Creating the support structure

Hend Zaki is co-chair of the Women of Colour Network at MBIE. She spoke to Auckland GWN about her experience coming to New Zealand from Egypt, how she came to a career in the public sector and what motivated her to start this network.


My connection with the public sector started in 2013 when I was still living in Egypt and began working at the New Zealand Embassy as a policy advisor. I loved working at the embassy and all the New Zealand public servants there were professional, compassionate, and amazing to work with. I still keep in touch with all of my managers from this time. I didn’t know much about New Zealand prior to working at the Embassy, but it was through this job that I was introduced to the country, its public servants, and New Zealanders.

I moved to New Zealand in 2015, with my husband and two daughters, and in 2017 began working at MBIE as a researcher. I am currently working in the Refugee and Migrant Services Branch (RMS) at MBIE. It is fulfilling to be part of a branch that works to make a positive difference for refugees and migrants in New Zealand. My colleagues are also one of the best things about the job. It’s an honour to work with so many intelligent, hard-working people who I constantly learn from.

I am passionate about making a difference and feel I can do that by working in the public sector.

When I started working in New Zealand, I faced some challenges and as I love to research, I soon found that what I was experiencing was not unique and many women of colour face similar issues. I felt the need to create a safe space for women of colour and raise awareness around the challenges they face in the workplace.

I began advocating for the idea and was fortunate to connect with Joanne Hacking, Chief Investigator INZ and AGWN komiti member, who became my ally and mentor. She connected me with like-minded wāhine willing to become part of this journey. It was meeting and working with these dedicated women that brought the idea to life. I’m co-chair of the Women of Colour Network (WOC) alongside Noelle Dumo, Policy Advisor, Building System Performance also at MBIE. 

It’s been a pleasure and honour working with Noelle and so many other wāhine toa over the past year to establish this network

The WOC Network was launched in August 2021 as a sister network to MBIE’s Arahanga Wāhine - Women’s Network. The purpose of the WOC Network is to create a safe and inclusive space that supports and empowers women of colour to thrive and lead authentically at work.


We aim to achieve this by:

  • Providing a platform for women of colour to connect and share their experiences
  • Collaborating with people leaders and allies to improve inclusion and diversity practices
  • Raising awareness about issues that women of colour face at work
  • Creating opportunities for women of colour at MBIE such as networking, mentoring and shadowing


My advice for wāhine who want to start a network:

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