Caren Rangi, ONZM, is on a mission.

She wants to see more diversity and inclusion on New Zealand boards, and she is better placed than most to make this happen.

Caren is the first Pacific woman, and only the third woman, to chair the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa (Creative NZ). She is also on five other New Zealand boards: Te Papa, RNZ, Pacific Island Homecare Services and Pacific Co-operation Broadcasting.

‘”There are a lot of myths and legends about governance, she says. “It is not something we learn at school and yet people on boards are required to be highly skilled at decision-making.”

Caren, who is of Cook Islands Māori descent, is working with a colleague to offer training on “good governance with a Pacific lens”. Her aspiration is to get more Pacific people to put their hands up for board work. 

“If you think about governance being collective decision-making, then Pacific people have more experience than most communities in the world.

“We’ve been doing governance for years. We just don’t call it that.”

Caren mentors and supports younger people, and often women, who aspire to get on boards. “There is a low expectation of how younger people can contribute to board work,” she says, “Yet they can often deal with a lot more complexity. They bring their own approach and we need to make space for that.”

She travels to Wellington for her board work and goes to Rarotonga, where she is on the Board of the Cook Islands Investment Corporation. But home is Tamatea in Napier, where she grew up. (She has just finished a stint as chairperson of the Tamatea High School Board). And the local chapter of the national Pacific Women’s organisation, Tiare Ahuriri PACIFICA, is the group she returns to for sustenance and inspiration.

“We are about 20 women, mainly of different Pacific ethnicities, ranging from 14-92 years old and including my mother and daughter. 

“We support each other personally, professionally and culturally.”

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