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Source: Massey University


Clockwise from top left: Sarah Meikle, Denise Arnold, Candace Kinser, Claire Bibby and Aimee Charteris.


Five Massey University alumnae are among the finalists for this year’s Women of Influence Awards. The awards recognise and celebrate women who make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow New Zealanders.

Finalists in the Arts and Culture category, along with Board and Management, Community Hero, Public Policy and Rural have graduated from Massey. For the fourth year, the University is also sponsor of the Global category.

Massey Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says Massey is proud be connected with, and to sponsor, the awards. “It is important we recognise the success and leadership of women in the community, in business and government, their place as decision-makers, innovators, role models and mentors,” Professor Thomas says. “Once again I am delighted to see so many women with Massey connections in the list of finalists.”

Winners will be announced at a gala awards evening at the SkyCity Convention Centre on October 24. Massey alumnae in the running to receive awards are:

Arts and Culture finalist: Sarah Meikle

Sarah Meikle, who graduated with a Bachelor of Business Studies in 1997, is chief executive of the Wellington Culinary Events Trust, which sees her oversee the annual Visa Wellington on a Plate, Beervana and Highball festivals. Prior to this, she worked for many years in tourism promotion for Positively Wellington Tourism and Tourism New Zealand.

She says she is honoured to be a finalist. “It’s just really nice to be recognised for doing something you love,” Ms Meikle says. “I’m always looking at new opportunities to grow what we do as an organisation and for me, personally. We still have so much more to achieve in the culinary promotion of New Zealand and I am really keen to be part of that.”

She says she is most proud of building Visa Wellington on a Plate from scratch. “At the start, it was just an idea and now August is the second busiest month of the year behind Christmas, thanks to the festival.”

Community Hero finalist: Denise Arnold

Denise Arnold received her Master of International Development with Distinction in 2016, eight years after founding of the Cambodia Charitable Trust to provide children in rural Cambodia access to education as a way to break the poverty cycle and keep them safe from trafficking. 

The trust supports 23 schools and a teacher development programme in 17 primary teacher training colleges. Ms Arnold splits her time between development work and as a commercial and property lawyer. She hopes her nomination will raise awareness about the trust and of development issues generally.

“Working in New Zealand for the benefit of the children of Cambodia, I am often disqualified from financial assistance or being nominated for other awards, which seems a real shame. Anything like this helps me raise awareness, so I am hugely grateful for being considered.

“One of my goals is for New Zealanders to look beyond our shores and recognise not only how lucky we are, but also that we have the power to change the lives of others for the better. We have a large influence on the choices other people are given. We can have the ability to effect change if we are conscious of the challenges and issues faced by others.”  

Board and Management finalist: Candace Kinser 

Candace Kinser’s career as a senior executive, business adviser and board director has focused on the technology sector and she is considered an expert in tech strategy and digital transformation. She graduated with a Master of Management in 2009.

Currently head of transformation at investment firm Jarden, she is a previous chief executive of the Technology Industry Association and has held a range of governance roles, including the Massey Business School Advisory Board.

Ms Kinser says she is most proud of the resilience she has developed, which has allowed her to approach difficult situations with a positive attitude. “Learning how to dissect a problem into pieces, work with my fellow directors, business colleagues and people I know will give good perspectives and then trusting my experience and instincts has given me the confidence and skills to lead and support in new ways. 

“This journey started when I was the CEO of a start-up software company in the mid-2000s while also completing my master’s at Massey. Underpinning real-world issues, such as growing a business with the high-quality and tangible learnings from Massey, made such a difference in my career and personal capabilities.” 

Public Policy finalist: Claire Bibby

For Claire Bibby, NZ Police’s continuous improvement advisor, being nominated for a Women of Influence Award is a highlight of her career.

“This is a massive achievement and recognition of my commitment to giving women an equal voice to men in matters relating to peace and security,” she says. “I emailed my family and said, ‘This has made my 35 years in Police worth it!’, then thanked them for sticking beside me during the tough times of policing.”

She received her Master of International Security in 2018 and has published several articles on gender responses to peace and security and working more closely with ethnic communities. She served on the inter-agency group developing New Zealand’s first National Action Plan for Women Peace and Security, led leadership workshops on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet National Security Workforce mentoring programme, and spoken at United Nations Women conferences in Bangkok and Jordan and at New Zealand Defence conferences.

Ms Bibby says she has many people to thank for her success. “I am proud of the men and women who have successfully navigated the organisational culture of policing to enable me to contribute my influence. Their support has enabled me to contribute toward religious, ethnic and gender equity with influential leaders in New Zealand and around the world.”

Rural finalist: Aimee Charteris

As the managing director and owner of Aimee Charteris Genetics, Ms Charteris oversees a team that provides specialist services for livestock production systems. She graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours) in 2001 and is passionate about using science to improve performance in the agriculture industry.

Her team led a 10-year discovery and development programme for the Omega Lamb Project, which has received multiple innovation awards for changing the fat composition in lamb to increase Omega 3 levels. “Fat of the right composition is complementary to achieving a better product for human health,” she says.

Ms Charteris says she is really proud of being a woman in a sector that faces numerous challenges and opportunities. She recently started a new venture called Four Good Foods, focusing on nurturing land, plants, animals and people to “create sensational food experiences”.  

“It is our responsibility to turn the focus to building outstanding natural produce from the ground up. We need to create more dynamic, but sustainable, farming models that focus around a complete reset of purpose – quality and value, not quantity.”

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