Women leading and influencing



Leadership Series: Diana & Aloesi Build Skills to Lead in Male-Dominated Spaces

Thursday, 3 February 2022

The Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) is privileged to support a vast range of leaders with varying backgrounds, goals, and levels of experience in their leadership journeys.

The Leadership Series shares the experiences of WLI participants and alumni, and how the program moulds and showcases their leadership potential, meeting them where they are in their journey and contexts.

In part one of the series, we hear from Fiji’s Aloesi Dakuidreketi-Hickes and Diana Wally Guria from Papua New Guinea on how they have become better prepared to lead in male dominated finance, science, banking, and political spheres.

[Video: Aloesi speaks about Integrated Farming of Fish and Poultry, delivered through the WLI]

Aloesi Builds Resilience to Thrive and Lead in Male-Dominated Spaces

For experienced Fijian agricultural research leader and PhD candidate Aloesi Dakuidreketi-Hickes, taking part in WLI’s Leadership & Mentoring program provided a way to develop the skills to thrive in a male-dominated environment.

“Being a woman leader, you need to build up your resilience, particularly when you are trying to get into and stay and thrive in a male-dominated sector,” she says.

Resilience building has been a key theme that Aloesi has stayed focused on throughout her career and WLI journey, helping to remind her of her knowledge, skills, and leadership capacity.

“WLI has empowered me and given me resilience,” says Aloesi, “You don’t just throw in the towel when things get tough, … you have to expect opposition and work through it.”

Prior to starting her career and studies in Fiji’s agriculture industry, Aloesi spent over ten years as a secondary school teacher and department head, empowering and mentoring girls to be great leaders.

Passionate about science and agriculture, she has also applied her teaching skills to mentoring staff and team members, and leading community projects aimed at building the economic resilience and food security of Fijians affected by the pandemic – through WLI Leadership for COVID-19 Response & Recovery.

“I love to share the knowledge and the passion and seeing the spill-over of this project in the Pacific is going to be amazing,” Aloesi says.

The Integrated Farming of Fish and Poultry project, which Aloesi led in 2020, has been commended by the Fijian Government for its inclusiveness across a number of ministries, and the positive impact it is having on women in Fiji.

Having recently returned home to Fiji, Aloesi is in the process of securing work, through which she intends to use her patience, persistence and resilience to lead positive change in agricultural research.

“I have this leadership calling in me,” says Aloesi, “Being a female coming into a male-dominated sector can be challenging, but also very empowering.”

Diana and Aloesi are alumni of the WLI Leadership & Mentoring Program.


[Pictured: Diana Wally Guria]

Diana reflects on values and gains confidence to run for parliament  

Having worked in Papua New Guinea’s banking industry for over 20 years and managed a team of 72 people, Diana Wally Guria is experienced in working in a heavily male-dominated sector and culture. 

The Master of International Business and Entrepreneurship student joined the WLI to help build the skills, confidence and networks needed to achieve her goal: to support women, young people, and people living with disability and in settlements to access training, education and opportunities.

To do this, Diana reflects on her own values and has committed to entering politics.

She has made the life-changing decision to work towards running in the 2027 national election.

“Being a woman myself and growing up in a settlement, I want to help these people [and] go to platforms where I can impact the lives of many, many women … I think this is politics,” Diana says.

In order to be a change agent and achieve her community empowerment goals, Diana believes reflecting on her own values, and connecting with others through theirs, is paramount.

“To be a change agent, to be the person who I want to be, I need to change myself in certain ways, identify my values, and look for the ones I don’t have and build on [them]...,” Diana says.

Participating in LeadershipConnect (and the wider WLI program) has helped Diana explore these values and how she can use them to influence change – an experience that has been particularly supportive during the pandemic.

“Last year, we had the LeadershipConnect [program] and I didn’t miss any of it,” explains Diana, “I didn’t have the self-confidence in me, so I thought this program would help me...”

Diana credits the speakers she was able to learn from through LeadershipConnect, including Vanuatuan senior politician Ralph Regenvanu, for guiding her leadership journey and imparting invaluable lessons.

Regenvanu shared his views on the importance of affiliating with a political party that “has the right plans that can bring improvement to the lives of people in the community”, as Diana hopes to do.

“In Papua New Guinea, there are many political parties, but through the WLI and the mentors, they have given me a few contacts,” says Diana, “WLI is the platform that has built me up,” she adds.