Who are New Zealand’s Women Powerbrokers? (Part 2)

Who are New Zealand’s Women Powerbrokers? (Part 2)

They play a crucial role in business, are among our most innovative entrepreneurs, their influence can change Government policy, and they oversee the direction some of our largest businesses take.

Across executive management, governance, entrepreneurship and public service, REDnews has identified the top 5 women powerbrokers in each category.

It’s a subjective list and you may well disagree with some of those named. That’s fine. All opinions welcome. The purpose is to acknowledge their work and influence within New Zealand and the yardstick they have laid for our future women leaders.

Yesterday we looked at the Executive Management and Governance categories. Today’s second and final instalment identifies our top Entrepreneur and Public Service powerbrokers.



Dame Wendy PyeDame Wendy Pye

Through her vision, passion, drive and energy, Dame Wendy heads one of the world’s most successful education export companies, Wendy Pye Publishing Ltd.

Her educational products consist of over 1,800 titles which have sold over 218 million copies in over 20 countries worldwide.

Dame Wendy was named Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and education at the end of 2012. This added to an MBE for services to export awarded in 1994, and she was also the first living woman to be inducted into the Fairfax Media New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.

She also won Business Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2014 Women of Influence Awards.


Diane ForemanDiane Foreman

She left school at 15, struggled through an unhappy marriage in her 20s and ended up alone, working two jobs to make enough money to support her daughters Nikki and Amy.

Now Diane Foreman is known as the “Ice-cream Queen” and the power behind investment arm Emerald Group that has had success in health, property and recruitment. It also owns Emerald Foods, which among other things sells the NZ Natural Ice-cream brand into 33 countries through 650 branded stores. 

She is a former deputy of the Business Roundtable.

SEE ALSO: Why women don’t negotiate the salaries they deserve


Erica CrawfordErica Crawford

Erica’s passion for creating brands and building companies saw her co-found Kim Crawford wines where she created a new business model – a virtual wine company.

She managed and grew the company from a small family-owned business to a significant international player that is sold in more than 30 countries.

In 2001 it was the first New Zealand winery to use the then-controversial screw cap on wine bottles, and today more than 1 million cases of wine bear the Kim Crawford label.

She is a member of NZ Trade and Enterprise’s Beachhead Advisory Board, an advisor to the ASA Liquor Promotions Control Board, President of the Canada NZ Business Association, and sits on the Advisory Board of New Zealand Global Women.


Cilla HegartyCilla Hegarty

Cilla is the founder and Chief Executive of Christchurch-based NZ Tax Refunds (NZTR), the company known for its “WooHoo” ads. It is now the largest tax refund company, has 80 employees in Christchurch and Whangarei servicing a national client base of over 250,000.

Having led the way as the first online tax agent, 6 years later there are now over 38 competitors.

Its strong relationship and collaboration with Inland Revenue has seen service delivery improvements for both organisations.

Cilla was the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year service category winner in 2012 and was a finalist in the Business Entrepreneur category of the 2014 Women of Influence Awards.


Peri DrysdalePeri Drysdale

Peri Drysdale founded Snowy Peak Ltd in 1981, producing knitwear which she exported to Europe, North America, and throughout Asia and Australasia. This has included pioneering the development of possum fibre and wool as a high quality luxury yarn which is now a substantial industry for New Zealand.

The business has retained a strong focus on sustainability for which it’s globally recognised.

Peri personally has received very wide recognition for her work ranging from being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to New Zealand (Manufacturing and Export), and was North and South Magazine's New Zealander of the Year for 2006.

Also, in 2007 Peri was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce from Lincoln University and was the Supreme Award winner at the 2008 KEA World Class Awards.



Jenny Morel, The co-founder of No 8 Venture, was instrumental in pioneering the venture capital sector in New Zealand, helping many fledgling Kiwi tech companies follow their dreams.

Rachel Taulelei, Founder and CEO of Wellington-based fresh supplier Yellow Brick Road, is leading change in the New Zealand fishing industry, as well as co-founding the capital’s City Market and being on the board of Grow Wellington.



Naomi FergusonNaomi Ferguson

A former senior figure in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Naomi Ferguson returned to New Zealand in late 2012 to become Commissioner and Chief Executive of Inland Revenue.

It’s a big, influential role in an organisation that is no longer simply a tax collector, but has been charged with an ever expanding range of functions pertinent to every New Zealand household.

SEE ALSO: Why women don’t negotiate the salaries they deserve


Franceska BangaFranceska Banga

Franceskahas been Chief Executive of the NZ Venture Investment fund since its inception in 2001, overseeing more than $200 million worth of investment in early stage companies.

Through her role with the industry, she has been a key figure in public policy development on issues such as limited partnerships legislation, tax, and public-private partnerships, as well as being a member of NZ’s Capital Markets Development Taskforce.

Prior to the establishment of NZVIF, Franceska was responsible for advising the NZ Government on a range of strategic investment issues.

Previous roles include: Chief Strategist for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology; Director for the NZ Treasury (responsible for health sector investment); and Senior Advisor, Reserve Bank of NZ.

She is a director on the board of ATEED and the Fred Hollows Foundation.


Dr Mary QuinMary Quin

After leaving New Zealand in 1976, Mary Quin had a stellar career in senior executive roles in companies such as Kodak and Xerox, where she was VP of Strategy and Business Development for Xerox’ US$5.5 billion Production Systems Group.

She returned to New Zealand to take up the role of inaugural Chief Executive of Callaghan Innovation, the Government agency charged with accelerating the commercialisation of innovation by Kiwi firms.


Vicky RobertsonVicky Robertson

As Deputy Chief Executive at Treasury, former Black Stick Vicky Robertson has responsibility for the Treasury’s commercial, financial and corporate operations, and oversees the performance of the Treasury as a whole.

Her 14-year career at the Treasury has included a variety of roles ranging from policy development on KiwiSaver legislation, to climate change policies.

She was the first woman to lead the Treasury’s tax unit, and in 2010 was seconded to the United Nations Development Programme in New York where she led a strategic and structural review of the organisation.


Helene QuilterHelene Quilter

A vastly experienced public servant and former Deputy Commissioner of the State Services Commission, Helene Quilter was appointed Secretary and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Defence in 2012, overseeing a $500 million budget.

Prior, she was Deputy Commissioner at the State Services Commission where she provided leadership to chief executives to improve agency performance, and was responsible for managing the performance of chief executives in the justice, defence, intelligence, and foreign affairs agencies on behalf of the State Services Commissioner.

She was previously a Deputy Chief Executive with the Ministry of Social Development.



Michelle Hippolite, Chief Executive of Te Puni Kokiri, is influential in producing policy advice on key areas of Maori development. 

Carolyn Tremain, Chief Executive and Comptroller of NZ Customs is responsible for the frontline performance of one of our most important departments.


Who’s missing?

Didn’t see a name you were expecting? Tell us in the comments below.

SEE ALSO: Why women don’t negotiate the salaries they deserve

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