Te mana tu o te wahine: women as leaders in the community and voluntary sector

19 Nov 2013

There is little information in Aotearoa New Zealand about how women are represented across the Community and Voluntary Sector (CVS), despite the fact that the sector’s voluntary and paid workforce is heavily dominated by women. The representation of women in leadership and governance roles, and more broadly their experiences as leaders, has been researched in other sectors of New Zealand society, including the public sector, the private sector, and on corporate boards. The results of such research are then used to track progress and reflect on strategies to ensure that fair and equitable practices apply that enable and don’t limit the opportunities for all.

There has been a growing refrain amongst New Zealand CVS women in the face of this ‘knowledge inequality’: what about us? How can we ensure we feature in the planning and evaluation processes in the sectors we work in?

The CVS was interested in exploring these issues for itself, and after reading the 2012 English publication Closer to Parity: challenging the voluntary sector to smash the glass ceiling, the Women in Leadership Aotearoa (WILA) leadership network decided to replicate this research in New Zealand. Throughout 2011 and 2012 it explored how it might do this, and the questions it wanted to ask. This grant-funded pilot survey, completed through mainly volunteer and pro-bono effort, is the first stage in what is hoped to be a much larger quantitative, and complementary qualitative, study of the women who hold New Zealand’s CVS together.


This is a small pilot study, based on interviews with 48 respondents, designed to provide some evidence of the leadership played by women in the sector, and to highlight issues and opportunities for further research.

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