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New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership Programme (NZUWiL)

New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership Programme | Developing women leaders in the university sector

Are you a potential leader?

The New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership Programme (NZUWiL) exists to support, encourage, and contribute to the development of women who are, or aspire in future to be, leaders within the university sector. Our goal is to increase women’s leadership capabilities and influence by enhancing their personal, professional and national-level skills and networks. This nationwide programme is endorsed by Universities New Zealand and developed by a steering group of experienced academic and senior women leaders. The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, Governor General of New Zealand, is our Patron.

Initial seed funding to set up the programme was provided by the Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust, named in recognition of Kate Milligan Edger (1857-1935), the first woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in the British Empire. Each programme participant is funded by their university.

We offer two NZ Universities Women in Leadership programmes per annum. The first for women in academic positions in June and the second for women in professional staff roles in August.

For more information on the programme, purpose, focus, background and model see our booklet - New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership Programme: Diversity in Leadership, promoting better sector performance

Who can attend the NZ Universities Women in Leadership courses?

This programme is for women employed by one of New Zealand's eight universities. Each New Zealand university is responsible for the selection and funding of at least two nominees for each NZUWiL programme. University women interested in applying should get in touch with their university key contact person, listed below.

We provide programmes for two related target groups:

  • women in, or aspiring to, senior leadership positions in academia such as professors, associate professors, Heads of School or Departments, Associate Deans, Chairs of major university committees, or principal investigators on major research projects;

  • women in, or aspiring to, senior administrative leadership positions. This includes those with responsibility for budget and people, including directors or managers of student administration, facilities management, student services, communications and marketing, student recruitment, human resources, international, legal, library, faculty registrars and school managers from large schools.

The programme is committed to encouraging diversity, so we welcome people from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines. We are particularly keen to assist women from under-represented groups, such as women in science and engineering, or Māori and Pasifika women.

In 2011 the NZUWiL Steering Group established two partially funded NZUWiL Scholarships for Māori and Pasifika women for each NZUWiL programme. The universities are invited to select and submit their nominations for these scholarship places in addition to the two nominations already sought. Information can be provided by the university key contact person.

What do our programmes involve?

We run two 5-day intensive, interactive residential programmes, designed to stimulate, engage and boost the skills, leadership capacity and capability of women who attend. Those selected gain a great deal, and in return are expected to fully participate throughout the programme, including completing some pre-work. They should also be willing to host follow-up activities at their university and/or school/department. We want to build strong networks of women within tertiary institutions so that women leaders are supported, recognised and valued.

To see what was included in the programmes, see the 2019 programme for academic women and the 2019 programme for women in professional positions

What do women gain from attending the programme?

The benefits are many. Some are personal gains; others help your university and wider environment as well. Women who have attended tell us the benefits included:

  • successful promotion to a more senior leadership role after attending;

  • increasing the pool of women in senior leadership and management positions;

  • women leaders who become more confident and visible. Participants have successfully increased their public profile after implementing skills gained on the programme;

  • better gender balance in senior roles within universities - something Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara is committed to achieving;

  • stronger networks between women, both within universities and nationally. Participants have gone on to collaborate on research or producing papers;

  • greater leadership skills for women attending, whether in research, teaching or administration; and

  • a better environment in universities and tertiary organisations, through more women leaders who are strong, capable and confident.

What kind of women attend the programmes?

Women from a wide variety of disciplines, backgrounds, ages and geographical areas have attended the courses. Read the profiles of some participants from previous programmes. So far, 513 women have attended the courses; 278 academic women and 235 professional staff. All of New Zealand’s 8 universities have sent participants.

What results have the programmes achieved?

  • A NZUWiL Infographic summarising 12+ years of achievements is here.

  • A group of NZUWiL Alumni have funding and senior leadership support for further symposiums held biennially and hosted in Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland and Christchurch. NZUWiL Alumni, in liaison with the NZUWiL Steering Group, have hosted regional based alumni roadshows.

  • A group of NZUWiL alumni produced a pan-University research paper on women's experience in academia titled Learning to Be Leaders in Higher Education: What Helps or Hinders Women's Advancement as Leaders in Universities [DOI Reference:10.1177/1741143210383896];

  • Otago members of the NZUWiL Alumni have produced a paper on the 'gender pay gap' which was presented at the inaugural NZUWiL Alumni Conference in Auckland;

  • Anecdotal feedback tells us the NZUWiL programme helped them to achieve promotion to a more senior leadership role or to lead a significant project, research or university initiative; and

  • Many NZUWiL participants have increased their media profile and/or been invited to speak on issues due to their increased confidence in their expertise and role as an academic which they gained from the NZUWiL programme.

Women in Leadership video profiles

Nine women in positions of leadership at New Zealand universities, who partipated in a NZUWiL programme, have been interviewed about their experiences and perspectives on what leadership means to them. View the videos at Universities New Zealand's YouTube channel.

Those interviewed are Tracy Huntleigh-Smith (University of Otago), Elizabeth Aitken Rose (University of Auckland), Deanna Riach (formerly Massey University), Claire Robinson (Massey University), Carol Smith (Lincoln University), Anna Brown (Massey University), Hayley Schnell (formerly University of Auckland) and Margaret Hyland (formerly University of Auckland), Kate McGrath (formerly Victoria University of Wellington) and Sonia Mazey (University of Canterbury).

NZUWiL Steering Group (as at September 2019)


Professor Candice Harris, Head of Department, Management, Auckland University of Technology and NZUWiL Alumni

Annemarie de Castro, Director Human Resources, Victoria University of Wellington


  • Annemarie de Castro, Victoria University of Wellington

  • Professor Candice Harris, AUT University – NZUWiL Alumni

  • Professor Sonia Mazey, University of Canterbury – NZUWiL Alumni

  • Margaret Morgan, University of Otago – NZUWiL Alumni

  • Hanlie du Plessis, University of Waikato

  • Dr Farah Palmer, Massey University

  • Associate Professor Kim Dirks, University of Auckland – NZUWiL Alumni

  • Dr Mele Taumoepeau, University of Otago – NZUWiL Alumni

NZUWiL Advisors:

  • Dr Dianne McCarthy, Managing Director, DCM Solutions Limited

  • Professor Judy McGregor, Associate Dean – Research, Faculty Culture & Society, AUT University

  • Professor Sarah Leberman, School of Management, Massey University

  • Professor Gill Dobbie, Computer Science, University of Auckland - NZUWiL Alumni

Key University Contacts (Sept  2020)

  • University of Auckland - Organisational Development Practice Lead - Karen Davies

  • Auckland University of Technology, Director Talent and Culture - Kate Birch

  • University of Waikato, Head of Human Resource Management - Carole Gunn

  • Massey University, Executive Assistant to HR Director - Coralie Weller

  • Victoria University of Wellington, Director, Human Resources - Annemarie de Castro

  • University of Canterbury, Organisational Development Manager - Karen Mather

  • Lincoln University, Director Human Resources - Karen McEwan

  • University of Otago, Head of Operational Development - Denise Lindsay


Contact Universities New Zealand

Sarah Schulz, NZUWiL Programme Convenor


Updated 14 September 2020