Women’s Leadership Development Programme graduates set to strengthen sport and recreation sector

by Aktive
Published on Tuesday 23 May, 2023
WLDP Posts News Format

A diverse group of 19 woman leaders from the sport and recreation sector has successfully completed Aktive’s Women’s Leadership Development Programme, further advancing leadership development for wāhine across Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa more broadly. 

The 18-month programme was celebrated recently at Remuera Golf Course with a graduation ceremony. Participants presented their group projects to a panel comprising Jennah Wootten, Chief Executive, Aktive; Laura Menzies, Chief Executive, Northern Region Football; and Duane Kale, International Paralympic Committee Vice President and Sport NZ Board Member. Programme mentors, current line managers and wider sector leaders were also in attendance.  

Jennah Wootten, Chief Executive, Aktive says the participants have embraced the opportunity, which highlights the breadth of female talent across the sport and recreation sector. 

“The Women’s Leadership Development Programme aims to grow capability and support the women with their future aspirations at both governance and management levels,” says Ms Wootten. “Our sector is stronger for this graduating group of wāhine toa, and we know they will be role models for other women and girls in sport.” 

The 18-month programme provides a unique opportunity and environment for learning, and includes residential workshops, mentoring and networking events. For the first time, this cohort included women outside of Auckland participating, thanks to the support of Sport NZ.  

Participants hailed from a range of organisations including High Performance Sport New Zealand, Counties Manukau Sport, Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, Harbour Sport and Paralympics New Zealand. Their feedback will prove valuable to further shape the programme. 

Maraea Howe, Kaitohutohu Hōhenga - Activation Advisor Māori Outcomes, Auckland Council said “Mā te huruhuru ka rere te manu” (Adorn the bird with feathers so it may soar) The more feathers you provide the higher the bird will fly no matter how old you are. The Aktive Women’s Leadership Development Programme has provided me an environment of meaningful learning, professionalism, networking and sisterhood. I am definitely a more confident leader as a result.”  

Hollie Ellis, Programme Manager - Leverage & Legacy, FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 also shared her experience: "The Programme has afforded me an incredible opportunity. The length of the Programme and depth of the content has ensured I've been able to build meaningful connections across not only Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, but Aotearoa New Zealand. I believe that it has already positively impacted my leadership capability."  

The Women’s Leadership Development Programme’s graduation ceremony panel set the tone and challenge for the future, with a panel providing valuable leadership advice. Ms Menzies said: “If an opportunity presents itself and it feels a bit scary, it’s probably the right thing to do.” This sentiment was echoed by Mr Kale: “Don’t be afraid of doing something that scares you – have an open mindset.” 

Applications for Aktive’s next Women’s Leadership Development Programme are open now to Friday 16 June 2023 on the Aktive website. Women considering applying are invited to join a webinar with programme facilitators and participants from cohorts one and two at 1pm, Thursday 8 June 2023 – click here to join. 

2022-2023 Women’s Leadership Development Programme participants 

Anna Skipper  

Performance Physiologist and Preparation and Recovery Lead for Birmingham Commonwealth Games  

High Performance Sport New Zealand  

Danika Mowlem  

Participation Lead  

Canoe Racing New Zealand  

Emily Hodges  

Sport Development Advisor, Women and Girls Co-Lead (Harbour Sport).  


Harbour Sport  

Hayley Stirling  

Area Manager Auckland Team Lead  

Northern Region Football  

Hollie Ellis  

Programme Manager - Leverage & Legacy, FIFA Women's World Cup 2023  

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited  

Kathryn Jones  

Primary and Intermediate Schools Manager  


Katie Horne  

National Partnership Manager  

Volleyball New Zealand  

Kylie Robertson  

Senior Communications Advisor  

Sport New Zealand  

Larissa Cuff  

General Manager, Strategic Partnerships  

Sport Bay of Plenty  

Maraea Howe  

Kaitohutohu Hōhenga - Activation Advisor Māori Outcomes  

Auckland Council  

Michelle Au  

Diversity & Inclusion Manager  

Badminton New Zealand  

Raewyn Burke  

Sporting Manager  

MotorSport New Zealand  

Roxanna Holdsworth  

Targeted Participation Team Lead  

Sport Waikato  

Sacha Wright  

Games Campaign Co-ordinator  

Paralympics New Zealand  

Serena Somlyai  

Development Manager  

Counties Manukau Cricket  

Stephanie Murray  

Tournament Services Manager  

ICC Women's Cricket World Cup 2022  

Tarsh Ieremia  

Thriving Club Manager  

Auckland Rugby League  

Vicky Mailei  

Regional Sports Director  

Sport Auckland  

Kylie Norton  

National Programme Manager at Ready Steady Go Kids  

Counties Manukau Sport