When Dr Chelsea Grootveld started her internship on the board of Sport New Zealand, she was told not to worry if she didn’t feel confident speaking up for the first few months. “I said ‘call me out if I don’t say anything after my first month, because that’s just a waste of my time and yours’. It has always been my intention to contribute as fully as I can. The board has definitely created space for me to do that.”
Grootveld, who runs Aiko Consultants and has worked in education policy, research and evaluation for more than 15 years, gained her Sport NZ internship through the Institute of Directors’ Future Directors programme. The programme selects talented potential directors to sit with the board of a New Zealand company or state sector organisation for 12 months.
A triathlete and former netballer, Grootveld has a passion for sport as well as prior governance experience, having sat on the board of a philanthropic trust as well as chairing a school board of trustees . “Having a policy background, running my own consultancy and also having a doctorate inevitably thrust me into a position of leadership and people started asking me to be on boards and to contribute.”
Future Directors provided an opportunity to gain deeper governance experience and to build her networks. “Working on a board with experienced directors, from a range of public sector and commercial backgrounds, with a skilled and experienced chair and a professional and capable chief executive is a nice space to be in. You can actually focus on strategic issues.”
Grootveld says Sport NZ’s board members have all been helpful and willing to share their knowledge and expertise. “I consider them all my mentors. I listen and learn, and ask questions and have a conversation with them all.”
It’s not a one-way street though, and Grootveld believes she has also added value to the board. She holds a PhD in Education from Victoria University, and her thesis looked at the effect of higher education on Māori. “I’m able to bring a level of analysis and expertise to the board. I will challenge in terms of equity, not only for Māori and Pacific Islanders, but equity for women. I’m also a little younger than most of the other board members, so I bring that perspective too, and hopefully challenge their thinking. I bring a different cultural lens.”
The Future Directors placement was for one year. “I need to have a conversation with the chair actually,” Grootveld laughs. “I’m pretty sure my year is up. For the moment though, I think it’s a mutually beneficial partnership. I’m being exposed to lots of different opportunities. For example, I presented on behalf of the board at the Women on Boards conference and at the Women in Governance Awards, so there have been a lot of spin-offs from it.”
Looking ahead to where her governance career might head, Grootveld says her skillset and experience lends itself towards public sector roles, particularly in education and research but she is keeping an open mind.