Published on Our Wāhine
To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Women’s suffrage in New Zealand, Kate will be illustrating extraordinary women from New Zealand’s history.
Now recognised as one of New Zealand’s top public and constitutional law experts, Mai arrived in New Zealand from Taiwan as a six-year-old, speaking no English. In 1981, she was dux, head girl and best all-round student at Otago Girls’ High School, and went on to complete her Masters of Law at Harvard Law School in 1988.
In 1992, Mai became the youngest senior lecturer in law at Victoria University of Wellington. Two years later she co-founded Chen Palmer with former Prime Minister the Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer. It was one of New Zealand’s first boutique law firms and the first public law specialist firm in Australasia.
Her early years as a member of one of the first immigrant Taiwanese families in New Zealand, gave Mai an understanding of life as an outsider. She now works to empower women and champion diversity through her numerous governance, advisory and leadership roles and is making legal advice more accessible to all New Zealanders through her books and websites.
Mai is an adjunct professor at the University of Auckland, chairs New Zealand Global Women andthe Superdiversity Institute for Law, Policy and Business, which is working to help New Zealanders adapt to a superdiverse New Zealand. She founded New Zealand Asian Leaders and set up Superdiverse Women, which aims to empower and inspire diverse Australasian women leaders. Mai has twice been a finalist for the New Zealander of the Year Award.