Women of Influence finalists named

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 29/09/2013

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Women of Influence

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Narrowing down the 50 finalists for the inaugural Women of Influence awards was never going to be an easy task.

But the award's judges say they were surprised just how difficult it was.

Sustainable fashion pioneer Peri Drysdale said the awards brought a lot of women out of the woodwork, all with impressive credentials.

''They were all women who had stepped above the parapet but they came from all walks and were contributing in a huge variety of ways. They were in different occupations, different roles, different nationalities.''

The Women of Influence awards were established by Fairfax Media and Westpac to recognise the achievements being made by women across society and were first run in Australia last year.

Nominations were taken in five categories: board/ management, innovation/science, community service/social enterprise, business/entrepreneurs and local/regional community.

A sixth award for an emerging female leader under the age of 30 was added to recognise the next generation of women.

Judges said there were a large number of entries and the calibre was high.

''There were a large number of women that I knew of, but also a significant number of women I didn't know around the country, particularly working in the science area and in rural communities,'' said former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast.

''It was really humbling that so much is being done by women in different aspects of New Zealand life.''

In Wellington, fresh fish entrepreneur Rachel Taulelei of Yellow Brick Road got the call about making the finals while she was elbow-deep in oysters .

The nomination process had been quite robust but she thought it was ''brilliant'' that she made the final 10 in the business/entrepreneur category, and it encouraged her to do more.

''When I do things, I like to excel at them. Life is busy, if you're going something then really try to be the best at it.''

The judges looked for several X-factors from the finalists including their personal, academic, professional or community achievements, and evidence of their influence beyond their direct role.

They were asked to judge how nominees had influenced the social and economic advancement of women, and their contribution to society through collaboration or mentoring.

Drysdale - founder of Christchurch's Untouched World fashion label - said she was particularly struck by the difficulty of judging celebrities against unsung heroines who had touched many lives.

''For some people, the sheer brilliance of what they've achieved....is enough in itself to be really inspiring. Whereas somebody else might have spent more time actively setting up projects and ways to help women to make their way forward.''

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Higher profile names among the 50 include international social researcher Marilyn Waring and top scientist Professor Margaret Brimble (innovation/science) and Federated Farmers' first female national board member Jeanette Maxwell (board and management).

New names include Wellington's Silvia Zuur, who said making the finals of the community service/social enterprise award was a bit ''daunting'' but she was happy for her work to be recognised.

''I feel celebration is something is sorely lacking in the community''.

Social change is something Zuur is heavily steeped in. When she did her OE, it included work with a Swedish youth initiative and street gangs in Los Angeles.

Back in New Zealand, her latest projects have been two social networks - Enspiral, a collective for socially-minded entrepreneurs, and  Chalkle, a platform for informal learning.

Chalkle now has nearly 2000 members in Wellington and the Horowhenua and many classes are free.

''We've had classes in everything from accounting in Deloitte's boardroom through to worm farming up at the community gardens.''

Awards have been quick to follow. Zuur and Chalkle co-founder Linc Gasking were nominated for the Wellingtonian of the Year awards last year.

The full list of winners will be announced at a gala dinner on October 23.

Women of Influence 2013 finalists

Board & Management
Selena Fox
Traci Houpapa
Barbara Kuriger
Alison Paterson
Jeanette Richardson
Vicky Robertson
Justine Smyth
Susie Staley
Jane Sweeney
Therese Walsh

Local/Regional
Julie Bartlett
Peggy Burrows
Anita Finnigan
Kiri Goulter
Jenny Harper
Jo Kelly-Moore (Dean)
Maureen Pugh
Sarah Trotman
Leeann Watson
Fran Wilde

Innovation/Science
Minnie Baragwanath
Margaret Brimble (Prof)
Michelle Dickinson (Dr)
Jessie Jacobsen (Dr)
Marlena Kruger (Prof)
Lindy Nelson
Emma Parry (Dr)
Julia Raue
Jacqueline Rowarth (Prof)
Marilyn Waring (Prof)

Community/Socia
Emeline Afeaki-Mafile'o
Julie Chapman
Elizabeth Charleston
Nicola Coom
Annette Fale
Beatrice Faumuina
Emily Gualter
Heather Henare
Diane Vivian
Silvia Zuur

Business/Entrepreneur
Tracy Banner
Carol Campbell
Mai Chen
Erica Crawford
Nicola Martin
Sachie Nomura
Ranjna Patel
Jo Pennycuick
Helen Robinson
Rachel Taulelei 

- Fairfax Media

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