Champion of women in business funds University Chair for Women in Entrepreneurship

Some of the inequitable opportunities for women in business will be addressed with the appointment of the Theresa Gattung Chair of Women in Entrepreneurship.

The new Chair, funded by leading businessperson and former head of Telecom New Zealand, Theresa Gattung, will helm a Centre that fosters entrepreneurial women and equips graduates with hard pegged business skills – including how to assess and use financial information.

It will provide a hub for high impact postgraduate research helping drive policy outcomes for women, as well as facilitating networks and mentoring programmes, and acting as an incubator for interdisciplinary collaborations.

Ms Gattung, who is gifting the University at least $2.5m over ten years, says that her support is driven by her desire to help make New Zealand the best place to do business, particularly for women.

“Improving women’s economic empowerment is crucial to gender equality, a goal that constantly needs championing. I’m a firm believer that through business we can create a fairer world. I have seen it work first-hand,’ she said.

“I see this Chair as providing another arm of support for women’s business empowerment. Women need to know how to launch a business, how to read a balance sheet, and what venture capital is and how to access it

“I want to encourage tertiary study that is practical and grounded in real world entrepreneurship that will give women a deep understanding of business,” she said.

Ms Gattung said she also hoped to be involved in lecturing and mentoring and to impart some of what she’s learned during her years in business

“What you put out, you’ll get back,” she said.

Dean of the University of Auckland Business School, Professor Susan Watson said that the Chair would bring together skills, academic enquiry, and expertise to empower enterprising women to create and enhance value for themselves and others.

“Providing women with an opportunity to engage with entrepreneurship – and the mindset and skills that accompany that – is one way of addressing current disparities in women’s business ownership, leadership, and representation in governance roles in the business world,” she believes.

While management, governance and an entrepreneurial mind set are features of the Faculty of Business and Economics, there is still a disparity in the gender imbalance of participating students Professor Watson said.

“In essence, the techniques of business are a mechanism to create forms of value, that can extend beyond the financial, from ideas. Now is the time to encourage more women – from the University of Auckland community and beyond – into the business ecosystem by equipping them with the tools to overcome financial hurdles and to succeed in enterprises.”

Women’s economic empowerment is a cornerstone of the 2030 Agency for Sustainable Development (SDG5) with a 2016 World Bank report noting that: ‘without boosting women’s economic participation and moving towards gender equality, it will be significantly more challenging for economies …. to reach their full economic and social potential’.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dawn Freshwater, has been steering the University to a stronger commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals since her arrival last year, and believes that the new Chair is an obvious further step towards this.

“We want to equip more women with entrepreneurial and business savvy knowledge, so they are encouraged to participate in and challenge the existing system – preparing more women for the evolving future of work.

“Our objective is to help close the gender gap in business and inform the wider community of the important role female leadership can play in achieving economic and social impact globally.”

Professor Freshwater said the University was thrilled to be in this partnership with Theresa Gattung to equip women with the skills that will help them succeed in business and in life.

“We very much appreciate Theresa’s visionary ambition to create meaningful change for women of Aotearoa New Zealand,” she said.

About Theresa Gattung
Initially known for her role as the first woman CEO of Telecom New Zealand as well as a NZX listed company, Theresa Gattung has not only achieved as a business leader, philanthropist, investor and author, but also created a pathway for others.

Having held multiple governance positions she continues to be a member of the National Advisory Board on the Employment of Women, is the incoming chair of Global Women, as well as the New Zealand lead of SheEO, an international community that supports, finances, and celebrates female entrepreneurs.

Theresa brings her knowledge as a co-founder of My Food Bag, Chair of Tend and AIA New Zealand and until recently AIA Australia, along with a myriad of other corporate roles during her 30+ years’ experience to the newly established Theresa Gattung Chair for Women in Entrepreneurship.

Established by the University of Auckland in June 2021, the Chair focusses on lifting the involvement and impact of women in business and equips women with entrepreneurial and business nous, mindset and skills to address the disparity in business, leadership, and governance. www.theresagattung.com

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