Sheree Carey is involved with eight different organisations, is chief executive for the Southland Chamber of Commerce, has broken a world record, advocates for cultural diversity, and is now a finalist in this year’s Woman of Influence Awards.
Mrs Carey was named a finalist in the Diversity category alongside seven other accomplished woman including Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe.
"I was overwhelmed when I found out I was a finalist, and even more shocked when I saw the calibre of inspirational women in the Diversity category,” Mrs Carey said.
Former Chamber employee and friend Miriam McKenzie nominated her while Southland District Mayor Gary Tong and CUE Production Director Tom Conroy were her references.
Before becoming the chamber’s head honcho she worked as the General Manager/Producer at local television station Mercury TV, which was then CUE TV and broadcast on the SKY & Freeview networks.
During her 20 years in the media industry she started a late-night show called Chatrooms, which produced over 180 episodes and covered controversial topics from homosexuality to pornography and abortion – the idea was to make conservative Southland talk more.
She was also involved in assistant producing Southland’s first ever telethon – 12 hours showcasing Southland to the nation and raising over $850k for the provinces first MRI scanner.
It was during her time in media that she produced a 26-hour, non-stop World Record breaking live TV interview between Mayor Tim Shadbolt and station owner Tom Conroy.
Come 2016 and she was appointed her current position with the Chamber.
Her nomination for the award stated "she couldn’t resist the opportunities the role would give her to make a difference in a traditionally ‘pale, male and stale’ Southland business society”.
Along the way she partnered with the Southern Institute of Technology to start an internship programme for international students, which had recently received funding for a part-time coordinator.
The programme allowed a business to take on an international student for 20 hours per week for eight weeks while they study the post graduate and masters business courses at SIT.
But, the role didn’t come without its challenges.
The nomination states; in 2016 Invercargill City Council mayor Tim Shadbolt introduced her at her first ‘Invercargill city leaders’ meeting by stating, "she’s a female in a wheelchair, if only she was Asian she would have ticked all the boxes” at that point she knew she’d made the right decision in taking the position.
Previous to her professional career she was left an incomplete tetraplegic as the results of a C4-5-6 spinal cord injury in a car accident at the age of 17.
It was knowing she had the opportunity to make a difference in the community that got her out of bed in the morning these days, she said.
"…not just through the work I do but by being out and about as a leader in a wheelchair, inspiring and giving hope to those with their own challenges, whether they be physical, mental or emotional.
"We all have a disability of some kind, some people’s just aren’t that obvious. But I believe that with hard work, the right support, a positive attitude and a sense of humour, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.”
The other finalists include; Dr Negar Partow, Naomi Manu, Sarah Lang, Shila Nair, Sophie Pascoe, Steph Dyhrberg, Victoria Lessing
The Women of Influence awards will be hosted by Hilary Barry at the SKYCITY Convention Centre in Auckland on September 18.