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My 1st book in 2018 – A Woman’s Place by Joan Withers

Recently, I finished reading my 1st book in 2018. This book titled “A Woman’s Place – Life, Leadership and lessons from the boardroom” was written by Joan Withers, published by Penguin Books in 2017. I bought this book last year from Whitcoulls, which has proved to be a good investment.

Joan Withers is a famous business leader and professional director in New Zealand. She was the Supreme Winner in the New Zealand Women of Influence Awards in 2015. She is currently the chair of Mercury NZ, The Warehouse Group, and a director of ANZ New Zealand. In this book, she candidly shares her amazing life story from her young age and her executive career to governance roles. Her life story is very inspirational.

I am very impressed by her diligent and persistent attitude. She came from an ordinary family with only high school certificate but progressed to become one of the top business leaders in NZ. I like her language style because her book is very easy to read as if she’s talking to me.

The companies she worked for are household names in NZ and some of them are so relevant to me as well. I really enjoyed reading this book as it’s very engaging.

  • Joan Withers was the CEO of The Radio Network more than 20 years ago. The Radio Network was my 1st audit assignment in my professional career when I started as a junior auditor in PwC NZ in 1998. Therefore it’s very interesting to read her story to reflect the history of Radio New Zealand at that time.

  • She participated in Auckland International Airport (AIA)’s IPO process in 1998 as a board member. AIA was my 1st and the best investment in NZ companies as one of the ordinary “mum and dad” shareholders since 1998. Being an ordinary small shareholder, I am grateful that AIA’s strong board including Joan Withers and capable management team have contributed to the good performance of the company over the years.

  • Withers actively promotes the importance of governance and diversity of board in her book. She is very outspoken. Withers (2017) says,

“Companies without a sufficiently diverse board will ultimately pay the price in terms of their business performance.” Then she explains,

“Gender, of course, is only the first frontier of diversity, as boards are still predominately white and middle class. We also need more Maori and Pacific Island representation at board level and given New Zealand’s fortunes are increasingly linked to Asia and in particular China, we need to capitalise on initiatives such as the Asian Leaders group to secure Asian talent.” [i]

What a great visionary business leader!

Being a member of Institute of directors and New Zealand Asian Leaders, I cannot agree more. We are lucky to have Joan Withers as an active advocate for diversity in the boardrooms in NZ. In the meantime, she has also provided some good practical advice for women who are seeking governance careers.

  • I consider that Chapter 7 “The importance of corporate governance” is a must-read for those who are interested in governance. From my recent experience as a Future Director of Financial Markets Authority (FMA), I concur that being a director is hard work. The ability to filter the large volume of information and stay focused on strategic matters and risk management requires diligent work, commitments, and professional training.

  • Finally, I like this book because Withers frankly shares her life story with her true emotion and experience including her devastating experience as an Ex Feltex Carpets director. From her book, I know that she is not a superwoman, but a diligent role model who never stops learning.

What a great book! Her advice and tips in this book are so relevant and insightful as I am at the early stage of my governance journey. I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in governance, not just for ladies!

Have you read this book? If yes, please share with me your comments. If no, please enjoy reading.


[i] Joan Withers with Jenni McManus, A Woman’s Place, Penguin Random House, New Zealand, 2017, Page 113

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