The list recognises the achievements of individuals who have used their position to make an impact on diversity and includes well-known public figures such as the Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie and Malala Yousufzai.
“I was shocked really,” Chen said when asked how she felt about the announcement. “There are some fantastic people there and I didn’t expect to be amongst them. It’s very gratifying but you wake up every day and you do your best and you don’t expect recognition.”
Despite her modesty, Chen has an impressive background leading up to this point in time.
“Most recently, I have completed the superdiversity stocktake and its implications for business, government and New Zealanders. I’ve also published a piece on the impact of superdiversity on democracy and electrical and referenda laws.”
These reports have been downloaded almost 94,000 times since November 2015, she said.
Chen’s interest in diversity started when she arrived in New Zealand as an immigrant. Since then, she has worked at the United Nations, argued human rights cases, set up New Zealand Asian Leaders (NZAL), established the Superdiversity Centre for Law Policy and Business, and was the inaugural chair of New Zealand Global Women.
“I’ve always been active in these areas and it’s simply the importance of ensuring that all New Zealanders and all people can maximise their full potential,” she said.
While at the UN, Chen worked on what became the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She also worked on the UN Women’s Convention and wrote a book on the subject upon returning to New Zealand.
“I’ve spent a lot of years of my life thinking about this area,” she said. “I’m just pleased to be able to make a contribution and I intend to keep on doing it.”
Mai Chen, Auckland-based Managing Partner of Chen Palmer Public and Employment Law Specialists, has been named in The Economist’s Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life.