Toi Ohomai has celebrated becoming the only New Zealand tertiary institute signatory to the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles.

UN WEPs is a global initiative to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

At the stakeholder event held at Rotorua's Mokoia Campus this week, Toi Ohomai chief executive Leon Fourie said the organisation was delighted to become a signatory and take a leading role to achieving gender equality in the workplace.

Women make up 61 per cent of staff, 50 per cent of the executive leadership team and 55 per cent of the leadership team at the institute.


"We are committed to establishing and demonstrating a high level of corporate leadership in this area and will continue to use our size and influence to work towards women's rights," Dr Fourie said.

Toi Ohomai joins 55 organisations around the country and more than 1700 globally who are committed to making the equal treatment of women and men a corporate priority.

New Zealand Women's Empowerment Principles committee chairwoman Vicky Mee said she was pleased that Toi Ohomai had joined UN WEPs because young people being exposed to good modelling of gender equality at work was so important.

"We want young people to see a mixture of men and women working together in managerial roles so we are delighted that Toi Ohomai is now going to join us and demonstrate their commitment to gender equality."

Mee said her team worked with signatories to help them progress their gender equity goals, regardless of whether they are just starting or have already taken significant steps.

Guest speaker Shannon Willoughby, a former Rotorua local and award-winning Black Fern, commended Toi Ohomai for taking a lead on gender equality in the workplace and challenged the audience to make a difference in somebody else's life.

For Willoughby it was her late father who was her greatest champion.

"Dad told me that I could do whatever I wanted in my life."

As well becoming a world champion Black Fern, Willoughby is a successful entrepreneur and commercial pilot. When she suffered two strokes by the age of 32 and was told she would never fly again, she again overcame the challenges in front of her to return to rugby and regain her medical certificate to take to the skies once more.

"What you do with the cards you are dealt is what makes the difference," she said.

Toi Ohomai executive director, strategic partnerships and Maori cuccess Ana Morrison said she would work closely with UN WEPs to implement a plan using the resources and expertise available, and contextualise this to the unique Toi Ohomai demographic.