Kate McKenzie became the sole woman at the head of an NZX 50 company when she started her new job as Chorus chief executive yesterday.

McKenzie also becomes the first woman to head a telco in this country since Theresa Gattung stood down as Telecom chief executive in 2007.

She said she'd been heavily involved in promoting the role of woman in technology throughout her career and this was something she would continue to advocate for, as well as pushing diversity in general.

"I've already met a good sample of our retail service providers and have enjoyed hearing about their plans. Customer focus is going to be a high priority for me. I really believe that if we can make great customer service our biggest differentiator, we will continue to be a successful organisation - it's at the heart of bringing better broadband to New Zealand," she said.


"Innovation is something else I'm really passionate about - there's always better, smarter, swifter, braver things an agile company could be doing."

McKenzie joined Telstra in 2004 and her most recent position at Australia's largest telco was chief operations officer responsible for field services, IT and network architecture and operations.

Institute of Directors governance leadership manager Felicity Caird said it was great to see McKenzie's appointment, but it was still concerning that just one out of the 50 top jobs went to a woman.

"I think some of the same drivers that have prevented women getting around the board table may apply for chief executives as well," she said.

"The statistics for the number of women in senior executive roles hovers around 20 per cent so we've got a very small pipeline coming through. So we actually need to focus more on that pipeline and having women in middle management and senior management. And we of course need to combat some of these natural biases when we go into the selection process."

Norah Barlow, former chief executive of Summerset Group Holdings Limited, was the last woman to head an NZX company before standing down last year.