Theresa Gat­tung

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - SUCCESS -

One of New Zealand’s most suc­cess­ful busi­ness­women, Theresa Gat­tung says the rise of the en­tre­pre­neur in the past decade has given women more op­por­tu­ni­ties to be suc­cess­ful. Best known for her roles as for­mer CEO of Tele­com and co-founder of My Food Bag with Na­dia Lim and Ce­cilia Robin­son, which has gone from zero to over $100 mil­lion in just three-and-a-half years, she says it is much “sex­ier” now to own your own busi­ness or work for a high-growth busi­ness than it is to be in the cor­po­rate sec­tor. She says the idea of women own­ing their own busi­nesses is very well en­trenched and be­lieves that although en­trepreneuri­al­ism is re­lent­less, it can suit women’s skills and needs be­cause it in­volves a lot of mul­ti­task­ing but also gives women the flex­i­bil­ity that al­lows them to thrive. The self-pro­claimed op­ti­mist firmly be­lieves the only way to change the per­cep­tion of women be­ing less suc­cess­ful in the work­place is if peo­ple speak up against it. “We still tend to see lead­er­ship as the tall, good-look­ing male in the room. It’s harder for women to get there, it’s harder for women to stay there and the penal­ties for per­ceived fail­ure are higher. “Women take pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for look­ing af­ter the home and bi­o­log­i­cally hav­ing the chil­dren. All of that makes it more dif­fi­cult if you want to get to the top, and some women de­cide it’s not worth it. But for those who re­ally do want it, it is harder.” Theresa is as­sertive when she says all women will have ex­pe­ri­enced prej­u­dice in their ca­reer, whether they have no­ticed it or not. “In my mid-20s, when I had my busi­ness de­gree and my law de­gree and I was try­ing to get into in­vest­ment bank­ing, I was told quite clearly that in­vest­ment bank­ing was not for women,” she re­calls. But she was lucky, be­cause her mother and, in par­tic­u­lar, her fa­ther taught her that girls could do any­thing. When she de­cided in her 20s that she wanted to be­come a CEO by the time she was 40, she was en­cour­aged to go for it. She was a woman on a mis­sion and by the age of 37, Theresa was the first fe­male Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Tele­com. “I changed com­pa­nies if I felt blocked or if I ran out of run­way to suc­ceed. I seized op­por­tu­ni­ties and I just went for it. I took risks and I moved side­ways a cou­ple of times. “I once left a work sit­u­a­tion be­cause I felt that it was an in­her­ently sex­ist en­vi­ron­ment and I’d never get to the top there. You can’t think that you can be the one who makes a dif­fer­ence. If it’s an en­vi­ron­ment that doesn’t sup­port you, then choose some­thing else,” she says firmly. Theresa be­came the Chair­per­son of the Com­pany of Women ear­lier this year, a hub of en­trepreneurial women that of­fers sup­port, men­tor­ship, in­spi­ra­tion and guid­ance to help women build suc­cess­ful busi­nesses. She says she wants to sup­port other fe­male en­trepreneurs on their jour­ney and re­mind them of the lesson her fa­ther taught her – that girls can do any­thing. “I think women have al­ways sup­ported each other and it’s good be­cause the Com­pany of Women brings all these sup­port­ive women to­gether in one place. You should see our get-to­geth­ers and feel the en­ergy buzzing in the room. The ca­ma­raderie, sup­port and the real shar­ing of knowl­edge that goes on there re­ally is the equiv­a­lent of the old boys’ club,” she says, laugh­ing. “To be suc­cess­ful, you have to re­main cu­ri­ous and not be too fo­cused on what suc­cess looks like tra­di­tion­ally. Op­por­tu­ni­ties will present them­selves and jobs will un­fold that you haven’t even heard of be­fore be­cause they don’t ex­ist yet. New ar­eas are be­ing cre­ated all the time. Who knows, in five or 10 years’ time My Food Bag could be de­liv­ered by drones,” she says with a shrug. “Don’t ever think that a sit­u­a­tion is fixed. You can change a sit­u­a­tion by be­ing in it and be­ing a part of it.” Theresa says ev­ery­body needs to ac­knowl­edge that women are still be­ing un­der­es­ti­mated and un­der­val­ued in the work­force, and to speak up for women who are try­ing to get ahead. “We’ve all got a voice, not just those of us who have a high public pro­file al­ready. We all need to speak up.”

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