Melanie Beirne: Facilitator of the Aspire Women’s Leadership Development Programme

14 June, 2023

Melanie Beirne, of Pākehā and Māori descent (Ngāi Tahu), has joined the team delivering the Aspire Women's Leadership Development Programme. Melanie is the founder of Women Step Forward (Wāhine Mā Rere Ki Runga). She established this to rapidly accelerate the leadership capacity of women and create a robust women in leadership pipeline. Add over 23 years of leadership experience into the mix and we're delighted to welcome Melanie to the Aspire Programme in its tenth year.

We asked Melanie to share a bit about her kaupapa and the Aspire Women's Leadership Development Programme...

What are the benefits of a leadership programme designed for women?

A strengthened approach specifically to build confidence for women in leadership. It enables women to build a wider network of support. It enables women to be authentic and vulnerable due to sharing experiences with like-minded people.

Tell us about a time you faced challenges as a woman in leadership?

I feel like I've experienced every possible challenge as a women leader you could possibly ever experience. This is what drove me to identify that women are my ‘why’. Here are just a few:

  1. I've been discriminated against due to age and gender.
  2. I've been thrown under the bus by another woman, not in line with women supporting women.
  3. Being at a conference, curious, and questioning a speaker about some ‘why’s' and not receiving the support from my manager.
  4. Managed by a narcissistic boss who attempted to hold back resources that would enable me to succeed in my role.

These experiences strengthen me and help me to support women to not tolerate really bad behaviour in the workplace.

How will the Aspire Women's Leadership Development Programme benefit aspiring wāhine leaders?

Aspire really gives women the space to start thinking about themselves and to focus on them and their career development, rather than back in the office busy as with their mahi. We share with you the tools for confidence as well as other tools where women will be exposed to different ways of thinking that they can then take back to their day job. It really strengthens their leadership, and it strengthens how they lead within and out. It will also empower them to speak up. Aspire will help women to work out who they are. When we know who we are it helps us to be empowered.

How do you see yourself contributing to the Aspire Women's Leadership Development Programme?

I'm driven to really empower and develop women's leadership and to step into their own power and to see how fantastic they are. I want to grow the strength and courage to not tolerate unacceptable behaviours in their workplace.

What are some unique skills you bring that will benefit the course participants?

I am a certified strengths coach and also have experience in working with senior leadership teams to help them level up. I’m a keynote speaker at women’s conferences, a mum of two, and draw on all my experiences from operating at executive leadership levels since my early twenties. At age 24 I was a Senior Manager reporting to the CE of a national organisation. This developed my people leadership experience at a very young age. I’m very used to operating at a very executive level and I think people benefit from it.

Tell us about your experience working with the sort of women that attend the Aspire Women's Leadership Development Programme?

It's my everyday work and I love it! I'm a strength-based coach and coach women on a daily basis. I work with woman networks and conferences for women to develop leadership and empower women to find the leader within.

Tell us about a time you helped a wāhine step forward into a leadership role?

A leader had a very bad experience being a people leader. She lost all her confidence and became a technical leader. She wanted coaching to work out what to do in her life in terms of her career. I worked with her to unpack some of the grief of what had happened to her and to set her up for success going forward. Making sure she was aware of her values and strengths, getting clear on what her value propositions were. I worked with her on her cover letters, CVs and did interview preparation. She got a brand-new job with pay increase, and fantastic new job title and team to lead. She is now really enjoying being a people leader again, no longer suffers from imposter syndrome and is helping Aotearoa as a result.

What's different about the Aspire women's Leadership Development Programme compared to other programmes?

  • We run the Aspire Programme with two facilitators. This means participants get an increase of insight and experience from two really experienced woman leaders in their own right.
  • We've tailored the Aspire Programme especially for women based on research around women's barriers and needs.
  • It takes into account the world of feminism.
  • It empowers women because it gives women knowledge as it gives examples specific to women.

What will a wāhine leader look like after the Aspire Programme?

Positive. Focused. Energized. Excited. They'll be super clear about where to take their career, or how to show up in their current job and create greater impact. Participants will have a broader network of other amazing wāhine who will always be there in their journey. You will develop relationships in the programme that are authentic and deep.

Who would you recommend the Aspire Women's Leadership Development Programme to?

I would recommend this Programme to any women who wants clarity of purpose and direction and who wants to develop their leadership.

Learn more?

  • You can read about the amazing experience of three participants on the Aspire Programme here.
  • Or learn more about the Aspire Women's Leadership Development Programme itself here.