Middle School Girls Hear Inspirational Mentor

July 02, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award winner 2014, Sarah Robb-O'Hagan, is one of New Zealand's most successful women in business, who is also making an impact on the global stage. Now based in New York, the inspirational Kiwi was back on New Zealand soil last week and paid a visit to the girls from the College Middle School to spark and ignite some of their own journeys in leadership.

As President of one of the world's premier fitness companies, Equinox, Sarah is recognised as a powerful leader when it comes to creating a culture of innovation and fostering creativity within her teams, leading more than 10,000 staff across 70 locations around the world. She is a passionate about supporting women in leadership and has served on Hillary Clinton's US State Department Council to Empower Women and Girls through Sport, and is also a trustee of the Billie Jean King Women's Sports Foundation.

Throughout her career Sarah has been recognized for her various achievements, including being named one of the 'Most Creative People in Business' by Fast Company Magazine, in Ad Age's 'Women to Watch' as well as appearing in Forbes magazine's 'Most Powerful Women in Sports' and Sports Journal's Top 40 under 40.

Coinciding with the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Week from June 27-July 4, Sarah’s presentation to the Year 7-10 girls in the College Chapel was part of the Sir Peter Blake Trust’s ‘Live Leadership’ series in association with Telecom. It was broadcast live via Facebook, so that school students around New Zealand could also watch, listen and send questions for Sarah to answer.

As she shared her empowering story, Sarah spoke of the stepping-stones and learning insights of her career path from high school student to company President. She said she believes a defining factor in our New Zealand culture that sets us apart globally is that New Zealand is a nation with a pioneering spirit. That New Zealanders have a natural tendency to push the boundaries and explore, and this is not typical of many other countries around the world.

‘We gave the world one of its greatest explorers – Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first man to reach the summit of Mt Everest in 1953. We also happen be the first country that gave women the vote in 1893 when the suffragette movement led by the pioneer Kate Shepard finally got the answer they had been demanding for so long,’ she said.

Sarah believes that being a pioneer in women’s rights has set the tone for the incredible environment New Zealand has continued to be for young women. The culture that the girls, our next generation of leaders, are growing up in today.

She stressed that it is so important as young New Zealanders that this trend is continued because it is young people’s desire to explore the world and bring back new insights and ideas that will continue to make New Zealand the fantastic little economy that it is.

‘It’s that creative spirit, she said, ‘which is what leads to the greatest technological and societal break throughs, so we need to recognize that we can and will continue to make a difference on the world stage.’

Sarah used our Kiwi love of sport within her own success story, saying she participated in everything she could get near. From field hockey, tennis, and netball to swimming, skiing, sailing and waterskiing, she made the most of every opportunity.

‘Luckily for me,’ she told the girls, ‘I learned later on in my career that I did not necessarily need to be the best at sport, but I could convert the lessons of sport to be used to my advantage later in life. All of those experiences taught me how to work with a team towards a goal and that in life we are so much more successful when we play to our strengths and can be our authentic self.’

The girls were able to relate to Sarah’s experiences of growing up in New Zealand, and enjoyed hearing how she embraced and overcame the challenges that came along her way. The College’s own recipient of the Sir Peter Blake Young Leader Award, Year 8 student Samantha Watson concluded the afternoon’s forum thanking Sarah on behalf of the College and presented her with a token of their appreciation.

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