Invitation to Participate

My name is Amanda Sterling, I am a Doctoral student in the Department of Management and International Business, at the University of Auckland. I am conducting research exploring the embodiment of mothers within leadership. According to industry metrics  (e.g. the Champions for Change Diversity Report 2019, and New Zealand Workplace Diversity Survey 2019) women are still significantly underrepresented in senior leadership roles in New Zealand. Initiatives to address this position it as a ‘choice’ for mothers to  take on less responsible duties, lower-status part-time or flexible work options, or drop out of the paid workforce altogether when they become mothers. However, critics of this approach challenge us to question our ‘natural’ assumptions surrounding the ‘appropriate’ places for mothers’ bodies and what we ‘see’ as leadership.  

I am conducting focus groups with New Zealand based mothers who have children younger than five years old and who are leaders (or aspirational leaders), to explore the power and identity dynamics surrounding leadership and embodiment, and uncover opportunities for women entering and sustaining senior leadership positions. 

These focus group sessions are two hours long and have also been designed as a leadership development activity. It is expected that you will:

  • Build a greater awareness of yourself as a mother and leader;  
  • Build a greater awareness of how you interact with dominant norms and assumptions surrounding motherhood and leadership, and how you resist and rewrite these; and
  • Participate in a supportive environment with women going through similar experiences of motherhood and leadership. 

My aim with this research is to make a theoretical contribution to the power and identity dynamics surrounding leadership and embodiment, and a practical contribution to closing the leadership gender gap. Your participation in this research is a show of solidarity with all women as leaders. 

If you are interested in participating in this research please have a read through the Participant Information Sheet and Consent Form, and register your contact details as well as preferred time and location and any child care needed, on this google form*. If you have any questions around this research or your eligibility to participate then please contact me on

Many thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Amanda Sterling

* Please note, focus group sessions will be organised around you and, in light of the current situation with Covid-19, we are exploring alternative options, which could include doing them online or delaying.

Approved by the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee on 19th March 2020 for three years.  Reference Number 024314

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