Your safety comes first. We are currently running all accreditation workshops virtually. Visit our workshop page for more information.

IWD 2021 - Catriona Strong, New Zealand Sugar Company

Published on 10 Mar 2021
Advice Trao


Join us as we celebrate International Women's Day over a month of special features, interviews and videos!

This global day recognises the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, with a mission to champion women of all backgrounds who dare to innovate, lead, and uplift others towards a more equal and inclusive workplace. At Human Synergistics, our mission is “Changing the World – One Organisation at a Time™” through developing effective leaders, innovative teams and positive workplace cultures, but we can’t do that without the help of our incredible network.

This year, we are taking the opportunity of International Women’s Day to celebrate a month of women in leadership and those that strive for constructive leadership and cultures.

To kick off our series, we interviewed Catriona Strong from New Zealand Sugar Company - Chelsea, who have been supplying top quality products to kiwi homes and businesses since 1884.


Catriona Strong

Catriona Strong
HR Manager, New Zealand Sugar Company LTD

Tell us a bit about when and why you first became accredited? I initially became accredited in (I think) 2010 as part of developing the leadership team at Arnott’s. I went on to get accredited in L/I and M/I in 2018 as part of developing the ANZ Sugar leadership groups.

What are some key insights you’ve learnt through this tricky Covid-19 time around constructive leadership? When dealing with uncertainty on a major scale, it was vital to create an environment that was safe for everyone to contribute to, to achieve the best outcomes and illicit the most out of everyone’s contribution. Especially in the first lockdown where there was no playbook and people had a real threat response to the situation, being really clear about what the objective was (keeping everyone and the business safe), acknowledging that no one had the answers and collectively working together we’d be able to navigate what needed to be done and iterate as we went along – learning the whole time about what was working, what wasn’t. This really opened the lines of communication throughout the organisation modelling the humanistic/encouraging style, which was the glue that kept everyone connected over this period and dampened down the threat responses our teams were experiencing.

What have you personally learnt about yourself in responding to the challenges of 2020/21 and the pandemic? There are two distinct areas for me, which the first is not so much what I learnt about myself – but more confirmed what I know about the importance of leadership and the impact of how leaders respond to a situation determines and reflects how the wider team respond. Personally for myself, it confirmed again that being really clear around the expectations – what we needed to achieve but also how we were going to achieve this – through everyone’s contribution – created the focus for everyone to start solving the problem.

What does the 2021 International Women’s Day slogan, #ChooseToChallenge mean for you in your work life? I live by the mantra of challenge constructively, stay ahead and be driven. For individuals, teams and organisations to perform at their best I believe you need to keeping scanning the internal/external environment, anticipate change, be proactive but equally stay the course of the actions you know are making a difference, delivering value and building the organisation for the future. Equally, I also believe you must be the role model of constructive behaviour if you are championing and challenging other leaders to do the same.

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to our AP network? The Female Lead did some interesting research last year by Cambridge psychologist – Terri Apter, following on from initial research done in 2000 on women at work. This research dispelled some commonly held myths – such as Women don’t want to seem too ambitious, but the truth is women are proud of their ambition, amongst many more dispelled myths. What the study did find in 2020, was women experienced a mind-set of ‘unentitlement’ – where women expect less form work than their male counterparts at work. What I think this highlights and what I’d like to share with the wider AP network is – as a significant part of the population, we need to understand each and everyone’s value we bring to work – regardless of position or title - and to build each other’s confidence and capability, to champion and support each other to reach our full potential. It’s a journey and one where each of us can have an impact.


Natural Cane SugarsNestled amongst bush on the edge of Auckland’s North Shore, the iconic Chelsea Sugar factory has been supplying top quality products to kiwi homes and businesses since 1884. Generations of New Zealanders have grown up with the taste of Chelsea in their baking, and the iconic pink packs in their pantries.

Chelsea Sugar has been in kiwi home baking recipes for more than a century, and the quality of our products means we also supply New Zealand’s food service industry, and export to all over Asia Pacific.