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Dr Ellen Joan Ford (Nelson)– Speaker, Trainer & Consultant Specialising in Leadership and Workplace Culture: Ex-Army, Academic, Business Focused Mum.

  • “Because Ellen’s a change-the-freaking-world person.”
    – Mark Crysell, TVNZ SUNDAY correspondent
  • “Ellen was a fantastic speaker… thought-provoking, stimulated significant discussion amongst attendees and was delivered with good humour.”

    – Peter Chew, Director, KPMG
  • “Ellen’s passion combined with the research she has completed made for an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable session. Ellen is an excellent speaker.”

    – Eric Chapman, Director, EY
  • “Ellen’s presentation at BCITO’s Construction Summit was absolutely on point. Feedback from our 120 industry representatives present was extremely positive.”

    – Greg Durkin, GM – Te Kāhui Whakawhitinga (Transformation), BCITO
  • “Prepare to be captivated from the very first page of Ellen’s remarkable new book, full of thought-provoking themes. It’s an absolute must-read that will linger in your thoughts long after you’ve turned the final page.”

    – Steve Jurkovich, Chief Executive, KiwiBank, New Zealand
  • “An engaging speaker, Ellen held the room completely and led the conference in her open and honest manner through numerous and related subjects.”

    – Lieutenant Colonel Cory Neale, Commanding Officer 2nd/1st Battalion, NZ Army
  • “Ellen demonstrated a passion for leadership to transcend the ordinary and deliver the extraordinary. Ellen’s openness, honesty and positive energy was in itself an inspiration for our farming leaders.”
    – Reuben Casey, COO, Craigmore Sustainables
  • “Ellen’s presentation style is highly engaging and she shared her expert knowledge with passion.”

    – Honiana Love (ia/she/her), Tumu Whakarae · Chief Executive, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
  • “You were the hit of the day Ellen– you’re a star!”

    – Raewyn Bleakley, Chief Executive, New Zealand Food & Grocery Council
  • “Your session was thought provoking, courageous, current and inspiring… your delivery was engaging, honest and energetic and you shouldn’t change a thing.”

    – Jason McLean | General Manager NSW/ACT Metcash Food
  • “Ellen’s engagement and candour were outstanding. Her knowledge, passion, and ability to connect with an audience are truly remarkable.”

    – Jane Yee, head of podcasts, The Spinoff
  • “Ellen absolutely nailed it… It was a powerful and compelling. I would highly recommend her for any future conference or speaking event.”
    – Mike McRoberts, Journalist (Newshub), Presenter and MC
  • “Ellen is an inspirational speaker with a unique and engaging presentation style… your presentation absolutely hit that mark.”

    – Helen Garner, Chief Executive, Business Whanganui

The #WorkSchoolHours movement presents three basic principles to combat the compounding problem of work not working for everyone.

Right now, we are expected to work as though we don’t have kids and parent as though we don’t have jobs. It is not sustainable. It’s causing people to leave the workforce, or to sacrifice valuable family time – and simultaneously hurting organisations as retention and productivity take a nosedive.

#WorkSchoolHours offers us all a better framework – one that takes us far beyond how we structure our work schedules to deliver better commercial outcomes for businesses, better careers for all working people, and better lives for everyone.

Building on decades of research and lived experiences, #WorkSchoolHours gives us practical insights and immediately actionable solutions.

“#WorkSchoolHours provides not just the manifesto for change but offers real and practical ways to tackle the opportunity. This is a must read for any leader building a modern workplace.”
Michael Moynahan – Former CEO of HarperCollins ANZ, Former Chair of Creative New Zealand
“Prepare to be captivated from the very first page of this remarkable new book, full of thought-provoking themes. It’s an absolute must-read that will linger in your thoughts long after you’ve turned the final page.”
Steve Jurkovich – Chief Executive, KiwiBank

So, who is Dr Ellen Joan Ford (Nelson)?… I’m an ex-Army, Academic, Business Focused Mum, and I use my experiences and research to help organisation have better outcomes. And this comes down to better and more inclusive leadership

  • Dr Ellen Joan Ford (Nelson) is terrifyingly ambitious about changing the working world, for the betterment of people and organisational performance. And when you see her track record for tackling the seemingly impossible, and bringing people along with her, you will find it difficult to fault her logic. As a speaker, facilitator and consultant, Ellen helps organisations to improve staff wellbeing, retention, leadership, productivity, innovation and business performance.
  • Ellen’s life story is rich, and her deep expertise and practical experience is in leadership, as well as gender, well-being and the future of work. She has served in the NZ Army, completed an MBA and PhD in leadership, runs her own business, is the co-lead for a nationwide leadership project in New Zealand’s food and fibre sector, and is raising two little boys. Ellen has spoken at TEDx, advised many corporate and government organisations, including the NZ Army, and her research and ideas to improve the working world have been published multiple times. She is deeply passionate about improving the working world, and has used her research and leadership experiences to start the #workschoolhours and #belongingautonomypurpose movements.
  • Ellen is a force to be reckoned with. Her volunteer team evacuated 563 people from Afghanistan to New Zealand. She is the Kiwi Bank New Zealander of the Year 2023 ‘Local Hero’, and was also awarded Person of the Year 2022 – Manawatu Standard. Ellen provides a fresh perspective, delivered authentically, with high energy, for how leadership can be done differently.

My unique fusion of four quite different aspects to my experience (Army leader, academic, business focused Mum) and expertise allows me to add considerable value and have a wide impact. This is my story and journey.

Leader in the NZ Army

The first ten years of my career were as a leader in the NZ Army. I served on numerous overseas deployments, including Afghanistan, Antarctica, UK, Australia and many nations in the Pacific. As well as serving in the Army, I subsequently researched about, and then advised to, the NZ Army (view more info here) During 2021 and 2022, I was part of a small, volunteer team that supported the evacuation of 563 NZDF allies from Afghanistan to New Zealand (view more info here)

Two Afghan girls we evacuated to NZ

Our volunteer team: Martin Dransfield, Ellen Nelson,
Chris Parsons


Following my MBA (exec) in 2013, I completed a PhD in 2019, focused on the leadership experiences and wellbeing of women in the workforce. Read PhD thesis here. Or Watch video summary of PhD here . I then used these findings to help the NZ Army reduce the barriers facing women, and this advisory work was featured in numerous media stories here . A reference from the Chief of the NZ Army can be viewed here. My post-doctoral research involved informal conversations with more than 500 working parents and the disappointing findings regarding their challenging experiences led me to start the #workschoolhours movement to make socially and commercially smart improvements to the working world. Summary video here . I spoke about #workschoolhours at TEDx Auckland in 2022 (video is due out later in 2022) and have written about this in multiple publications here. During 2022 and 2023, I am involved in the Food & Fibre Centre of Vocational Excellence Leadership Development project alongside Rural Leaders. The report for the first stage of this project can be viewed here.

Business Acumen

I am also very business focused, having completed an executive MBA while managing staff and projects at PTS Logistics, and then spent seven years working as a trusted advisor and consultant with exporters at NZTE (NZ Trade & Enterprise), to grow their international business. I now run my own practice as a speaker and consultant; helping organisations to simultaneously improve social and commercial outcomes.


The final, and most vital, part of my story is my family. I am a Mum, wife, daughter, sister and friend, to the most important people in my life. My insights as a Mum, alongside my military, academic and business experience and expertise, are what drives my passion to make the working world better.