Helen Clark business hero

Guess who is the most admired businesswoman of this country. Telecom’s golden woman, Theresa Gattung? Telstra Clear’s feisty Rosemary Howard? No. It’s Helen Clark.

That is the finding of a poll by BRC Marketing and Social Research. It comes in the wake of other polls demonstrating widespread public ignorance of the crucial role of business in raising and maintaining living standards.

Asked if there was a female business leader the respondent particularly admired, only 37 per cent named anyone. Of those, 32 per cent nominated Prime Minister Clark (which is just one in eight of the whole sample).

Gattung came in at 19 per cent. There was a long drop down to Prime Minister-turned-businesswoman Jenny Shipley (3 per cent), who came third.

Was the low nomination rate of admired businesswomen just because women are less prominent than men in business? Not at all. Only the same low proportion of respondents nominated a male business leader they admired.

And the men they backed were those who have made a name for themselves for wider roles than just founding and building their businesses. Top was the Warehouse’s Stephen Tindall (21 per cent of those nominating someone, or 8 per cent of the total) and cereal king Dick Hubbard (12 per cent of nominations) came next.

At least a politician wasn’t top. But wait. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, whose “business” might be described as immigration, came third with 5 per cent of nominations, just ahead of entrepreneur Eric Watson with 4 per cent.

BRC questioned 507 people from August 21 to 31. The sampling error was 4.4 per cent.