• Diversity Works New Zealand | 0800 DIVERSITY (348 377) | 09 525 3023
Maretha Smit, Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive

Maretha Smit

 Chief Executive

Email Maretha

Maretha has held a number of senior leadership roles in her native South Africa and New Zealand, including that of Chief Executive of a large member organisation where she effected significant transformational change across an entire sector.

She has a strong background and appreciation of the challenges in diversity and inclusion, with experience in senior leadership roles in the disability sector, as well as delivering programmes to improve social cohesion through performing arts, education and training. She is passionate about her life purpose to create a more sustainable and equitable society through national conversations and creative initiatives.

Maretha has a degree in Psychology from the University of Stellenbosch, a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a Chartered Director of the Institute of Directors (South Africa). She is a Trustee and Chair of the Finance Committee of Belong Aotearoa, a specialist settlement agency that focuses on addressing the barriers to successful integration of newcomers in New Zealand.

Ola Ioane

Ola Ioane

Head of Membership

Email Ola

Ola is drawn to roles that reduce inequities and has a decade of experience providing solutions in the finance and health sector. With his experience in managing dynamic projects and transforming equity initiatives through innovation, he is energised to also use his lived experiences of exclusion to convert conversations about inclusion and fairness into meaningful action.

Ola has a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from the University of Auckland and Master's degree in Business from the University of Queensland. From this, he has worked with clients in health, hospitality and not-for-profits to create messaging that improves organisational outcomes.

He is a proud brother to three beautiful sisters and the son of hard-working migrant parents of Samoan and Fijian descent from the villages of Vaisala and Vaivase-Tai. He is also a creative for the Odd Family arts collective, a songwriter, fitness trainer, natural bodybuilding champ, and a very proud resident of Aukilani i Saute.    


Pete Mercer

Pete Mercer

Member Success Manager

+64 21 437 909

Email Pete

Pete has spent the past six years delivering and managing membership programmes and client services for a diversity and inclusion charity in the UK, specifically advising public and private sector organisations alike on LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace.

His most recent role involved brokering partnerships internationally with multinational employers and LGBT+ charities across the world. His postgraduate degree in International Diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London focused on the global politics that surround human rights.

Pete moved from the UK to Aotearoa New Zealand at the end of 2020 with his fiancé and is delighted to call Auckland their new home. He loves the outdoors, so can’t wait to explore the sheer natural beauty this country has to offer – and will be taking any opportunity he can to take a dip in the sea! A member of the LGBT+ community, he’s also keen to experience as much queer art and culture as possible.

Milica Van Leeuwen Bobic

Milica Van Leeuwen Bobic

Member Success Manager

+64 9 580 4446

+64 21 225 2706

Email Milica

Milica joins Diversity works as a Member Success Manager after being immersed academically and professionally in the fields of gender, migration, inclusion, and education in various countries around the world. She has a strong academic background in gender and migration studies with her expertise lying in social and labour market integration of migrants. She has facilitated and written workshop proposals for asylum seekers and refugees.

Milica has a bachelor’s degree in Ethnology and Anthropology from the University of Belgrade and master’s degrees in Culturology and Gender Studies from the University of Belgrade and one in Sociology and Gender Studies from the University of Auckland. She spent a year at Lund University, Sweden, her first glimpse into other cultures and ways of living.

Having researched and experienced the barriers to workplace integration, Milica is excited to be a part of social change and apply her theoretical knowledge and personal experience in building a more equitable world.

Guillermo Merelo

Dr. Guillermo Merelo

Head of Research and Innovation

+64 9 580 4448

+64 21 451 639

 Email Guilllermo

With a strong background in public management and public policy, Guillermo has worked as a senior public officer, columnist, lecturer and academic researcher in Latin America, Europe and New Zealand. He is a published author on integration and inclusion. His academic work revolves around the value of migrants’ processes of integration to their receiving societies. He is also a HR specialist with more than 20 years of experience in talent management, organisational development and change.

Brought up in a family of strong women and being a member of the LGBTI community, Guillermo truly cherishes diversity and he is convinced that diverse workplaces have the potential to foster understandings of the self and others, unleash organisational potential and make this a better world.

BL, MPA, PhD University of Auckland

Nata Tolooei

Dr. Nata Tolooei

Research Associate 

Email Nata

With a human-centric design background, and previous experience in planning and conducting qualitative and quantitative research, Nata wants to use her skillset to contribute to designing inclusive workplaces that are welcoming for diverse people.

Nata is passionate about translating people’s unmet needs into meaningful experiences and in particular those who likely experience exclusion. As part of her interest in the area of user experience and inclusive design, through her PhD research, she has explored how inclusion and equity can create meaningful experiences for marginalised people and how product design can empower those experiences.

Nata has worked in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion for several years. Before doing her PhD at AUT, she worked on inclusive design projects to develop products and services and taught in this field at Tehran University in Iran.

BA, MA, Ph.D.


Sheryl Blythen

Sheryl Blythen

Head of Marketing and Communications

+64 9 580 4447

+021 674 443

Email Sheryl

Sheryl has been working in the communications industry for more than 25 years, managing print and digital publications and helping New Zealand organisations connect with their communities and disseminate key messages.

At Diversity Works New Zealand, her role is to tell the stories of forward-thinking local companies that are maximising the benefits of a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive workplace culture. Sheryl also helps to foster public debate and grow people’s understanding of diversity issues by engaging with media and overseeing content development for the Diversity Works website, newsletters and social media platforms.

Sheryl joined Diversity Works New Zealand in 2016 after working the private sector as a journalist and editor.

Sarah Bayliss

Sarah Bayliss

Marketing Executive

+64 9 580 4440

Email Sarah

Sarah joins the team with a marketing background and passion for empowering others. Driven to engage in the community and support others, she is excited to use her skills to tell meaningful stories and contribute to a diverse, inclusive Aotearoa. 

Trained in film production, she comes to Diversity Works New Zealand with experience across various charities and and has held roles in marketing, operations and managing movie channels, with a focus on brand management and engagement. Sarah’s strengths are in combining creativity with organisation and communication and she is excited to develop impactful marketing strategies that grow inclusivity and understanding within New Zealand workplaces.

An avid sports fan, Sarah enjoys being active, exploring and challenging herself. She competes in several sports teams, including waka ama and dragon boating squads that compete at national level.

Fiona Beal

Fiona Beal

Head of Shared Services

+64 9 580 4449

+021 606 972

Email Fiona

Fiona uses her broad skillset, multi-tasking talents and range of experiences to provide leadership and support across operational and transactional services, helping to drive the strategic direction of the organisation.

Her background crosses a variety of industry sectors and covers administration, commercial contracts, tenders, project management, sales support, technical product knowledge, training and coaching, process improvement and reporting. Adaptable and open-minded, Fiona has taken on various roles within Diversity Works New Zealand as the organisation has grown, providing the foundation for her current role leading the finance, events, and administration support team.

Fiona enjoys finding what drives others to achieve while also appreciating their differences and the value that brings. She is a keen gardener and enjoys floristry in her spare time.

BBUS – Management, DipHRM, DipMgt – Unitec Institute of Technology

Sonya Mills

Sonya Mills

Events Manager

+64 9 580 4444

Email Sonya

With more than 10 years’ experience in event coordination and proven ability to project manage events, conferences, meetings, and incentive programmes, this support “superstar” is passionate about using her skills to support Diversity Works New Zealand’s members.

A natural organiser, Sonya thrives on new challenges in a dynamic work environment, converting team ideas and visions into appropriate action plans and delivering innovative outcomes. She is looking forward to working with a variety of stakeholders and members to assist them in achieving their strategic goals. 

Cherry Kura

Cherry Kura

Business Support Administrator

Email Cherry

Cherry joins Diversity Works in our business support role after working in various fields of tertiary mentoring, tutoring, customer service and education. A keen organiser, Cherry supports the day-to-day running of the business by assisting with clerical and administrative processes. Cherry holds a bachelor’s and honours degree in Psychology from the University of Auckland, and is currently studying her Masters in Counselling Psychology. She has facilitated multiple focus groups and performed systematic literature reviews as part of her research on psychological safety and reverse culture shock.

Outside of her office and academic roles, Cherry volunteers on a national Anxiety Helpline and clinic through providing support and education to New Zealanders navigating their mental health journey. As someone who has researched about wellbeing, culture and identity - Cherry is excited to be part of an organisation which honours diversity and inclusion as integral aspects of enhancing wellbeing in the workplace.

Sonarli Jayaweera

Sonarli Jayaweera

Accounts Assistant

Email Sonarli

Sonarli has been working in accounts for almost 15 years in various roles covering different aspects of accounting across her career. She has worked in the commercial sector, and also in the not-for-profit sector. She enjoys liaising with creditors, customers and other stake holders.

Sonarli was born in Sri Lanka and moved to New Zealand as a teenager, completing high school in Auckland before studying at Auckland University. As a migrant, Sonarli knows how important it is for people to feel a sense of belonging where they live and work. Sonarli lives with an auto immune condition and her part-time, flexible role at Diversity Works New Zealand allows her to manage that while contributing to the workforce.

Richard Mortensen

Richard Mortensen


+64 9 525 3023

Email Richard

Richard joined our organisation in 1997, taking on a variety of administration tasks to support the Diversity Works New Zealand team. He suffered a serious brain injury as a result of a climbing accident in his early 20s, and as a result some of his physical abilities are limited. After his accident, Richard had casual administration jobs until finding a permanent part-time role with Diversity Works New Zealand.

In addition to his work here, Richard spends time at the Laura Fergusson Trust and Headway House every week as part of his rehabilitation.
As a committed member of the Brahma Kumaris spiritual movement, Richard makes an annual trip to Mt Abu in Rajasthan, India to spend time at the headquarters of the group to focus on meditation and learning and enjoy fellowship with other followers.

Aggie Plappally

Aggie Plappally

Business Support Assistant

Email Aggie

Aggie is excited to be part of Diversity Works as she is passionate about developing diversity and inclusion as a vital part of the workplace and contributing to a diverse and open society.

As a migrant who has experienced life in several different countries, she understands how important it is to learn about the culture of the new country and to share your own culture with others to develop the feeling of belonging. She believes we can create a world where people will no longer look at each other through gender, skin colour, sexual preferences, social status, etc. but will be looking into each other’s hearts.

Aggie feels incredibly grateful and humble to have an opportunity to live and explore New Zealand. She enjoys meeting new people, learning about new cultures and exploring nature. 

Aggie has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Marketing from the University of Warsaw, Poland and a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication majoring in social translation and interpreting from the University of Alcala de Henarez, Spain.

Dave Watson

Dave Watson

Programme Delivery Manager

Email Dave

Dave is a project manager with a deep understanding of social and environmental sustainability in global and business contexts who is dedicated to supporting businesses improve their sustainable practice and connect to purpose.

He views equity and inclusion as the foundation of sustainable practice and believes the front line to positive change is in the hearts and minds of the people - He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Dave has run his own sustainability consultancy, GreenShoot Pacific NZ, worked as an energy efficiency consultant for the built environment and held head of department and leadership roles both in the screen production industry, and in the sustainability sector.

He joins Diversity Works New Zealand to facilitate the co-creation of a diversity and inclusion roadmap for the construction sector. He is excited to be on this part of his journey as a white, straight male of privilege addressing the barriers to a diverse and inclusive Aotearoa.

Our Alliance Partners