Our people

The Ministry for Women is committed to achieving the Ministry’s vision that Aotearoa New Zealand is a great place to be a woman or girl, wāhine Māori succeed as Māori, and gender is not a barrier to wellbeing. Our staff have in-depth private and public sector experience, specialist knowledge, and strong links with a wide range of external stakeholders. This allows us to develop the best policy advice to lead to better results for New Zealanders. 

Secretary for Women and Chief Executive, Te Tumu Whakarae mō te wahine 

Renee Graham

Renee has been Chief Executive of the Ministry for Women since June 2017. During Renee’s tenure as Chief Executive, the Ministry has successfully gained ministerial agreement for an increased 50 percent target for women on public sector boards and an action plan to eliminate the gender pay gap in the core public service. A key focus of the Ministry’s work programme is to improve outcomes for wāhine Māori.

Renee contributes to a number of public sector-wide steering groups and committees, including the Papa Pounamu board for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Women in Public Sector Summit organising committee. 

Prior to this appointment, Renee was a 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 is of Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Raukawa descent.

Click here for details of the CE's expenses.

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, corporate documents, and stakeholder engagement activities. Kirsty has worked in senior roles in communications for a number of public and private sector organisations. Kirsty has a Masters in Management (Communication Management) and a Bachelor of Arts.


Rebecca Barnes - Director, Policy

Rebecca leads the Ministry’s policy advice on economic and international issues such as the gender pay gap, pay equity; APEC and various UN organisations. Rebecca has a wide variety of policy experience across the public sector – focussed on economic and international issues, strategic policy, and futures policy. Rebecca’s background includes roles at The Treasury, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry for Primary Industries, and the Ministry of Defence. Rebecca has a first class honours degree from the University of Otago (International Politics) and a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics). 



Deborah Malcolm - Director, Policy

Deb leads the Ministry’s policy advice on social wellbeing, including women in leadership and business, unpaid work, and violence prevention. Deb has a strong policy background, which has included the Families Commission and Ministry of Social Development. Deb holds a Master of Arts from the University of Essex and a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University of Wellington.




Dr Nicola Ngawati (Ngapuhi, Ngāti Hine) - Kaiwhakahaere Matua (Director), Joint Roopū

Nicola leads the Mana Wāhine joint roopū (in partnership with Te Puni Kōkiri). This roopū is leading the government response to the Mana Wāhine Kaupapa Inquiry currently before the Waitangi Tribunal and focuses on improving outcomes for wāhine, kōtiro, and whānau Māori across the state sector.

Nicola joins the Ministry following a varied career in the New Zealand diplomatic service. During her policy career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Nicola led policy engagement on a range of issues impacting New Zealand. Nicola has represented New Zealand offshore in Brussels, Belgium (Second Secretary), Rarotonga, Cook Islands (Deputy High Commissioner/Acting High Commissioner) and in many regional and international contexts.

Nicola has significant experience working on the interface of the Crown/Māori relationship in the public sector and has been actively involved in kaupapa Māori and advocacy for wāhine Māori. Nicola was raised in Auckland and holds degrees in Law (Auckland); Masters in Public Policy (Victoria); PGDipBusAdmin Management (Massey) and a PhD (Victoria University School of Government). Her research centres on how Māori are represented as part of New Zealand’s diplomacy through people, art, and design. In 2020, Nicola was appointed to the Board of Diversity Works New Zealand as one of the public sector representatives.


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's previous role was at 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.