Our people

The Ministry’s capability derives from the quality of its direction and strategy, leadership, knowledge and skills, relationships, and its systems and processes.

The Ministry’s leadership team, led by the Chief Executive, is committed to achieving the Ministry’s vision of better outcomes for women. The Ministry’s staff have in-depth private and public sector experience, specialist knowledge and strong links with a wide range of external stakeholders.  This knowledge, experience, and contacts assists staff to develop the best policy advice and implement outcomes which provide better results for New Zealanders. 

Chief Executive

Helen Potiki

Helen is Ngāti Porou, Tapuika and Ngāi Tahu.  She is married to Jason and has three children, Latham, Kate-Lynne and Herschel.  Helen’s Dad, Pineaha James Potiki, is Tapuika and Ngāi Tahu, and Mum Shirley Potiki (nee Maurirere) is Ngāti Porou.

Helen is currently Acting Chief Executive at the Ministry for Women, and was seconded from the Department of Internal Affairs where she was Director, Office of the Chief Executive.

Helen has also been working on a Leadership Development Centre fellowship examining how flexible work can enable public and civil sectors to deliver effective services to diverse communities.

Prior to her fellowship and role at DIA. Helen was the Ministry for Women’s Policy Director for International, Violence Against Women and Ministerial Servicing.  Helen has 15 years’ experience in central government policy and has represented New Zealand in several international forums, including as the New Zealand Government’s lead negotiator at the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, New York.  Helen was the New Zealand Government’s Head of Delegation to the APEC Women in the Economy Forum in 2017 in Viet Nam and the East Asia Gender Equality Forum in 2017 in Thailand.

Helen cares deeply for her family’s, her own and her colleagues’ well-being.  Connecting with people and activities beyond who and what she engages in at work are important to Helen.  She has competed in Ironman Taupo in 2016 and in various other triathlon and running events including Iron Māori and the Round the Taupo Lake cycle.

Renee Graham

As at 1 October 2018 Renee is on secondment from Chief Executive of the Ministry to be Acting Chief Executive at Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Helen Potiki is Acting Chief Executive.

Renee was previously Policy Director at the Ministry of Education. Renee has a strong background in leading complex strategic policy development in both the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Development.

As well as her policy expertise, Renee also has experience in operational roles in Work and Income, before moving into project and management positions after starting her career as a frontline case manager. Renee is a skilled public service senior leader with a track record of successfully leading the development of solutions to complex policy issues.

Renee has been appointed for a three-year term commencing on 19 June 2017. Renee is of Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Raukawa descent.

Leadership team

Kirsty Anderson - Director, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement 

Kirsty leads the Ministry’s communications activities. This involves oversight of the Ministry’s website, publications, social media, and corporate documents.  Kirsty has worked in senior roles in communications for number of public and private sector organisations. 

Lis Cowey - Director Policy

Lis has had a number of cross-system, strategy and policy leadership roles in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. She was formely a Principal Advisor leading diversity and inclusion at the Treasury and has worked most recently before that at MBIE, Economic Development, Department of Labour and Martin Jenkins. She has a Master of Arts in International Relations, specialising in comparative politics, and a Diploma of Secondary Teaching. In 2015 she was awarded an LDC Fellowship to study overseas models of leadership in public sector innovation. She is an Alumnus of the Ministry for Women, having worked here in the 90s on women’s tertiary education and training, as well as having worked in the counterpart Office of Women’s Affairs in Victoria, Australia, and Department of Human Services on violence against women and women’s health.

Peter Noble - Director, Corporate Services

Peter leads the corporate services of the Ministry including: nominations service; finance, planning and reporting; information services; property; human resources; ministerial services and corporate services.  Peter comes from the Department of Conservation where he lead similar corporate services functions.  He also has experience in sustainability management, leading ICT and call centre services and market research.  He has had mixed background of both private and public sector experience.

Margaret Retter - Director, Policy 

Margaret leads the Ministry’s policy advice on women’s skills, employment, and income and leadership. She has a strong background in the public service with particular focus in policy and archives management.