Māori business leader among BBC's top 100 most influential women

By Moana Makapelu Lee

Head of FOMA Traci Houpapa has been named in the BBC's list of 100 most inspirational and influential women alongside singer-songwriter Alicia Keys and Olympic gold-medal winning gymnast Simone Biles.

A woman with many accolades to her name for her work in agri-business, now is gaining international recognition.

“People like us do the work that we do because we're passionate about our people and we want to effect positive change,” says Houpapa, “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be recognised in such a magnificent way.”

Houpapa has worked extensively over the years alongside iwi, Māori organisations and government as chair of the National Advisory Council on Employment of Women. Houpapa says her proudest achievement to date is providing voice of influence for Māori women through her role in FOMA.

“When I was growing up I had the benefit of spending time in the presence of great nannies, koroua and kuia,” says Houpapa, “And I suppose my greatest achievement is being able to realise their dreams to take on roles of leadership and then to make space for other Māori women to come through.”

This year Houpapa was a part of the NZ delegation that accompanied John Key on a business trip to India.  Houpapa says she hopes to see NZ's government include more women in economic leadership roles.

“We need to facilitate change in terms of policy, legislation, not only in terms of government but also in terms of the private sector,” says Houpapa, “If 50% of our population in NZ are women then it makes good sense and is a no brainer for us to engage one of our best assets in this country.”

And Houpapa shares some personal wisdom on getting ahead. 

“I think it's simply taking every possible opportunity that you can,” says Houpapa, “Even if you feel like you may not be as well-equipped or as prepared or ready to take on the roles- to trust that other people have confidence in you otherwise they wouldn't have offered it to you in the first place.”