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Te Manahua New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership Programme (NZUWiL)

Developing women leaders in the university sector

Are you a potential leader?

The Te Manahua New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership Programme (NZUWiL) exists to support, encourage and contribute to the development of women who are, or aspire 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 Cindy Kiro, Governor-General of New Zealand, is our Patron and an alumna of NZUWiL. Previously Dame Patsy Reddy the former Govenor-General was our patron for her five-year term in office from 2017–2021.

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 five-day residential Te Manahua New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership programmes a year. The first – for women in academic positions – is in June and the second – for women in professional staff roles – in August. For confirmation of programme dates, email your university's key contact person or the programme convenor, listed below.

We also offer a Discipline Pod Programme for academic women employed at one of the eight New Zealand universities who are early in their academic career and from disciplines with particular equity and/or human capital challenges. The first pilot programme was held in 2017 and a further two programmes, for different discipline pod groupings, in 2018 and 2020.

For more information on the Te Manahua NZUWiL Programme and its purpose, focus, background and model, see our booklet:
New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership Programme: Diversity in Leadership, promoting better sector performance.

our infographic:
summary of an independent programme review 

our Te Manahua NZUWiL logo and Māori name.

Who can attend Te Manahua NZUWiL programmes?

The programmes are for women employed by one of New Zealand's eight universities. Each university is responsible for selecting and funding at least two nominees for each programme. University women interested in applying should get in touch with their university's key contact person, listed below, who can provide more information on the internal university application and selection process and timeframe.

We provide five-day residential 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 responsible for budgets 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 Te Manahua NZUWiL Programme is committed to encouraging diversity and inclusion, 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 and women from a range of minority ethnic communities – e.g., Asian, Indian, African – to participate in the programme.

In 2011 the NZUWiL Steering Group established two partially funded Te Manahua NZUWiL Scholarships for Māori and Pasifika women for our five-day residential programmes. 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 your university's key contact person, listed below. To date we have awarded 51 scholarships and have seen an increase in the overall diversity of our participant groups.

Our Discipline Pod Programme, held over three days, is designed for women at lecturer and senior lecturer levels with a completed doctorate who are academic staff members from the targeted discipline group. We will consider nominations from women in roles such as postdoctorate research, research fellows and senior tutors working in the target disciplines, but priority is given to permanent, tenured academics. All nominees need to be endorsed and funded by their dean and head of department – i.e., home department and/or faculty. 

What do our programmes involve?

We run two five-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 women leaders are supported, recognised and valued.

To find out what is included in the programmes, see the 2023 Programme Overview for Professional Staff and the 2022 Programme Overview for Academic Staff.

The Discipline Pod Programme for academic women earlier in their career runs over three days and provides an opportunity for participants to build on their network, join the national network of Te Manahua NZUWiL women from a range of disciplines and increase their academic identity and influence within their universities and discipline.

To find out what was included in previous Discipline Pod Programmes, see the 2020 programme and 2018 programme

What do women gain from attending our programmes?

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 in ours programmes.
  • Better gender balance in senior roles within universities, something Universities New Zealand 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.
  • 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 five-day residential programmes. Read the profiles of some participants from previous programmes. So far, 591 women have attended the programmes: 318 academic women and 272 professional staff. All of New Zealand’s eight universities have sent participants.

The Discipline Pod Programme is run over three days for different discipline pod groupings for academic women employed as senior lecturers and lecturers. Read the profiles of some of the participants from previous programmes. So far, 55 academic women from all eight New Zealand universities have attended this programme. Disciplines have included mathematics, statistics, accounting, finance, geology, geography, information systems, engineering, environmental sciences and computer science.

What results have the programmes achieved?

An infographic summarising 15+ years of achievements is here.

Examples include:

  • A group of Te Manahua NZUWiL alumnae have funding and senior leadership support for further two-day symposiums held biennially and hosted in Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland and Christchurch. Waikato alumnae hosted an online symposium from Hamilton over two days in 2020 which included a co-hosted session with the Australian WATTLE Women in Leadership Group.
  • Our alumnae, in liaison with the steering group, have hosted regional-based half-day alumnae roadshows.
  • Collaboration with the Australian WATTLE Women in Leadership steering group on new leadership programme initiatives based on the Te Manahua NZUWiL Programme model and material and with Universities New Zealand's Te Kahui Amokura on the proposal for a pilot Māori Academic Development Programme.
  • A group of our alumnae 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 our alumnae have produced a paper on the gender pay gap, which was presented at the inaugural Te Manahua NZUWiL Alumnae Conference in Auckland.
  • Anecdotal feedback tells us the Te Manahua NZUWiL Programme has helped alumnae achieve promotion to a more senior leadership role or to lead research or a significant project or university initiative.
  • Many alumnae 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 or professional staff member gained from the Te Manahua NZUWiL Programme.

Te Manahua NZUWiL video profiles

Nine women in positions of leadership at New Zealand universities, who participated in one of our programmes, 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 (formerly University of Otago), Elizabeth Aitken Rose (University of Auckland), Deanna Riach (formerly Massey University), Claire Robinson (formerly Massey University), Carol Smith (Lincoln University), Anna Brown (Massey University), Hayley Schnell (formerly University of Auckland), Margaret Hyland (formerly University of Auckland, now Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington), Kate McGrath (formerly Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington) and Sonia Mazey (formerly University of Canterbury).

Te Manahua NZUWiL Steering Group (as of December 2023)


Professor Candice Harris, Head of Department, Management, Auckland University of Technology – NZUWiL alumna

Margaret Morgan, Director Quality Advancement, University of Otago - NZUWiL alumna


Professor Candice Harris, Auckland University of Technology – NZUWiL alumna

Margaret Morgan, University of Otago – NZUWiL alumna

Professor Kim Dirks, University of Auckland – NZUWiL alumna

Professor Clemency Montelle, University of Canterbury – NZUWiL alumna

Michelle Jordan-Tong, University of Waikato

Associate Professor Meegan Hall, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington – NZUWiL alumna

Leanne Gibson, Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington – NZUWiL alumna

Professor Tracy Riley, Massey University - NZUWiL alumna

Te Manahua NZUWiL advisors

Dr Dianne McCarthy, Managing Director, DCM Solutions Limited

Emeritus Professor Dame Judy McGregor, Professor of Human Rights - Auckland University of Technology

Professor Sarah Leberman, School of Management, Massey University

Professor Gill Dobbie, Computer Science, University of Auckland – NZUWiL alumna

Annemarie de Castro, formerly Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington

Key university contacts (as of December 2023)

University of Auckland, Organisational Development Manager – Leadership and Transformation – Renata Kennedy

Auckland University of Technology, Learning and Development Manager - Kirsty Steel

University of Waikato, Associate Director Organisational Development – Ali Wilkinson

Massey University, Executive Director - People & Culture - Jill Turner

Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, EA to Director People and Capability – Michelle Clarke

University of Canterbury, Director – People and Culture – Amanda Derry

Lincoln University, Executive Director People, Culture and Wellbeing – Karen McEwan 

University of Otago, Head of Organisational Development – Denise Lindsay


Contact Universities New Zealand

Sarah Schulz, Te Manahua NZUWiL Programme Convenor


Updated 18 December 2023