Kirikaiahi is of Te Arawa, Mataatua, Tongareva (Cook Islands) and Tahitian descent. Her sporting involvement started in her home town of Maketu and covers a range of sports and martial arts.
Prior to joining ASB in July 2016 she worked as a lawyer working closely with iwi and Māori organisations throughout Aotearoa, government agencies and the Cook Island government. She also worked as a tax advisor for various global and multi-national organisations across a range of industries, SMEs, and high net-worth individuals. Outside of work she likes to contribute her professional and personal skills to her communities in a range of sectors including leadership, professional development, international development and sport. She is a board member for VSA (Volunteer Services Abroad), the VSA Foundation and Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa (Women in Sport Aotearoa).
Global Women: What lead to the founding of Women in Sport Aotearoa? What does the organisation aim to achieve?
Kirikaiahi Mahutariki: Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa (Women in Sport Aotearoa) was initiated by Northern Mystics CEO Julie Paterson and Massey University Professor Sarah Leberman, who were inspired by what they saw happening in America in this area and made a commitment to do something here in Aotearoa.
Our vision is that women and girls are valued, visible and influential in sport and we launched the organisation on 8 March 2017, being International Women’s Day, where the theme this year was Being Bold for Change.
We aim to make positive change for women and girls in sport, through three key areas: research, leadership and advocacy. Our purpose is to develop a strong, passionate and connected network; ensure women and girls have a powerful voice in sport; provide evidence to create a case for change and increase female representation in leadership. Further information can be found in our launch brochure (460KB PDF) and on our Facebook page.
GW: How has participation in sport shaped your own leadership journey?
KM: The lessons I have taken from sport are invaluable. Playing to win has always been a key driver for me and that is transferrable to any aspect of life, whether it’s to ‘win’ in terms of your health and wellbeing, career, finances or life in general. Doing your best, putting your best foot forward and always striving to improve are my key take-outs here, whlle being adaptable to your environment and circumstances is also a key learning for me.
Sport has taught me to be disciplined (turn up to training regularly, put in the hard yards) and resilient (overcoming setbacks, getting back up every time and continuing on). It’s also taught me work well in a team, be courageous and confident, to back myself and have faith in my team to deliver. Determination and constantly pushing to better yourself are also key learnings that have helped me on my leadership journey. Finally, surrounding yourself with good people who can help you (coaches, mentors, sparring partners, training buddies and a support crew) has also been key in my particular journey.
GW: What do you see as the main challenges to women’s and girls’ participation in sport?
KM: Many girls drop out of sport in their adolescent years for a range of reasons. Sometimes it’s because of costs, a lack of time, influence of friends, a lack of female coaches and visible female role models, or they lack the access to supportive environments to be able to participate. Sometimes girls don’t feel like they are good enough to try new sports, and end up playing out the “imposter syndrome”. Sometimes it’s because of body image issues: the expectation they should look skinny and fit and if they do not, they are less likely to participate in sport.
I can’t say that I’ve had to deal with any particularly major issues in sport as I was blessed with a family who are sport-mad, and my parents also happened to be military personnel. So sport and keeping active was the norm for us, but that’s not always the case for everyone. There is a vital role for families (and the wider community) to play in providing an environment that encourages participation in sport and active living. Whānau is really important.
GW: What are the benefits to having more women involved in sports leadership roles?
KM: When you have women in sports leadership roles you get gender diversity and diversity of thought, which leads to better problem-solving. Women leaders have been shown to be more collaborative and work better across different interests and personalities, which results in better governance and economic performance results. Women are more likely to represent the interests of women, children and families, taking a holistic view on matters. These benefits are transferrable to a range of leadership roles beyond sport and having more women in sports leadership roles will create positive role models for girls and other women.