Shocking lack of women in New Zealand's Business Hall of Fame

Karen Walker is an international fashion success but still a passionate Kiwi. She should be on the list.
VIRGINIA WOOLF / FAIRFAX NZ

Karen Walker is an international fashion success but still a passionate Kiwi. She should be on the list.

OPINION: News that eight men will be inducted into the NZ Business Hall of Fame this year is great - we need to celebrate achievement, especially in business.

What's not so great though, more than that it's unacceptable, is the lack of women on the list. It's shocking that the country which was the first in the world to give women the vote, is in this situation.

Organisers say it's because the hall recognises long careers and that, until recently, there just weren't many women in business. That may well be true but we shouldn't let the past dictate what we do now. For things to change, we have to change the way we do things.

Where are the women?

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It's time to reward the many wonderful women who are in business today. If we don't, how can we hope to have role models for young girls to aspire to? 

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Diversity in business - not just gender diversity - is a huge issue that many groups are trying to address. Surely one simple way to help would be to highlight current success stories - of which there are many.

Here are 10 who should be nominated asap. 

Norah Barlow 

A former chief executive of NZX-listed retirement village company Summerset. Honoured for services to business in the Queens Birthday Honours in 2014. She was chief executive of Summerset from 2001, leading the company in its initial public offering in late 2011, until her retirement in 2014, although she remains on the board.

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Theresa Gattung

A former chief executive of NZX-listed Telecom (now Spark), co-founder of My Food Bag. She is a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and holds many directorships.

Naomi Ballantyne

Managing director of insurance company Partners Life. She has more than 30 years' experience in the insurance industry - having been hired as the founding employee of Sovereign as a 24-year-old, before later launching the company that became OnePath Life (NZ). In 2010 she founded Partners Life, a company with a business model she believes could be an international success.

Barbara Chapman

Chief executive of ASB Bank. The marketing brains behind the long-running Goldstein televisions ads, Chapman returned to the bank as chief executive in 2011 where she has been a fierce champion of diversity. Among other things, ASB was the first New Zealand bank to seek out the "Rainbow Tick", which gives accreditation for workplaces that are inclusive of all genders and sexualities.

Carmel Fisher

Director and principal of Fisher Funds Management, a company that manages $5.5 billion for 250,000 investors. Fisher Funds began in the spare bedroom of a villa in Devonport, on Auckland's North Shore. Years ago when Fisher was on maternity leave from her job managing an investment team for Sovereign Assurance, she figured she couldn't be the kind of mother she wanted to be and do a job like that. So she and husband Hugh, with a $17 million fund Sovereign suggested she could "look after" from home, started their own investment business.

Diane Foreman

Businesswoman, 2009 NZ EY Entrepreneur of the Year and recipient of the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business, Foreman's is a classic rags to riches story. The high school dropout quit education aged 15 and found herself a solo mum in her 20s following the end of her first marriage. After struggling as a typist and waitress while raising her children, she married multimillionaire Bill Foreman, then proved her worth working in his Trigon business. In 1996, she single-handedly managed the sale of the company for $130 million. From there she founded Emerald Foods which was sold to Chinese businessman Jerry Liu in 2015 for an unknown sum. 

Karen Walker

Fashion designer and businesswoman whose clothing is stocked in hundreds of stores across the world and shown at New York Fashion Week every year but remains passionately Kiwi.

Joan Withers

Director and former chief executive of Fairfax Media and The Radio Network, 2015 Women of Influence supreme winner. Withers left school at 16 years old and worked as a junior bank teller before moving up the ranks of the advertising world. She is currently the chairwoman of Mighty River Power and TVNZ, a director of ANZ and a member of the Treasury Advisory Board. She also spent two years as The Radio Network chief executive, fours years as Fairfax Media chief executive and about 15 years as an Auckland International Airport director and chairwoman.

Victoria Ransom

Dotcom entrepreneur who grew up near Bulls in Rangitikei, sold her social media marketing company Wildfire in 2012, and since then has stayed with Google, where she is currently developing strategies for the "future of shopping".

Kate Sylvester

Fashion designer and businesswoman whose rise to fashion fame has gone from her first store on Kitchener St, Auckland stocked with clothes she had sewn herself, to becoming a leading Kiwi designer with an international presence.

 - Stuff

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