Sarah Leberman is a strong advocate of women in leadership roles. She researches in the area of women and leadership in sport and academia and has designed and implemented a number of women in leadership programmes at national and university level. In 2016 she was a finalist in the Diversity category of the Westpac New Zealand Women of Influence Awards for her work in this area. She is currently Dean Academic at Massey University.
Born in England, Sarah has lived in many places around the world. She moved to Germany, where she was educated until she was 16, and then went to school in England when her parents moved to France. Her first degree was in Geography at Cambridge University. She met an inspiring academic and decided to do her Masters in Recreation Administration at Victoria University Wellington, and after being in New Zealand for a year, was determined to immigrate. She took a leap of faith applying for a job in New Zealand with only a backpack and $1,000, in a time when the internet was not available for job searching.
She secured this job as a Recreation Officer at Massey University in Palmerston North, where she helped establish the Sport Management Program. After five years she was the Manager of the Recreation Centre and was invited to apply for an academic role at Victoria University. During this time Sarah enrolled in a PhD in Management.
She returned to Massey in 1997 in the interest of her relationship and took on a role of Senior Lecturer in Sport Management. From there she progressed through the ranks, first as Associate Head of School, then Head of School of management with approximately 70 FTE across three campuses, then Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor of the Massey Business School and now Dean, Academic - a role that services the whole University.
Like many, Sarah has been challenged with the distribution of her time, and the need to spend quality time with her family. She was recently approached by another university with an enticing role. If her decision had been based solely on career she would have accepted, but she declined as it did not suit her family.
Early on in her career, Sarah was faced with challenges of dealing with older men who did not like having a younger woman as their boss. She acknowledges that this issue still exists, though to a lesser extent. Sarah’s discipline of sport management is considered by some as not being very academic and despite her credentials and extensive management experience, she has had to demonstrate her legitimacy in the work she has contributed.
In her time at Massey, Sarah has established a number of women's leadership programs, as well as a final year women's leadership program for business students, and a young women in leadership program targeted at high school students, who are not in leadership positions. She has also been very involved with women in sport through leadership and co-founded Women in Sport Aotearoa in 2017.
As a mentor, Sarah sees herself as a sounding board. Her approach to mentoring is to develop meaningful relationships, and to ask the good questions to help her mentees explore the options they can take to find solutions.