MAIA NZ Women’s Network


Yesterday morning NZ Chamber had the pleasure of hosting 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand and former head of the United Nations Development Programme, Rt Honorable Helen Clark in a breakfast dialogue moderated by Clare Wilson, Regional Director East Asia, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

Helen Clark was the first female elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, a position which she held for three successive terms from 1999–2008, before moving on to hold even higher office at the United Nations. As Clare shared in the opening of the dialogue, “In April 2009, Ms Clark became Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. She was the first woman to lead the organisation, and served two terms there. At the same time, she was Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of all UN funds, programs, agencies, and departments working on development issues. As Administrator, she led UNDP to be ranked the most transparent global development organisation. She completed her tenure in 2017. Ms Clark continues to be a strong voice for sustainable development, climate action, gender equality and women’s leadership, peace and justice, and action on non-communicable diseases and on HIV.”

The conversation explored Helen’s early influences, where as 1 of 4 daughters to a progressive farming family “it never occured to me that girls couldn’t do anything – with no boys around on the farm the girls did everything”; At the UN, however, Helen found the first glass ceiling she couldn’t break during her bid for Secretary General, but believes she has laid the groundwork for the next wave of female candidates. Her campaign was documented in the recent film by Gaylene Preston, “My Year with Helen”.

Helen also shared her admiration for current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern for her authenticity, kindness and ability to break new glass ceilings such as becoming Prime Minister at 37, having a baby while in office; actions that were just not available to Helen during her era in New Zealand politics.

With 130 guests in attendance, the event served as a soft launch for MĀIA | NZ Women’s Network – a new initiative launched by the NZ Chamber with aims to connect like-minded women in Singapore, across Asia and back to New Zealand using the NZ ASEAN Business Alliance of NZ Chambers and Business Councils.

MĀIA is a network for women to give and receive support through leadership, career development, diversity and inclusion.

As shared by Wendy Baker, Chair of the Singapore MĀIA Working Group and NZ Chamber board Member, “The launch of MĀIA is the outcome of our International Women’s Day event earlier this year, when we had an overwhelming interest from kiwi women who are keen to form a network of like-minded women to connect and support each other in Singapore, and the Asia region.

We spent a lot of time deciding on the name and we settled on MĀIA , which in Maori, is an adjective describing to be brave, bold, capable and confident. Perfect in our minds.

A full programme of events will begin in 2019 with International Women’s Day on March 6. We invite you all to subscribe to the MĀIA mailing list so that you can stay up to date with our development, activities and opportunities.

And if you are not already a member of the NZ Chamber, please join to enjoy a full active membership of the MĀIA network. This initiative is supported and facilitated by NZ Chamber Singapore and the NZ ASEAN Business Alliance which connects New Zealand Chambers throughout Asia.”

MĀIA is grateful to have Fonterra on board as the first sponsor proudly supporting the initiative.

Says Ann Rae, Senior HR Business Partner of Fonterra SEA, and MĀIA Working Group member, “Fonterra are delighted to be part of and support the launch of MĀIA – coming on the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand we, as an organisation, continue to challenge ourselves as to the meaning of diversity and inclusion, and the practical steps we can take to support all our colleagues not just our fantastic women. MĀIA is just one example of a great initiative we can get behind.”

For more photos of the event, please check out our album on Facebook

For more information on the MĀIA network, please contact