and work well with others

I can't finish this list without a shout-out to my amazing mum. She was my very first teacher and has led by example. She doesn't take herself too seriously, but her work ethic and commitment are unwavering. She is kind, warm and seems to get on well with everyone she meets. In the words of her colleagues at her recent retirement party, 'nothing is ever a problem for Janyce'. I tell you, it was a real struggle to keep the tears of pride at bay during this celebration of my mum. As I write this, my chief babysitter and the best granny a kid could ask for is taking care of my kids. This is just another way that my mum is helping me reach my own goals – giving me the gift of time to work in and on my business.



I'm fortunate to be treading the boards that many have before me. As a leader, business owner, and mother, I recognise that I, too, have a responsibility to assist the next generation of women in finding their place in the spotlight. I hope I can do this even half as well as the leaders in this article. You all deserve an encore!

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