Celebrating Kiwi women: Our modern trailblazers

Spy News,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 8 March 2017, 12:42AM
Parris Goebel, Lorde and Eliza McCartney. Photos / Instagram
Parris Goebel, Lorde and Eliza McCartney. Photos / Instagram

As we celebrate International Women's Day, Spy looks at some of the famous New Zealanders who have motivated and inspired the masses in recent times.


Where to start with this extraordinary artist?

Well, we could start with the release last week of her new single Green Light, four years after the phenomenal success of her debut album Pure Heroine. The absolute banger of a track has had rave reviews around the world and left fans eager to hear the rest of what Lorde's Melodrama album has to offer.

And after such a meteoric rise at the tender age of 16, the pressure on this young woman to deliver another giant hit must have been enormous. But you wouldn't have known it.

Now 20, Lorde appears to have navigated her teenage years on the most public of stages with her values and her sense of humour intact. And that's no mean feat either.


the perfect crime

A post shared by Lorde (@lordemusic) on Feb 13, 2017 at 9:39pm PST


Parris Goebel

Speaking of achieving major things at a young age, hip hop queen and in-demand choreographer Parris Goebel is another Kiwi woman inspiring an entire generation of dancers.

Most famous for choreographing the music video for Justin Bieber's Sorry, Goebel and her brand of Polyswagg dance have seemingly taken over the world.

Her list of choreography clients has to be seen to be believed and includes names like Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Janet Jackson. Goebel has also recently added another string to her bow, with the release of her own music.

Despite all this success, Goebel's original dance studio, The Palace, remains open for Auckland’s next wave of hip hop dance enthusiasts – even if the founder is having to spend more and more time overseas these days.


Page 3 • Thank you @composuremag 🙈💕

A post shared by PARRI$ (@parrisgoebel) on Feb 8, 2017 at 10:46am PST


Niki Caro

2017 is set to be another big year for acclaimed Kiwi director Niki Caro.

With her new film The Zookeeper’s Wife, starring Jessica Chastain, about to be released, Caro has also recently been appointed to direct Disney’s live-action version of Mulan, a film based on a Chinese folk tale.

In taking on the project, Caro has become only the second woman to direct a big-budget [i.e. more than $US100 million] movie for Disney.

Eleanor Catton

It's also a busy year for author Eleanor Catton, who inspired young writers everywhere in 2013 when she became the youngest winner of the Man Booker Prize for her impressive tome, The Luminaries.

Late last year, the BBC announced it had commissioned a six-part drama series based on The Luminaries with Catton taking on screenwriting duties, something she said she felt "absurdly lucky" to be doing.

"Learning to write for television has been a bit like learning a new musical instrument. The melody is more or less the same, but absolutely everything else is different,” she told BBC News.

“I'm having enormous fun, learning every day, and just so excited to see the world of the novel created in the flesh."

The business titans

Of course, it's not just the arts in which Kiwi women have excelled of late, as the following trio of shrewd business minds proves.

Sarah Robb O’Hagan

Robb O’Hagan’s CV is positively bursting with impressive job titles, including General Manager at Nike and President of Gatorade.

Last year, the marketing guru decided to focus on her own startup, ExtremeYOU, a content platform dedicated to helping people reach their full potential, as well as a book by the same name.

And if that wasn’t keeping her busy enough, Robb O’Hagan was last month revealed as the new CEO of Flywheel Sports, a chain of boutique fitness studios in the US.

Claudia Batten

Currently New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's regional director for North America, Claudia Batten knows a thing or two about successfully growing a business.

Having founded a few successful operations (Massive and then Victors & Spoils, both of which were sold for eye-watering amounts of money), Batten is now focused on helping others succeed internationally, both through her role at NZTE and as a mentor.

Upon being named Next's Woman of the Year in 2015, Batten told the magazine about the growing group of entrepreneurs she helps guide.

"I don’t have them all under my wing, guiding them every step of the way," she said. "There is a place for that, but I’m much better in a way where they know I’m there, they know I’ve got their back and whenever they need me I’m ready to step in.”

Victoria Ransom

Ransom, who also banked a hefty pay cheque after selling her internet start-up Wildfire to Google, is another extremely successful Kiwi businesswoman who spends time mentoring other entrepreneurs.

Ransom is still with internet giant Google, working her magic on the company’s Display division.

Eliza McCartney

There is also no shortage of Kiwi women achieving extraordinary things in the sports arena these days. Lydia Ko, Lisa Carrington, Valerie Adams - the list goes on.

However, the athlete blazing the biggest trail for future Kiwi sports stars at the moment is pole vaulter, Eliza McCartney.

The Olympic bronze medallist is making waves in a sport that New Zealanders have not previously been famous for – and she's doing it all with an infectious enthusiasm.

Last week, McCartney bettered her own national and Oceania record with a clearance that was world-leading for the year thus far. It all bodes well for McCartney’s prospects at the world champs in August – and for her chosen sport’s profile and participation amongst young Kiwis.


A post shared by Eliza McCartney (@eliza_mac_) on Mar 3, 2017 at 11:01pm PST


Michelle Dickinson

Perhaps better known as 'Nanogirl', Dr Michelle Dickinson is credited with (amongst many other things) inspiring the next generation of Kiwi scientists.

A senior lecturer in Engineering at the University of Auckland, she's won a slew of awards for her work and has a strong belief that “everyone should have access to learning about science and how things work”.

Such is her dedication to the cause, Dickinson recently risked life and limb on a bed of nails for her latest science show as part of the Auckland Arts Festival. (Although there was no real danger, obviously. We imagine Dickinson’s calculations on such things are pretty rock solid!)


Final nail biting rehearsal underway before tomorrow's @aklfestival live #science and #engineering show! #nanogirllive #womeninstem

A post shared by Dr Michelle Dickinson Nanogirl (@medickinson) on Mar 3, 2017 at 8:12pm PST