DAME JENNY SHIPLEY
Politician and business leader
1952

New Zealand's first female Prime Minister

Jenny Shipley will forever be known as New Zealand's first female Prime Minister.

But before that happened in 1997, after organising a coup against sitting National PM Jim Bolger, she had already made a name for herself as a conviction politician.

Shipley had been an MP for only three years when she was made Social Welfare Minister in 1990 at the age of 38.

Together with her friend, Finance Minister Ruth Richardson, she was subject of vehement protest over cutting social welfare benefits.

But it was a decision she never regretted. The welfare state had no future if people in work received less than people on welfare, she said in her final speech in Parliament in 2002.

"Sometimes people have to be prepared to do what is right, even if it is not popular," she said. "I accept that it hurt some people and certainly offended some of the public … but if we had our time over again … I would do the same thing again."

Shipley was Prime Minister for two years until 1999, when Helen Clark became the first elected female Prime Minister.

Shipley and her three sisters were raised in a manse. She is a social liberal and was the first Prime Minister to attend the gay and lesbian Hero Parade in Auckland.

She was a primary school teacher before politics, and since politics has had a career as a company director, with some success, and one notable failure in the collapse of Mainzeal Construction. She became a Dame in 2009.

Shipley has often paid tribute to her husband, Burton Shipley, for encouraging her to enter politics when their children were young and for becoming a house-husband at a time when it was rare.

Talking about smashing the glass ceiling with Radio New Zealand in 2016 she said: "Kate Sheppard broke the first step insofar as she demanded we have a chance to vote.

"We stand on the shoulders of others. We don't do these things by ourselves."