Here’s How 8 Awesome Kiwi Women Are Shaping The Future

By Marilynn McLachlan
8th Mar 2019

It’s a special day for both men and women alike. International Women’s Day is here and it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate the theme of balance for better—creating a gender-balanced world.

And, what better day to chat with local women who are doing things their way? From journalists to actors to singers to businesswomen, we reached out to eight women to find out their views about being a woman in 2019, what they’re excited about for the future and the one thing they’ve done that they never would have thought possible.


JessB is an up-and-comer on New Zealand’s music scene. Since being discovered on Soundcloud, the Kenyan born rapper has become an advocate for women of colour and the LGBT community. Her latest EP Bloom, which dropped last year, has amassed a whopping one million streams on Spotify and has seen the talent headline her own street party and perform in stadiums. With more music on the way, JessB is one to watch.

What's the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019?

That there is no “one way” to be a woman. I see so many people expressing who they are in ways that are more truthful to them, including myself, with more freedom to do so. That makes me excited!

What are you really excited about for the future?

I’m excited for the unknown, and the inevitable growth and wisdom that comes with getting older and living life. I’m excited to inspire the next generation to push the boundaries even further.

What's something you've gone out and done, that you never thought would be possible?

This Saturday I’m playing a stadium show opening for Six60!! I wouldn’t say that there’s anything that I’ve done that I never thought was possible, but it is still amazing to reach a milestone or be able to look back and see how far I have come. Sometimes we don’t realise the distance travelled until we look back and see where we are now versus where we came from. I feel like this applies both in my music career, and my personal life—how I have grown as a person, especially in the last few years of my early twenties.

Alexia Hilbertidou

If there’s anyone who proves that age is just a number, it’s Alexia Hilbertidou. At just 16-years-old, her love of women’s empowerment and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) led her to set up GirlBoss, a network of young New Zealand women that now boasts more than 10,500 members. She’s a regular public speaker, has spent time at NASA, was named a Ministry of Youth Development Top 5 Young Leader and named the most influential New Zealand woman under the age of 25 at the Westpac Women of Influence Awards. She was also named a Young Leader and received a medal for Services to the Commonwealth from the Queen herself—the youngest Commonwealth citizen to hold this honour.

What's the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019?

That more and more young women are embracing the word feminist. That more women are unapologetically driven, claiming their space, and making their voice heard.

What are you really excited about for the future?

When we reach full gender equality. The 2017 World Economic Forum says it will take 100 years, for the overall gender gap to close. Well, with the short attention span of my generation I just don't think we can wait that long. I am committed to ensuring that mine is the generation to change these statistics once and for all.

What's something you've gone out and done, that you never thought would be possible?

Establishing GirlBoss New Zealand at 16 years old. Now, three years later, GirlBoss is a network of more than 10,500 young women who are passionate about rewriting the script when it comes to Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship and Leadership. GirlBoss is now the second largest young women’s organisation in NZ and a leading voice on women in STEM.

Follow @ogjessb

Wilhelmina Shrimpton

Working on some of the highest profile stories in New Zealand across business, politics, court and crime, Wilhelmina Shrimpton is one of the most recognised faces in journalism. Having worked at both TVNZ and Three, she now splits her time between field reporting and fronting Newshub Late.

With her wealth of experience, here she shares her thoughts with Urban List.

What's the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019?

Many people say that in this day and age they're relieved and empowered that women finally have a voice. But I believe women have always had a voice, it's just that in 2019 we're finally being heard. Not only that, but we're also being listened to and acted on. 2019 is a year where it's not just women recognising the glass ceiling and how to smash through it, but men, companies, boards and governments are doing the same. I love the fact that our voices aren't just making noise, but are creating movements and campaigns that involve everyone. 2019 isn't about fighting for equality as a woman, it's about fighting for it as a community. It's an exciting time to be a female, and I think our gender is stronger than ever.

What are you really excited about for the future?

I'm excited to see more women take on leadership roles within our governments, communities and businesses. It was only a few years ago that I did a story about the under-representation of women on major company boards, and I can't wait to see those dismal numbers turn around. Now that we've recognised it's an issue, I think perceptions are changing, and slowly but surely we're playing catch up. I'm also glad to see a shift in public perception around the juggle of motherhood and career—I think we have Jacinda Ardern to thank for further fueling that discussion! Women can be incredible bosses, company directors and employees while also being mothers. The drive for success doesn't stop because kids come into your life—if anything it makes you hungrier to achieve more for the next generation.

What's something you've gone out and done, that you never thought would be possible?

It sounds small, but I'm proud of the self-confidence I've gained over the past few years. I'm more willing than ever before to stand my ground when it comes to my rights and opportunities. My fight is stronger than ever, and it's a place that I never thought I'd get to. I think it's easy to fall into stereotypes around gender roles, particularly with how they're portrayed in the movies, so I'm proud I've been able to rise above it and fight for what I believe in.

Follow @wilshrimpton

Rebekah Palmer

Rebekah Palmer graces our screens every weeknight as Dawn Robinson on New Zealand’s longest-running and most-loved soap, Shortland Street. With a love of baking and the outdoors, and her positive approach to life, she is excited to share her thoughts this International Women’s Day.

What's the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019?

How powerful women are becoming as a unified gender. I feel like we are seeing progress in bridging the gap between genders.  The more women who use their voice, step out of their comfort zones and stand up for what they believe in, the more equality we will achieve. Women are currently being heard more than ever, and I hope this will continue to grow.

What are you really excited about for the future?

I’m excited for more women-driven movements, like the #MeToo Movement, which gave a voice to women to speak up on any abuse in the workforce (especially the Arts). I look forward to the continual support of men and women in the workplace to feel equality between genders and less of a divide in structure, pay, and roles within any job or industry.

What's something you've gone out and done, that you never thought would be possible?

I never thought it would be possible for me to be in a position that I have the tools to empower young women. We live in a day and age where we have young impressionable “followers” which gives us the platform to empower young women without them even knowing it and sometimes not knowing it ourselves. I’m grateful for anyone who I meet or make an impact on by doing something positive and proving to them that if you dream it, you can absolutely achieve anything you set your mind to.

Follow @rebekahampalmer

Jordan Rondel

Jordan Rondel is one of Auckland’s favourite bakers. At the age of 21, Jordan set up The Caker, selling cakes through her blog. Since then, she’s found a permanent home on popular K’Road and creates collabs with some of the biggest names in the industry: think Karen Walker, Lewis Road and even Suzuki. With books and baking mixes and delicious cakes, Jordan’s influence only continues to grow.

What's the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019?

For me, the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019 is knowing that there's nothing stopping me from being a trailblazer and achieving what I want to achieve.

What are you really excited about for the future?

Obviously, we still have a very long way to go until we reach an acceptable level of gender equality...I'm excited about seeing more and more women step up, speak up and be proud.

What's something you've gone out and done, that you never thought would be possible?

Setting up The Caker in Los Angeles with my business partner (who is also my sister), has been an extremely challenging endeavour. We've experienced knockdown after knockdown, and have wanted to throw the towel in several times. But we are finally getting somewhere—something I've definitely thought at times would never be possible!

Follow: thecaker

Lizzie Marvelly

Musician, writer and activist, Lizzy Marvelly has seen a lot. Originally a classical singer, she moved to pop music before venturing into media. She launched Villainesse, targeting young New Zealand women in 2015 and is a columnist in the New Zealand Herald—often writing about feminist issues. In 2017 she launched the #MyBodyMyTerms campaign, highlighting the right of women to make decisions for themselves. And, in 2018 her book That F WOrd: Growing Up Feminist In Aotearoa was published.

What's the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019?

That the difficult, unpalatable subjects are finally being aired. We still have a long way to go, but feminist issues have become prominent talking points over the last few years, which is heartening. Talking about things like violence against women, sexual assault, the gender pay gap and other inequalities is the first step to actually making a change, so it fills me with hope for the future.

What are you really excited about for the future?

Change. It feels like change is in the air. The future will be feminist, and that is an exciting prospect.

What's something you've gone out and done, that you never thought would be possible?

Started my own media business. When I started in 2015, I had no idea that it would go on to create globally successful campaigns, win awards and that it would still be going strong four years later. I had no idea what I was doing when I took that leap, but I’m endlessly grateful that I did.

Follow: @Lizzie Marvelly

Ria Vandervis

Another woman who graces our screens every weeknight is Ria Vandervis. Playing the character Dr Harper Whitley, she is also a marriage celebrant and in business with her husband Chris.

What's the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019?

For me being a woman in 2019 is exciting because it feels like things are finally shifting. Equality feels closer than ever and the inexcusable objectification of women is under the spotlight. But this is no time for complacency; we need to keep moving onwards and upwards.

What are you really excited about for the future?

I am really excited about being a woman in my mid-thirties with so much going on. I hope motherhood is in my not too distant future, and I feel so blessed to have a great home life, and a career spanning so many different disciplines. Acting, celebrating marriages and running with my husband keep me very busy, and I love renovating and developing properties in my spare time. Women can do anything and everything they put their mind to.

What's something you've gone out and done, that you never thought would be possible?

I've always set my sights pretty high and worked very hard so there's not much that I've done so far that I never thought was possible. You've got to constantly back yourself, right? Ask me again in ten years though!

Follow: @riavandervis

Raven Addei

Raven Addei is one seriously cool chick, whose bubbly personality has blasted her front and centre of New Zealand’s radio scene. Up until last year, she was the solo host of Mai FM’s popular late-night show for three years. A talented voice artist, chances are you’ll recognise her from commercials such as Funky Up Your Bumper and Stolen Saturdays.

What's the most exciting thing about being a woman in 2019?

Freedom. I finally feel like we can be free. We can love our bodies and express that love, on Instagram, at festivals, through fashion etc and people are getting less worked up over it all. Women are doing some incredible things... we are learning and openly empowering one another and not for our own personal gain. We are inspiring other women and making it in our lives—it's almost like we didn't know that we could be this strong! I always thought it was cute to be weak. Not anymore. Strong is sexy. I still feel the weirdest buzz going to work every day and having other women lift and inspire me—having an array of women come to me JUST to give me a big cuddle, touch my afro and tell me I'm a boss bitch is unreal. I wouldn't trade the precious, raw connections we all have together, for anything in the world. "A woman's place is wherever the hell she wants to be!"

What are you really excited about for the future?

Teleportation. I have zero patience when it comes to travel. I am not afraid of flying... it just takes far too damn long, get me there already. Don't use animals to test out teleporters, I happily volunteer as tribute.

On another note, I am excited to make my mum proud. I am genuinely happy, in a great loving relationship, a job I swear I will NEVER leave, incredible bosses and colleagues, fab opportunities coming from my agent... I guess, I just wanna keep the good vibes going and make mum proud. Mum is proud when her kids are happy. She is the most incredible human in my life and I can't wait to see her achieve the goals she has set out for herself, some are well out of her comfort zone but she's on a roll. I wanna be by her side, smashing my life at the same time. Mum is my rock and sharing all the positivity and good fortunes that are coming our way is so special. Too good.

What's something you've gone out and done, that you never thought would be possible?

I NEVER thought I would ever be stable or comfortable enough to confront my dad about my mental health. I did it. I reached out to my father and confessed that a lot of his actions and words during my childhood, have left scars. Deep scars. Mental scars that I still struggle with and have to confront every day. I wanted him to understand and take some responsibility. My relationship with my dad is 100% still a work in progress, but, you know what they say 'it works if you work it'! In turn, I just recently got a tattoo down the length of my spine, written in his Native Tongue, reflecting on who I was, am and will be. It's probably the most special thing I have. #FistsUpAfrosOut


Looking for more inspiration? Here are 10 essential movies to watch this International Women's Day.

Image Credit: JessB

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