Career

Your top 10 New Zealand women role models revealed

March 8 is International Women’s Day - a time to celebrate the achievements of women everywhere. We asked a panel of Woman’s Day readers to name their top 10 female role models in Aotearoa. Here’s what you told us...

1. Jacinda Ardern

If anyone can carry off the title of New Zealand's most popular female role model, it's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The passionate politician has gone from strength to strength since taking office in 2017, and her number-one ranking with our Woman's Day panel confirms Jacinda-mania is alive and well!
The 38-year-old began achieving early in life. Her mum Laurell describes her youngest daughter as "mature beyond her years", even in childhood, and by the age of 17, she'd joined the Labour Party with the aim of tackling child poverty.
In 2008, aged 28, Jacinda made Labour's back benches as a list MP, becoming the country's youngest sitting Member of Parliament. Nine years later, in 2017, she went from Deputy Leader of the Opposition to Leader of the Opposition to elected Prime Minister within a few short months.
That achievement alone made her the youngest-ever leader of the Labour Party and the world's youngest female head of government – but more was to follow.
In January last year, after just three months as Prime Minister, Jacinda announced she was expecting her first child with her TV personality partner Clarke Gayford, 41. Baby Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford was born on June 21, 2018, making her famous mum just the second-ever elected head of government in the world to give birth while in office.
One of the hallmarks of Jacinda's prime ministership has been her commitment to the value of kindness. "I'm the daughter of a policeman from Morrinsville," she says. "After my sister, I'm only the second one in my family to go to university. The idea that at 37 I would have been in the position to be Prime Minister, it's just not something I ever would have imagined and I feel very privileged."

2. Helen Clark

Our former prime minister has been a keen mountaineer for most of her life, but Helen Clark is mostly celebrated for the great heights she achieved in her career and for helping to pave the way for women in the workplace.
The career politician was elected to Parliament as the Labour MP for Mt Albert in 1981, rising through the ranks at a time when female MPs were few and far between.
In 1999, she became our first elected female prime minister and was elected twice more, serving for a total of nine years before resigning in November 2008 to take up the role as the first female head of the United Nations Development Programme.
In 2016, toward the end of her eight years at the United Nations, Helen, 69, was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.

3. Valerie Adams

In the world of shot put, Dame Valerie Adams stands head and shoulders above the rest – and Kiwis love her for it. The 1.93m-tall super- athlete lost her Tongan-born mum to cancer when she just 15, but despite her grief, the young teenager forged a future as a world-class shot putter.
In 2006, she won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and has inspired and delighted her fans ever since, going on to win two Olympic golds, four world titles and two more Commonwealth gold medals. She is the only woman to win four consecutive athletics championships in an individual event.
In 2017, the 34-year-old was named a Dame of the New Zealand Order of Merit – the first female sporting dame in 13 years.
Her former high school in South Auckland presents one of her old shoes as its pinnacle sporting trophy.

4. Hilary Barry

Whether she's reporting from the Oscars red carpet or presenting TVNZ 1's Seven Sharp, Kiwis can't get enough of Hilary Barry. The 49-year-old journalist and newsreader is a loved and trusted face in households throughout the country, and is valued as a role model because she's not afraid to show her human side.
The mum-of-two, who started her TV career as a roving reporter in 1993, is known for occasionally getting the giggles on live TV and also for choking with emotion. She lost her composure in May 2015, when presenting the news of colleague John Campbell's departure from TV3.
Hilary has a clutch of awards to her name, including a Qantas TV Award for Favourite New Zealand Female Personality.

5. Nadia Lim

She burst into our lives in 2011 as the energetic and creative wunderkind who won the second series of MasterChef New Zealand – and Kiwis have been mesmerised by Nadia Lim ever since.
With her big reality TV win behind her, Auckland-born Nadia went on to prove that she wasn't just an amazing cook – she picked up the wooden spoon and ran with it!
In five years, she produced seven recipe books, in the process building a reputation as a trusted authority on everything fresh and delicious.
In March 2015, the 34-year-old mum-of-two co-founded home delivery service My Food Bag and the following year she also launched her very own magazine called Nadia, making her NZ's answer to Oprah Winfrey!
It's not so hard, really, to see why she's in our readers' top five list of female role models.

6. Toni Street

TV and radio personality Toni Street, 35, has an X-factor that makes her instantly likeable.
The award-winning broadcaster fronted TVNZ 1's Breakfast and Seven Sharp before moving full-time to The Hits Breakfast radio show.
The warm-hearted star has generously shared her many personal stories – from her battle with an autoimmune disease to conceiving her third child with the help of a surrogate.

7. Kate Sheppard

Kiwis are proud of the fact that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote – and it wouldn't have happened without the late great Kate Sheppard.
The UK-born, Christchurch-based activist is Aotearoa's most famous suffragette, whose tireless campaigning led to Kiwi women going to the polls for the first time in the 1893 general election.

8. Anika Moa

She's talented, creative, hilarious and opinionated – all of which make Anika Moa a Kiwi role model to treasure. The 38-year-old is much admired for her award-winning musical career, which started at the tender age of 21, when her first album Thinking Room reached the top of charts.
She has also won accolades for her irreverent TVNZ OnDemand comedy Anika Moa Unleashed. And she won hearts when she campaigned in favour of gay marriage – and shared her wedding to Natasha Utting in 2017.
Thanks to an egg donor, Anika recently welcomed baby Marigold, a sister for her three brothers, Taane, Barry and Soren.

9. Rachel Hunter

Throughout the '90s, Rachel Hunter was New Zealand's most famous export and Kiwis have never stopped celebrating the Sports Illustrated supermodel who got her big break as the Trumpet ice-cream girl.
Her star rose even further when, at the age of 21, she married rocker Sir Rod Stewart, who was 24 years her senior.
The marriage lasted nine years, but Rachel, 49, is still going strong, even managing to bust a few beauty myths in her top-rating documentary TVNZ series Rachel Hunter's Tour of Beauty.

10. Paula Bennett

Politician Paula Bennett became a role model for single mums when she revealed how she became a solo parent at the age of 17, keeping herself afloat by working in low-paid jobs and sometimes drawing the domestic purposes benefit.
She entered Parliament in 2005 and, 11 years later, was sworn in as the National Party's deputy leader.
The 49-year-old has also inspired thousands of Kiwis after losing 50kg following gastric bypass surgery in 2017.

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