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‘Coastie’ savouring new position in UK

GISBORNE woman Roimata Claasen has been appointed as a legal director on the first working board of the New Zealand Business Women's network in the United Kingdom.

The NZBWN supports and uplifts New Zealand women in the UK through things like mentoring programmes, speaking events and social get togethers.

Ms Claasen, who lives in London with her husband, was appointed to the role in May. She says she is “super excited” to be a part of the network board and add a Maori perspective in to the mix.

She grew up in Rangitukia and attended several schools around the East Coast, including Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou in Ruatoria, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tapere-nui-a-Whatonga in Rangitukia, Te Waha o Rerekohu Area School in Te Araroa and Waikirikiri in Gisborne.

“My parents still live in Rangitukia and the rest of my family live in Gisborne.”

She says being a Maori woman from the East Coast in London is “liberating”.

“Aotearoa has come a long way with race relations, but there is still prejudice, even in the corporate world.

“There is no such baggage in London.

“I am judged for my skills and contribution and not pre-judged for my whakapapa.

“If anything, the people here are extremely interested in the Maori culture and appreciate its uniqueness and inherent value,” she said.

Being a part of the NZ Business Women's Network has been great, she said.

Roimata believes that businesses have an obligation to generate not just financial returns but social value.

“It's very important to me that business decisions are made with a holistic view and an intention to do the right thing by all stakeholders.”

“I'm looking forward to bringing that thinking with me into the boardroom.”

“This role gives me the opportunity to learn how a board works and to start building up some formal governance skills, which I hope to expand on further when I return to Aotearoa.”

She pursued law after being inspired by the many Ngati Porou leaders and lawyers before her.

“I wanted to do something that would enable me to add value to my iwi and hapu.

“Being a lawyer also seemed like a natural fit with my love of reading and writing.

“I've been lucky enough to work with quite varied organisations over my career and have really enjoyed it.

“I started out helping iwi and Maori organisations do some very exciting and innovative things, including multi-iwi joint ventures and partnerships with international companies.”

She now works for the largest food and beverage company in the world, at a time when sustainability and health are at the forefront of consumers' minds.

“That makes for an interesting and challenging environment, and some great opportunities to learn and grow as a professional,” she said.

She has been accepted to study for a Masters of Business Administration at Oxford University and she is looking forward to beginning this later in the year.

Roimata moved to London in 2017 with her husband. As well as working with the New Zealand Business Women's network, she is also secretary of Ngati Ranana London Maori Club.

SKILLS AND CONTRIBUTION: Roimata Claasen is excited about her new role as legal director at the NZ Business Women's Network in London. Picture supplied