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Maretha Smit, Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive

Maretha Smit

 Chief Executive

Email Maretha

+64 9 580 4442

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

Ma'aola Saminatoto Milovale Ioane

General Manager: Membership and Community

Email Ola

+64 9 580 4443

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.    


Zach Edwards

Zach Edwards

Member Success Manager

Email Zach

+64 9 302 3841

Zach joins Diversity Works New Zealand having spent five years supporting international students throughout Aotearoa New Zealand in his role as relationship manager at Southern Cross Travel Insurance. He also established and embedded the company’s Diversity and Inclusion forum, building on his prior HR experience for one of the UK’s leading DIY retailers.

Zach was born in Bristol, UK, to an English father and New Zealander mother, making him a dual-national. His mother was born profoundly deaf, meaning Zach was raised as a Child Of a Deaf Adult (or CODA), using British Sign Language at home. From a young age, and by being part of the local deaf community, Zach was able to witness first-hand some of the inequalities that some communities throughout the world face. This has given Zach a passion for working with businesses and communities to support and promote equitable outcomes for all.

In his free-time, Zach frequently listens to foreign language music and is a big lover of languages, with interests also in geography and geo-politics.

Grace Blissett

Grace Blissett

Member Success Coordinator

Email Grace

+64 9 869 7901

Throughout her upbringing Grace was constantly inspired to explore beyond her comfort zone, to be open minded, and to always be inclusive and kind. As a result, she is the quintessential “people person”, fuelled by interactions with new people and naturally drawn to opportunities where she can make a positive social impact.

In 2022 Grace graduated with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Chemistry, from the University of Otago. While studying in Dunedin, she had the privilege of participating in various leadership and science outreach programmes and she is passionate about diversity and inclusion in the scientific sector and giving other young people the opportunity to learn and engage with science.

Grace was born and raised in Tauranga with her mum, dad and younger sister. She has a love for chucking herself in the deep end, and constantly strives to learn new things. In her spare time she enjoys being active, going on adventures with friends, and catching up with her whānau over some classic chips and dip.

He aha te mea nui? Māke e kii atu, he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

Pete Mercer

Pete Mercer

Head of Research and Development

Email Pete

+64 9 302 3840

With 12 years of experience in diversity, equity and inclusion related roles and a penchant for membership bodies, Pete is thrilled to be a part of the Diversity Works New Zealand whānau. He views employers as not just a reflection of society, but as crucial vehicles for driving both structural and cultural change.

Prior to this, Pete spent 6 years delivering and managing membership programmes and content development for an equalities charity in the UK, specifically advising public and private sector organisations alike on LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace. His latest role there as Head of Global Partnerships involved building relationships with multinational employers and LGBT+ charities across the world, and leading a team to develop resources, policy frameworks and global indices. Pete has an MA in International Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in which he focused on the global politics of human rights.

At the end of 2020, Pete moved from the UK to Aotearoa New Zealand with his fiancé and is delighted to call Auckland their new home. He loves natures, so is constantly in awe of the sheer beauty of Aotearoa – and takes any opportunity he can to take a dip in the water!

Nata Tolooei

Dr. Nata Tolooei

Senior Research Associate and Accreditation Manager

Email Nata

+64 9 580 4448

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.


Sarah Macdonald

Sarah Macdonald

Learning and Development Advisor

Email Sarah

+64 9 580 4446

Sarah is a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging work in all aspects of our communities and has more than two decades of experience working and studying in related fields. 

In recent times, she has been working at a grassroots level, walking alongside migrants and forcibly displaced people in Aotearoa. This work has focused on supporting those from the wider community to better understand the complexities of arriving in Aotearoa with varied lived experiences and finding ways to build connections.  

Sarah is a qualified Intercultural Competency and Communication Trainer and she also has degrees in International/Global Studies and Conflict Resolution as well as a Masters of Human Rights (hons).  

Sarah always takes a creative and multi-dimensional approach to support this mahi. She is dyslexic thinker who, as an adult has begun to find her superpower in finding ways to communicate the big issues. Her end goal is to inspire bravery and curiosity so that we can have the deeper, more uncomfortable conversations that lead to change.  

She also passionate about what it means to be Tangata Tiriti and has been on this journey since arriving back in Aotearoa after many years away.   

The willingness to show up changes us, it makes us a little braver each time – Brené Brown 

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

Email Sarah

+64 9 580 4440

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

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. 

Sonarli Jayaweera

Sonarli Jayaweera

Accounts Assistant

Email Sonarli

+64 9 580 4445

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.

Sindy Senthuran

Sindy Senthuran

Project Coordinator

+64 9 869 4180

Email Sindy

Sindy enjoys working in the digital project space in project management and business analysis. Previously she worked with Competenz (an industry training organisation) for four years and she is very passionate about education. She spends some of her weekends doing zoom tutoring and enjoys teaching about learning styles and techniques that help students study more effectively.

She has a Bachelor of Commerce (majoring in information systems) and Bachelor of Arts degree (majoring in anthropology) from the University of Auckland. 

Sindy has a diploma in traditional Indian dancing and enjoys choreographing and performing fusion dance. She believes it is important for people to learn and understand the beauty of diversity and she values learning.

கற்றது கை மண் அளவு கல்லாதது உலகளவு

Pronunciation: Katrathu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallathathu Ulagalavu
What one knows is only a handful, whereas the unknown is the size of the world.

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.

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