The 'girl from KFC' who did rather well
The "girl from KFC" who became the only female chief executive of a listed company in 2011 says she was overwhelmed to be recognised in today's Queen's Birthday honours.
Wellington's Norah Barlow was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business.
Barlow was chief executive of Summerset since 2001, leading the company in its initial public offering in late 2011, until her retirement this year.
At the time she was the only female chief executive of a listed company on the NZX50.
Summerset has been named best retirement village operator in Australasia for the past four years, while last year Barlow received a women in governance excellence in leadership award and was named Wellingtonian of the Year for business.
Summerset is the third largest retirement village operator and the second largest developer of villages in New Zealand
Barlow said she was overwhelmed to have been honoured, and was not expecting it.
"I'm still trying to find out who nominated me actually, I'm searching."
She thought she received the honour for her role in leading a group of people in changing the way society thought about retirement village living.
But she also believed it was her ability to stay "real" as a person while being chief executive of a major company.
"I think I've just stayed real and I think that a lot of people appreciate that part of business, you can still be a real person, and keep those values that you had ages ago, you can keep them alive."
Barlow announced her retirement from chief executive late last year, with Summerset's chief financial officer Julian Cook taking over.
Speaking soon after she announced her retirement, Barlow said she did not think of herself as anything other than "the girl from KFC", where she worked while studying at Victoria University.
She has remained with Summerset as a director.
Barlow established her own accountancy practice Barlow and McCormack in 1992, before moving to Summerset as its accountant in 1999.
She has been president of the Retirement Village Association for seven years and chaired the committee which developed the Code of Practice for retirement villages in New Zealand.
Barlow also serves on the board of ASX-listed Ingenia Communities, as well as Cigna Life Insurance.
But she also has an interest in local pub The Sprig & Fern, where her husband had arranged a quiet celebration with close family and friends.
"My husband has decided that he's invited a few people round. He hasn't told them what for, just invited them to come for drinks."