Top ten NZ business figures of the past decade

Elevated to third position on the list, is the woman who put her indelible stamp on New Zealand's telecommunications industry.

Theresa Gattung served as chief executive of Telecom, the largest company on New Zealand's stock exchange by value, from 1999 to 2007.

Gattung had worked in senior marketing roles at National Mutual and at the Bank of New Zealand before taking up a similar role at Telecom. In April 1996, she became Telecom's Group General Manager Services.

In October 1999, she took over from Rod Deane as Telecom's CEO.

During her time Telecom repeatedly reported handsome profits. For example, in her final year at the helm, Telecom's net earnings for the year were $1bn (excluding $2bn in revenue from the sale of Yellow Pages Group).

At times it was a rocky road, though.

In March 2006, Gattung courted controversy by characterising telcos to a Sydney audience as not "straight up" with customers on pricing. "Think about pricing," the press quoted her as saying. "What has every telco in the world done in the past? It's used confusion as its chief marketing tool. And that's fine ... But at some level, whether they consciously articulate or not, customers know that's what the game has been. They know we're not being straight up."

There were also some questionable decisions: the company bought Australian telco AAPT which was a costly mistake. They also missed the boat on the mobile business by wasting $200m on a CDMA mobile network - the "old" technology in that area.

Nevertheless, Gattung has said she felt "really proud" of Telecom's achievements duirng her tenure.

"When I joined the company no-one had heard of the Internet and hardly anyone had mobile phones."

Fast forward to now and it had been through an unprecedented time of change, she said.

"That's going to continue. The pace is not going to slow down."

Gattung said it was different - and sometimes better - as a businesswoman in what had been a man's world.

"I still think it's harder for a woman to get to the top, it's harder to become CEO.

"I think the image of a CEO is still a hard-driving male but once you're CEO it's a challenging, stimulating, fantastic but tough job for anybody and I don't think the criteria for CEO is different for female or male."

Gattung announced that she would leave Telecom at the end of June 2007.

In 2006 the Forbes list of "The World's 100 most powerful women" ranked Gattung at number 49.

Theresa Gattung was educated at McKillop College, Rotorua, the University of Waikato (Bachelor of Management Studies in marketing) and Victoria University of Wellington (Bachelor of Laws).