From solo mum to multi-millionaire.
One of New Zealand’s most successful businesswomen, Diane Foreman, has written a book about getting to the top and why she thinks businesses need to work harder to get more females into executive and board roles.
In the Arena charts her rise from a 21-year-old solo mum barely able to pay her mortgage. Today she is worth about $180 million and is widely acknowledged as one of New Zealand’s leading entrepreneurs.
The book is full of business advice and strongly promotes the idea of women pushing for more executive roles.
A long time advocate for women in business, Ms Foreman said New Zealand companies needed to provide mentoring and training for women to help them be “board-ready”.
The entrepreneur cited Fonterra’s board and the EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists as examples of the lack of gender diversity in New Zealand.
“We only need to look as far as Fonterra and all their problems … It is women who are the mainstays of most New Zealand farms but they aren’t equally represented on the board,” Ms Foreman said.
“EY have just announced all of their finalists in the Entrepreneur of the Year competition are men, and that is a really bad sign for New Zealand business because to me, it’s showing there are just not enough good, strong businesswomen having the courage to put their business forward.
“What we need to do is train our women to be board-ready,” Ms Foreman said. “I think it is beholden on every CEO to look at the women in their organisation and put training programmes in place.”
Ms Foreman disagreed with having a quota system, with companies needing to put the people with the best skills in the job rather than a woman for the sake of gender diversity.
“International research shows that companies that have a gender-diverse board make more money, so at the end of the day if your job as the CEO is to return more money to your shareholders then your job should be to have a gender-diverse board.”
Asked what women should be doing, Ms Foreman said they needed to back themselves and be able to look at the bigger picture.
10 tips for success
• Don’t start a business without a business plan.
• Talk to a customer every day.
• Incentivise your staff.
• Don’t focus on the competition; yours is the only game you can change.
• Know your numbers every day.
• Selling (your) time is a wasted opportunity. Create a business instead.
• Never hire someone you can’t fire.
• Never go into business with friends or lovers.
• Innovation is everything.
• Run your business as if it were a public company – from day one.