Changing the Face of the Boardroom: Anita Keestra

In this interview series, we take a look at life as a ‘non traditional’ board member and the benefits they bring to boards and organisations.

Today we are profiling Anita Keestra. Anita is a fantastic female board leader from New Zealand. Bringing a diverse range of perspectives – ethnic, gender, and a fascinating blend of experience – she is certainly bucking the boardroom trend of pale, stale, and male.

Get On Board Australia (GOBA): What boards do you sit on?

Anita Keestra (AK): I currently sit on a number of boards. I am Deputy Chair at Auckland Regional Migrant Services (ARMS) and a member of ARMS Social Enterprise Committee. I am on the Board of Trustees of Papatoetoe High School, and Deputy Chair of the Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel (EPAP) of Auckland Council. I joined that panel in 2013 and was recently reappointed for another term until 2019.

GOBA: What is unique about you as a board member?

AK: Apart from the obvious ones [female and from a culturally diverse background], I am a professional person with huge networks, and have a unique and extensive experience in community development, business development and ethnic diversity. I also have a great passion for ethnic communities, empowering women and youth.

GOBA: How did you get your board seat?

AK: I have gained my board seats by being elected or appointed. All of the boards I am on were advertised.

GOBA: How does your uniqueness benefit the board / organisation?

AK: Being a woman with a blend of two cultures puts me in a unique position in being able to view things from a much broader perspective

Additionally, my networks and mix of skills and experiences enhances my strategic abilities and my contributions at governance levels.

GOBA: What has your experience on a board been like? Do you feel that your differences are a benefit or a hindrance?

AK: I feel that they are an absolute benefit! I am very approachable and general get on very well with people; this enables me to put my ideas/opinions forward in a practical and easy-to-understand way.

GOBA: What advice would you give to people in a similar situation to you?

AK: When you get a chance to be on a board, please go for it! Your contribution will benefit the community you serve and the community at large.

If you’d like to connect with Anita, you can find her on LinkedIn.


Many times I am told by aspiring board members that they feel like they are not qualified for the boardroom, or that they have nothing to offer. Much of this self-opinion comes from the perception that is reinforced in messages about the boardroom; you have to be old, connected, conservative, and extremely educated to be on a board.

I call BS on this!

I am certain that there are many wonderful board members out there who don’t fit the traditional “pale and stale” stereotype of company directors / board members. People who came to the boardroom along the path less travelled, with a unique career background or because of some rare characteristic that has proved invaluable for an organisation.

I know they’re out there and I want to profile them to show aspiring directors that they do have something to offer. That the boardroom is somewhere they can thrive and give back; and that their uniqueness can have extraordinary value to an organisation. I want organisations and people everywhere to know it too.


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