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IWD2020: CINZ’s Lisa Hopkins on self belief and supporting other women

10 Mar 2020  By Shannon Williams | | @tourismticker

Lisa Hopkins

In celebration of Sunday’s International Women’s Day 2020, the Ticker interviews some of the sector’s newly appointed women leaders. Today, Conventions & Incentives New Zealand’s new CEO, Lisa Hopkins, talks about her high-flying career, the importance of self belief, and supporting other women so they become role models. 

With a career that has spanned the full spectrum of business events, hotels, venues, client side, operations, sales and management, moving into the top role at New Zealand’s official business events and conference association just “felt right”, says Conventions & Incentives New Zealand’s new chief executive, Lisa Hopkins.

During her career, she has had some “extraordinary” moments learning from other women leaders, both in and out of the business events industry.

“In 1999, I oversaw the venues and spaces used for APEC that year,” says Hopkins.

“That was a once-in-a lifetime experience and an absolute privilege. Our PM at the time, Jenny Shipley, was New Zealand’s first female prime minister, and Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state for the USA, attended – lone females in incredibly male-dominated environments, yet both displayed intellect, graciousness and focus. It was an incredible first-hand view of women in leadership.”

However, she says the path for women to the top isn’t always easy.

“I sometimes feel that women can be their own worst enemy when it comes to supporting and encouraging each other to be leaders and I’m not sure why. Jealousy, confidence, environment? All of the above?  

“Sometimes it simply comes down to self belief. But I see that changing, from our prime minister to the chair of the board of Air New Zealand to incredible women who have made this industry their lifelong passion, like Jan Tonkin of the Conference Company.

“Jan taught me and so many others how to make a conference happen. She is a legend in the business events industry, recently serving as global president of International Association of Professional Conference Organisers and is now chair of the associations’ Training Academy.”

Hopkins says she is starting to see a real surge in women taking on leadership roles in the industry.

“This has come about from a lot of hard work from women who came before us, as well as the influence of many global organisations who are based here.  

“Again, I think it really does come down to the right support structure, which enables women to believe in themselves, using their special skills to bring empathy and perspective into the workplace, as well as courage to be open to new things, new ideas and new policies that support the working mum, the woman who cares for ageing parents or the woman who is new to the country or industry.”

Hopkins says CINZ has two programmes that are targeted at supporting the next generation of industry leaders, which will be announced in due course.

“We have seen in the past that similar programmes have been well subscribed by women, as they are designed to share ways to be confident and to remember that their voice is important.

“But I’m also keen to support women, irrespective of their age or current role, who aspire to be role models themselves. These women show bravery and are unafraid to challenge the norm,” she says.

“I am lucky to be surrounded by women like this. The CINZ board is an even split of women to men and when I think of them, I see passion, courage, grace and talent. When I think of the business events team at Tourism New Zealand, the convention bureaux, hotel partners, Air New Zealand, there truly is a plethora of exceptional women in our industry that we can be proud of, that we can emulate, and who can offer so much as trailblazers.

“We have had many great women leaders in our industry. But what’s really exciting is that we have many, many more great women leaders who are just starting their own journey towards leadership and that is what is truly inspirational.”

Hopkins was appointed chief executive for Conventions and Incentives New Zealand in December 2019, replacing Sue Sullivan who announced her resignation in September after five years in the role.


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