Industry-led leadership programme launched to support women into more top science and innovation roles

Auckland, New Zealand, March 2, 2021 – Industry-led leadership programme launched to support women into more top science and innovation roles

Brandon Capital Partners launches the WILD Programme with the Kiwi Innovation Network – 10 women on first intake

A new industry-led programme, Women in Leadership Development (WILD), has been launched to increase the number of women holding top positions in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) roles in New Zealand.

The first intake of 10 women spanning a broad range of roles across the science and innovation sectors, have been selected for the inaugural programme, with the cohort scheduled to have their first networking meeting in Auckland next month.

Life science venture capital firm, Brandon Capital Partners is bringing the WILD Programme to New Zealand after successfully piloting it with the WILD Australia team in 2019 and has partnered with the Kiwi Innovation Network to deliver the programme locally. The industry-led initiative is being run with further support from WILD Australia and the Angel Association of New Zealand.

Chair of KiwiNet, Ngaio Merrick says New Zealand has many women actively involved in science, research and commercialisation across the country. “We have tremendous talent in New Zealand. It is entirely the right thing to do to equip more women from our STEM sectors, with the capabilities to excel in leadership and take active roles in governance.”

Brandon Capital’s New Zealand Head, Duncan Mackintosh, says he hopes the programme will go some small way to addressing gender inequality across the science and innovation sectors.

“Sadly, we know there are too few women in STEM progressing in their careers into senior leadership roles where we see serious gender disparity. The WILD Programme has been developed to help bridge that gap,” says Mackintosh.

“We’re very excited to bring this programme to New Zealand. The initial launch of the WILD Programme in Australia has been excellent, with 40 percent of the first cohort experiencing career progressions such as increased salaries, promotions and new career opportunities since the start of the programme.”

MBIE’s 2019 Research, Science and Innovation Strategy Draft recognised that while New Zealand’s proportion of women researchers in our public research institutions in the research, science and innovation (RSI) sector is above average, this figure disguises significant gender disparities by career stage. A 2019 Diversity Works NZ survey[1] found that in both private and public sector organisations, women only make up 25 percent of governance and leadership roles.

The six month-long programme has been developed by women, for women, in collaboration with many RSI and STEM focused industry partners across New Zealand. The participating women were selected by a judging panel from Angel Association New Zealand, Brandon Capital Partners, Callaghan Innovation, Kiwi Innovation Network and independents.

Maria Jose Alvarez has been selected as one of the women to participate in the WILD pilot programme. She’s the co-founder of Chilean Venture VidaOx and is an Investment Manager at NZ Growth Capital Partners.

Ms Alvarez says that the WILD Programme is a great opportunity for New Zealand to diversify leadership within the STEM sector.

“My experience is that women are expected to stay in junior roles for much longer than men and even when they do have the experience, that does not necessarily get recognised,” says Ms Alvarez. “As a woman in STEM it sometimes feels like you do not have many women to look up to, and the Boards look down and want to hire people who look like them. Diversity in leadership is a real problem for the sector.”

“This programme is a great opportunity to learn from other women who have progressed to a senior leadership level in their STEM careers. As a mentor to women in STEM myself, it’s important to me to find opportunities like this to enact change in the sector,” continues Ms Alvarez. “With this programme I’m excited to utilise the experience to further my own expertise at a leadership level and feed the learnings back into the Boards of the companies I oversee as an Investment Manager.”

Although newly established, the Australian WILD Programme has achieved significant positive outcomes. Among new career opportunities, the cohort has also built powerful relationships and camaraderie, with regular, ongoing communications.

The WILD Programme is offered in four stages including a formation and introductory governance course, a Board and mentor assignment, governance and leadership training, and an aspirational leadership retreat and consolidation. It will commence in late March this year.



Note to Editors:

For Brandon Capital please contact:

Caleb Hulme-Moir, Mana Communications,, +64 (0) 220 698 065 or Tori Levy, Mana Communications,, +64 (0) 27 858 1884

For KiwiNet, please contact:

Natalie Ward, Kiwi Innovation Network, , +64 (0) 21 574 654

About the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and Brandon Capital Partners

Brandon Capital Partners is a venture capital firm that manages the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), Australia and New Zealand’s largest life science investment fund.

The MRCF is a unique collaboration between major Australian superannuation funds, the Australian and New Zealand governments, Australian state governments and more than 50 leading medical research institutes and research hospitals.

The MRCF supports the development and commercialisation of early-stage biomedical discoveries associated with member research organisations, providing both capital and expertise to guide the successful development of new therapies. The MRCF has supported more than 46 start-up companies to date, most of which were founded by the MRCF. For more information about Brandon Capital Partners, visit

About KiwiNet

KiwiNet champions people who commercialise research by helping them to access the tools, connections, investment and support they need to create amazing new products and services. By collaborating on projects, combining capability and sharing networks, KiwiNet helps one another deliver better commercial outcomes for New Zealand.

KiwiNet’s members include Plant & Food Research, Callaghan Innovation, AgResearch, Otago Innovation, Landcare Research, Lincoln University, University of Canterbury, Wellington UniVentures, WaikatoLink, AUT Enterprises Ltd, Cawthron Institute, Environmental Science & Research, NIWA, Scion, GNS Science Malaghan Institute and the Health Innovation Hub.

For more information, please visit

About the Angel Association of New Zealand

Angel Association New Zealand (AANZ) is the champion for early-stage investment. AANZ aim to increase the quantity, quality and success of angel investment in New Zealand and in doing so create a greater pool of capital for innovative start-up companies.

AANZ connects early-stage investors nationally and internationally. The association actively supports deal making, collaboration and professional development and promotes angel investment through data and case studies as an asset class that is rewarding and well defined.

For more information, please visit