Women of Influence: Siouxsie Wiles named Supreme Winner for COVID-19 work

Upon accepting her award, Dr Wiles reminded Kiwis to use the COVID Tracer app.
Upon accepting her award, Dr Wiles reminded Kiwis to use the COVID Tracer app. Photo credit: Supplied.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles has been named the supreme winner at the 2020 Women of Influence Awards.

Dr Wiles, an associate professor at the University of Auckland, has frequently provided evidence-led commentary and advice on keeping safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming a regular in the media as New Zealand tackled the virus. 

Her clear, accessible explanations of aspects of COVID-19 and measures to stem its spread have been picked up internationally. 

On Tuesday night at Auckland's Aotea Centre, she was chosen "from a wealth of inspirational women who are excelling on the local and international stage" as the awards' supreme winner.

"I want to thank all of you, because you all did what we asked you to do, and we're really, really grateful you listened," Dr Wiles said upon accepting the award.

"I'm so privileged I'm in a position to have the skills and the knowledge to help us get to where we are, because February and March were pretty scary times.  But I want to remind you that it's not over yet, so please keep scanning that app and hopefully next year is going to be a better year for all of us."

The awards, presented by Westpac and Stuff, attracted 339 nominations across 10 categories this year. Westpac chief executive David McLean was impressed by the quality and diversity of nominations. 

"We're faced with a raft of social, environmental and economic challenges right now, and Kiwi women are at the forefront of the response. With that in mind, I can't think of a more deserving winner than Siouxsie," McLean said.

"Whether it's confronting our domestic violence problem, mobilising the climate change movement or helping young people get more engaged in their financial future, all our category winners deserve to be celebrated for their amazing work."

Stuff CEO Sinead Boucher also acknowledged Dr Wiles' work.

"What I admire about Siouxsie, as well as her undoubted expertise in her field, is how she has persevered through all sorts of personal attacks and trolling to ensure the incredibly important facts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what we need to do, are communicated clearly and articulately."

Previous Supreme Winners include professor of neonatology Jane Harding and The Aunties founder Jackie Clark.

Full list of 2020 Women of Influence Award winners

  • Supreme winner and Innovation, Science & Health: Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist and leader during COVID-19 pandemic with accessible and evidence-led commentary.
  • Arts & Culture: Parris Goebel, award-winning musical director and choreographer who's worked with some of the music industry's biggest stars.
  • Board & Management: Dame Alison Paterson, trailblazing businesswoman, company director and "Grande Dame of Governance" with almost half a century of experience on boards.
  • Business Enterprise: Brooke Roberts and Sonya Williams, co-founders of micro-investing company Sharesies, credited with making investing more accessible to tens of thousands of Kiwis.
  • Community Hero: Ranjna Patel, domestic violence campaigner working with police to identify at-risk men and help them change their behaviour.
  • Diversity: Tupe Solomon-Tanoa'i, helping finance criminal justice and family law research; campaigner for cultural recognition and inclusion.
  • Global: Jane Kelsey, law professor, leading academic and commentator on neoliberalism and international trade policies.
  • Public Policy: Una Jagose, Solicitor-General embedding Māori language and values in Crown Law; first female GCSB Acting Head.
  • Rural: Trish Fraser, soil scientist, Plant & Food Research, leads a team of scientists to help improve the productivity and sustainability of Kiwi farms.
  • Young Leader: Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i, climate change and social equality campaigner, author and poet, head girl at Aorere College.
  • Lifetime achievement: Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, Pasifika community leader and New Zealand's first female Pacific Island MP.