Diane McDermott has recently moved from MSD into a new role as the Southern Regional Commissioner, Biosecurity New Zealand, Ministry for Primary Industries.

Diane has over 20 years’ experience in motivational people leadership, coaching business development, strategic planning change and performance management. She has been acknowledged for her ability to form strong partnerships with internal and external stakeholders to achieve better results for the organisation, clients and the people she leads.

Diane will be part of the Leading in Partnership Panel at the Southern Women In Public Service Summit in Christchurch, 14 March 2023. 


Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at MPI (I know it’s early days!!)

I am in week two of this newly formed role at MPI and I have been made to feel very welcome by staff across the business units. The Regional Commissioners are responsible for the delivery of frontline border clearance and biosecurity intelligence, planning, and coordination services.

Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?

For the most part no, but I did in my early career. I had four children and I think there were some presumptions made from both colleagues and family about how having a larger family would affect my career plans. I found a way to balance my career that worked for me and my family. My mother had a very strong view that I should stay at home in my early career and often, I worked in very male dominated environments, so these were obstacles I had to overcome. I was lucky that most of those environments were very much still about getting the best job done.

Who is your biggest female inspiration?

My Auntie Margaret. From a young age, she had decided to emigrate to Canada from Scotland, she wanted a career and to always be financially independent. I always admired her, she seemed very adventurous and sure about life. She left Greenock at the age of 19 with less than $20 and the promise of a job selling confectionary in a movie theatre. Over the years she held many senior roles in the banking industry and she retired 4 years ago at the age of 72 still holding a place on the board of one of the largest banks in the world. Her sheer determination coupled with her caring and openness to learning from others, has given her the skills she needed to deliver the projects she worked on, but for me it was her smile her ability to always see the positives in every situation. When I was around her, I always felt anything was possible.

The International Women's Day 2023 campaign theme is #EmbraceEquity. What does equity mean to you?

I suppose for me it’s about fair access to opportunity. It’s about having an awareness of the way we operate and adjusting to ensure that people can achieve their goals regardless of their starting point. Equity is interwoven with diversity and inclusion. Having a diverse workplace brings together a variety of perspectives and a richness of views/ideas that benefit the whole workplace.  

Why do you think it's important for Government agencies to support Employee Led Networks such as the Southern Government Women’s Network.

I believe employee led networks are a valuable support structure that encourage the sharing of ideas, the ability to connect on topics that are important to people both professionally and personally. They offer peer support, informal and formal development opportunities, that benefit not only the individual but the government agencies they work for. They can also be a great platform to network and meet new people with similar interests and of course have some fun!

What does the Women in Public Service Summit mean to you and why did you feel it was important to attend as a panel member?

The Women in Public Service Summit is an opportunity for me to discuss a wide range of issues/challenges that we face currently or potentially will face in the future. It’s an opportunity to learn from others and support each other to face those challenges. I am looking forward to hearing from and meeting the great women who are doing amazing work every day supporting our communities across Aotearoa.

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