It's hardly a position she's thrilled to hold, but Chorus boss Kate McKenzie, who started her job in February, is the only female CEO on the NZX-50 index of our largest companies.

One out of 50 isn't a great ratio, especially for a country that likes to pride itself on a good track record with regards to gender equality.

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"I can't really explain why there is are not more women CEOs, there really should be," she says. "Fifty companies, you'd think it would be something approaching half.


Maybe that's a question you should ask others rather than me as a newcomer ... but I'd love to see what I could do to help with that while I'm here."

As a senior telco executive in Australia, McKenzie was active in promoting diversity as a member of Chief Executive Women, serving with the Telstra Foundation (Telstra's philanthropic arm) and with a long history of involvement in promoting the interests of indigenous communities.

"I'm a big believer in meritocracy and I think most women want to get a job because they deserve it and because they're good and not for some other reason," she says.

"Why so few women get promoted: that is a broader question. And you want everybody to be thinking about that. And thinking about attitudes and what needs to change and how it is we do a better job of providing opportunity for people with talent and skills to be successful."

It's an issue that is true for women and for minority groups, she says.

"A lot of it is about trying to suspend your prejudices; we all like to recruit in our own image. But that doesn't necessarily give you a diverse culture."

In a world where technology, innovation and customer focus have become so important, it seems like a no-brainer, she says.

"There is so much that's been written about the need for diversity and different thinking styles ... you want a management team that reflects the community that it serves."


"It's something that changes when the whole community changes ... if you polarise and you make it a women's problem, not a men's problem, you get yourself into conflict and lack of clarity about the way forward."